Giannis Antetokounmpo came close to a triple-double as reigning NBA champions the Milwaukee Bucks took down the Indiana Pacers 119-109 on Monday.

Antetokounmpo finished the game with 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, as well as two blocks and a steal to fuel the Bucks.

Bucks team-mate Khris Middleton provided good scoring support with 27 points, five rebounds and seven assists, including a remarkable three-pointer on the first-quarter buzzer.

Milwaukee pulled away throughout the game, leading by 15 points at the final change, having no issues in Jrue Holiday (ankle) and Brook Lopez's (back) absence.

While the Bucks improved to 3-1, the Pacers slipped to a 1-3 record despite Domantas Sabonis' 21 points, 13 rebounds and five assists.

 

 

Bulls maintain perfect start

The Chicago Bulls improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1996-97 thanks to a 111-108 victory against the Toronto Raptors. The Bulls led by 10 points with less than three minutes remaining before Fred VanVleet (15 points and a career-high 17 assists) missed a three-point attempt on the buzzer to send it to overtime.

Jayson Tatum posted 41 points, including six three-pointers, with seven rebounds and eight assists as the Boston Celtics outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 140-129 after overtime. The Celtics closed the extra period with a 14-0 run to storm to victory.

Paul George had a career-high eight steals along with 16 points as the Los Angeles Clippers won 116-86 against the Portland Trail Blazers. Luke Kennard added 23 points.

Jonas Valanciunas put up 22 points and a career-high 23 points as the New Orleans Pelicans snapped a season-opening three-game skid by topping the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-98.

 

Harden's radar still off

The Brooklyn Nets improved their record to 2-2 with a 104-90 win over the Washington Wizards although James Harden's shooting radar was off. The former MVP finished five of 17 from the field, including going at 12.5 per cent from beyond the arc for his 14 points.

Damian Lillard continues to struggle for the Blazers this season. The All-Star finished four-of-15 shooting against the Clippers, while he missed all eight of his three-point attempts. Lillard has made two of 24 three-pointers this season (8.3 per cent). He is shooting 34 per cent overall.

The reigning NBA champions got back on track Saturday, as Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Milwaukee Bucks to a 121-111 defeat of the San Antonio Spurs. 

Two days after a 42-point blowout loss to the Miami Heat, the Bucks looked more like their usual selves in San Antonio, though the Spurs kept the game tight and pulled within four points with 4:24 to play. 

Middleton had 28 points to lead the Bucks, while Antetokounmpo added 21 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. 

Middleton, who is beginning his ninth season with the Bucks, passed Ray Allen to move into 10th on Milwaukee's all-time scoring list with 9,704 points for the team.

Doug McDermott scored 25 to lead Milwaukee, making seven of 11 from three-point range. 

 

Grizzlies hand Clippers another loss

Despite 41 points from Paul George, the Los Angeles Clippers lost their second straight game to open the season, falling 120-114 to the Memphis Grizzlies. While George poured in the points, a balanced Memphis attack led by Ja Morant's 28 points and eight assists secured another win for the visitors. 

In Portland, CJ McCollum scored 28 points and Damian Lillard had 19 as the Trail Blazers rolled past the Phoenix Suns 134-105. Devin Booker had 21 points, the only Phoenix player to score more than 14. 

Luka Doncic had a game-high 27 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks rallied from a six-point half-time deficit to defeat the Raptors 103-95 in Toronto for their first victory under new head coach Jason Kidd. Tim Hardaway Jr. added 25 points and Kristaps Porzingis had 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Mavericks, while OG Anunoby led Toronto with 23. 

The Philadelphia 76ers put aside the Ben Simmons drama for 48 minutes as the championship-chasing team opened their NBA season with a 117-97 win at the New Orleans Pelicans.

Simmons was nowhere to be seen in New Orleans after the disgruntled All-Star – demanding a trade – was suspended on Tuesday for "conduct detrimental to the team" following reports he was ejected from practice by head coach Doc Rivers.

The 76ers – last season's Eastern Conference top seeds – played without Simmons on Wednesday and made light work of the Zion Williamson-less Pelicans behind Joel Embiid (22 points), Furkan Korkmaz (22 points), Tobias Harris (20 points and 12 rebounds) and new starting point guard Tyrese Maxey (20 points, seven rebounds and five) for their first season-opening road win since 2004.

Korkmaz sizzled in the fourth quarter, scoring 18 points on four-for-four shooting from three-point range – the most points in a quarter by a Sixers bench player since Lou Williams in 2011.

 

 

LaMelo leads Hornets rally, Brown has career night

LaMelo Ball put on a show as he helped the Charlotte Hornets come back to pip the Indiana Pacers 123-122. The reigning Rookie of the Year put up 31 points, including seven three-pointers – tying a career high, nine rebounds and seven assists to fuel Charlotte's rally. The Hornets used a 24-0 run – in which Ball scored 12 points – in the third period to the stun the Pacers. Chris Duarte (27 points, six three-pointers and five rebounds) became the first Pacers rookie with 25-plus points, five-plus rebounds and five-plus threes in a game since Jamaal Tinsley in 2002.

A career-high 46 points from Jaylen Brown was not enough as the Boston Celtics lost a wild showdown with the New York Knicks 138-134 after double overtime. Brown's tally was the most points ever by a Celtics player in a season opener. The Knicks withstood the Celtics thanks to Julius Randle (35 points) and debutant Evan Fournier, whose 32 points were the most by a player on debut in franchise history.

Jo Morant had 37 points – the second most on opening night in franchise history, behind only his 44-point haul last season – in the Memphis Grizzlies' 132-121 win at home to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Memphis posted 73 points by half-time – tying the fifth-highest first-half scoring total in their history.

Reigning MVP Nikola Jokic's 27 points and 13 rebounds guided the Denver Nuggets past last season's NBA Finals participants the Phoenix Suns 110-98.

CJ McCollum (34 points), Damian Lillard (20 points and 11 assists) and Jusuf Nurkic (20 points and 14 rebounds) combined for 74 points but the Portland Trail Blazers still lost 124-121 to the Sacramento Kings, who were led by Harrison Barnes' 36 points and eight three-pointers.

 

Forgettable debut for Rockets rookie

The second pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Jalen Green endured a baptism of fire midweek. The Houston Rockets rookie finished with nine points on four-of-14 shooting from the field, while he made just one of six three-pointers. His minus-37 was the worst plus-minus by a Rockets rookie in a game in the last 20 seasons – tied for the fourth worst by any Rocket in that span. The Rockets were taken down 124-106 by Minnesota Timberwolves trio Karl-Anthony Towns (30 points and 10 rebounds), Anthony Edwards (29 points) and D'Angelo Russell (22 points).

Back on home court for the first time since February 2020, the Toronto Raptors' long-awaited return to Canada ended in a disappointing 98-83 loss to the Washington Wizards. Toronto missed 19 of their first 21 three-pointers, finishing seven of 34 from beyond the card. They were just 30.9 per cent from the field overall.

Suns star Devin Booker was far from his best against the Nuggets, finishing three-of-15 shooting for 12 points in 30 minutes of action.

Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard said he still wants to win an NBA championship with the franchise amid ongoing speculation over his future.

Lillard's future has dominated headlines following Portland's first-round playoff exit last season, the six-time All-Star continuing to be the subject of trade rumours involving the Philadelphia 76ers.

There has also been talk about the New York Knicks, but despite his frustration after another early postseason elimination in 2020-21, Lillard remains determined to deliver a title to Portland.

"We lose to Denver, they were you know unhealthy," Lillard told Complex News' Pierce Simpson. "I'm frustrated with the loss against Denver, so like we gotta do better.

"I've always said I want to play in Portland, I want to win in Portland, and I still feel that way. So if I'm saying we gotta do better, we gotta give ourselves a real chance, we can't get out the first round as we are, then we gotta get better.

"Not from a standpoint of threatening you all. It was like, if it comes down to me having to move on and do something different like then maybe that's what I have to do.

"But it was like, I haven't made that decision you know what I'm saying? But the fact remains that I would like to win a championship in Portland."

Lillard has been named an All-Star six times in his career and has helped the Blazers reach the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons.

 

It is his clutch shooting that has consistently kept Portland in the mix and, since he entered the league in 2012, only Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry (2,460) and James Harden of the Brooklyn Nets (2,125) have made more three-pointers than Lillard's 2,051.

Portland reached the Western Conference Finals in 2019 but were swept by Curry and the Warriors.

However, this season's exit at the hands of the Denver Nuggets in six games was their fourth first-round elimination in five seasons and led to the Blazers parting ways with head coach Terry Stotts. Chauncey Billups is the man now tasked with leading them to a first NBA Finals since 1992 and a first championship since 1977.

"You get to a position where it's like, 'Do I defend myself or do I just say nothing'. For me, when I'm just hearing stuff that's not the facts, I'm going to say I didn't say that," Lillard told The Athletic as he addressed the trade speculation.

"Some things I've just got to let it be said. I know what the truth is. I know where I stand. It's not my duty to make the public know … it's not my job to make them aware of what that is.

"It definitely has been different. I feel like I've handled it like I've handled everything. I just let it happen. I let people talk and I just stay true to who I am and I stand on that.

"If I say something, I stand on what I said. It is what it is, at this point."

Los Angeles Lakers signing Carmelo Anthony has brushed off concerns about the age of the franchise's roster where he will play alongside four-time MVP LeBron James.

Anthony, who turned 37 in May, joined the Lakers from the Portland Trail Blazers last week.

The 10-time NBA All Star, who was the third pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, will team up with 36-year-old James who was the top pick in that year's draft.

The Lakers side also consists of veterans Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol, while 32-year-old point guard Russell Westbrook has also joined this offseason, leading to concerns about an aging roster.

"We don't care," Anthony interjected when the aging topic came up during his presentation press conference on Monday. "We don't care. We make our own narrative."

Anthony added: "I like when people talk about the age. It gives a better story. I think it gives a better story. I think people forget, at the end of the day, it's about basketball.

"You got to know how to play basketball. You got to have that experience. I think that's what we bring at this point and time. Our talent, our skill, but also our experience.

"There's different resources than when we came into the game. We understand what taking care of yourself means from the holistic perspective."

The power forward, who will likely play a bench role for the Lakers this season, averaged 13.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game in the 2020-21 NBA season for the Blazers.

Anthony will enter his 19th NBA season pursuing his maiden title, having had stints with five other franchises, getting closest in 2009 when the Denver Nuggets made the Conference finals.

"I'm coming in with a championship on my mind," Anthony said.

"I think we all know that this is the one thing that I'm missing, right? This is the one thing that it keeps me up at night, it motivates me, because I don't have it. I want that experience."

Anthony also revealed the role James played in luring him to the Lakers, having been linked with a move to Los Angeles numerous times in the past.

"Bron just came to me one time and said, 'yo, the time is now. I want you. We got to make this happen,'" Anthony said.

"I just felt like for right now, this is the best time. Most people would say we should've gotten together years ago early in our careers, but we were in two different lanes, we were on two different paths. Everything comes full circle."

The Lakers also unveiled Kent Bazemore on Monday after being added to the roster from the Golden State Warriors.

Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell were all previously traded out to the Washington Wizards as part of the Westbrook deal.

Los Angeles Lakers signing Carmelo Anthony has brushed off concerns about the age of the franchise's roster where he will play alongside four-time MVP LeBron James.

Anthony, who turned 37 in May, joined the Lakers from the Portland Trail Blazers last week.

The 10-time NBA All Star, who was the third pick in the 2003 NBA Draft, will team up with 36-year-old James who was the top pick in that year's draft.

The Lakers side also consists of veterans Trevor Ariza, Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol, while 32-year-old point guard Russell Westbrook has also joined this offseason, leading to concerns about an aging roster.

"We don't care," Anthony interjected when the aging topic came up during his presentation press conference on Monday. "We don't care. We make our own narrative."

Anthony added: "I like when people talk about the age. It gives a better story. I think it gives a better story. I think people forget, at the end of the day, it's about basketball.

"You got to know how to play basketball. You got to have that experience. I think that's what we bring at this point and time. Our talent, our skill, but also our experience.

"There's different resources than when we came into the game. We understand what taking care of yourself means from the holistic perspective."

The power forward, who will likely play a bench role for the Lakers this season, averaged 13.4 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game in the 2020-21 NBA season for the Blazers.

Anthony will enter his 19th NBA season pursuing his maiden title, having had stints with five other franchises, getting closest in 2009 when the Denver Nuggets made the Conference finals.

"I'm coming in with a championship on my mind," Anthony said.

"I think we all know that this is the one thing that I'm missing, right? This is the one thing that it keeps me up at night, it motivates me, because I don't have it. I want that experience."

Anthony also revealed the role James played in luring him to the Lakers, having been linked with a move to Los Angeles numerous times in the past.

"Bron just came to me one time and said, 'yo, the time is now. I want you. We got to make this happen,'" Anthony said.

"I just felt like for right now, this is the best time. Most people would say we should've gotten together years ago early in our careers, but we were in two different lanes, we were on two different paths. Everything comes full circle."

The Lakers also unveiled Kent Bazemore on Monday after being added to the roster from the Golden State Warriors.

Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Montrezl Harrell were all previously traded out to the Washington Wizards as part of the Westbrook deal.

Star point guard Damian Lillard denied reports he will request a trade from the Portland Trail Blazers in an offseason of ceaseless speculation.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the Olympic Games as a member of Team USA, Lillard said he has yet to make a decision about his future despite rumours of an impending trade request emerging on Friday.

"I woke up to those reports, a lot of people reaching out to me," said Lillard. "But it's not true. I'll start off the rip and say it's not true.

"A lot of things are being said. It hasn't come from me. I haven't made any firm decision on what my future will be."

The comments from the six-time All-Star came hours after TrueHoop's Henry Abbott reported Lillard would be formally requesting a trade in the coming days.

Lillard also insisted he "expects to be" with Portland when the 2021-22 season tips off but reiterated that he does have some concerns about the Trail Blazers' title chances.

"I think if you look at our team as it is, I don't see how you say this is a championship team," Lillard added.

“My intention and my heart is set on being in a Trail Blazers uniform for my entire career. But over time … you want to win it all. And we have to make strides to do that.”

Portland has played in eight straight postseasons, including a run to the Western Conference finals in 2019 that ended in a sweep at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

After first-round exits in the last two playoffs, Portland replaced long-time head coach Terry Stotts with Chauncey Billups, the first of perhaps many moves in a pivotal offseason for the Blazers.

Lillard is scheduled to meet with Billups and general manager Neil Olshey in Las Vegas before the Tokyo Olympics begin to discuss the future of the organisation.

Portland is 12-16 over the last three postseasons, despite Lillard averaging 28.3 points and 7.2 assists while shooting 39.6 percent from three-point range, leading many to believe it is time for him to seek a stronger supporting cast.

Lillard, who celebrated his 31st birthday on Thursday, is under contract for the next four seasons for $176.3 million.

"The best way to put it is be more urgent," Lillard said. "Be urgent about our next step and how we move forward. We've made the playoffs all these years. We're not a bad team, we're a good team.”

"It's a lot of positives. But we've reached that point where it's not enough.”

Damian Lillard believes changes need to be made by the Portland Trail Blazers if they are to end their now 44-year wait for an NBA title amid swirling speculation about his future.

A report on Friday suggested star point guard Lillard will request a trade from the Blazers having spent his entire NBA career in Portland.

He will reportedly address those claims during a media availability session for the United States' Olympic basketball team on Friday.

Lillard has been named an All-Star six times in his career and has helped the Blazers reach the playoffs in each of the past eight seasons.

It is his clutch shooting that has consistently kept Portland in the mix and, since he entered the league in 2012, only Stephen Curry (2,460) and James Harden (2,125) have made more three-pointers than Lillard's 2,051.

Portland reached the Western Conference Finals in 2019 but were swept by Curry and the Golden State Warriors.

However, this season's exit at the hands of the Denver Nuggets in six games was their fourth first-round elimination in five seasons and led to the Blazers parting ways with head coach Terry Stotts. Chauncey Billups is the man now tasked with leading them to a first NBA Finals since 1992 and a first championship since 1977.

Asked by Yahoo Sports if the Blazers have matched his commitment to the franchise, Lillard said: "To make it to the NBA, I had to give it everything I had.

"I was going to do what needed to be done to win games. I didn't come into the league worrying about what others were doing in the organisation. I didn't come in with that type of mentality.

"But I've been active in probably 95 per cent of the games in my career. I've played through injuries, and I've been a part of two rebuilds. I feel like I've experienced everything with the Trail Blazers, and I've worn that jersey as a badge of honour and with a lot of pride and care.

"I never felt like my job was to go in and critique what other people were doing in the organisation. My job was to make sure the team is functioning and trying to lead them to the best results. I've always assumed everybody’s mentality was the same.

"Even when I'm playing well and we come up short at the end of the season, I go home and the first thing I do is look in the mirror and tell myself we didn't win a championship. Or if I didn't play as well as I should have, I've had to look in the mirror and tell myself that my performance was unacceptable and I have to do better. And then you go do better.

 

"I think that's the stage we're at as a team where we all, not just me, not just my team-mates, not just our new coaching staff, the front office, everybody in this organisation must look in the mirror because we've constantly come up short.

"We have to look in the mirror and say I have to be better because whatever it is we're doing is not working and it's not giving us the shot to compete on the level that we want to compete on."

On why he feels this is a pivotal juncture in his career, Lillard added: "There are a few reasons: One being I'm not getting any younger. Our environment has always been great.

"We're not losing a lot, but we were eliminated by a shorthanded Denver team that I felt we should have beat. I just walked away from that really disappointed. I was like, 'Man, this just isn't going to work'.

"We're not winning the championship, but we've got a successful organisation. We're not a franchise that’s just out here losing every year and getting divided.

"We have positive seasons; we just don't end up with a championship. So I feel like at this point, I basically made the decision that if you do what you've always done, you'll always be where you've always been.

"Just like I hold myself accountable for a bad performance or hold myself accountable to make sure that I work my a** off when I’m training, I must be accountable for saying what needs to be said even if it's not popular. And that just comes with age.

"When I was younger, I felt like maybe I'll be out of place, but I feel like I've earned the right to say we must do better. We must do better if we want to win on that level."

The Portland Trail Blazers have appointed Chauncey Billups as their new head coach.

Billups spent the 2020-21 NBA season as Los Angeles Clippers assistant coach and has given been the chance to take the top job at Portland.

The five-time All-Star replaces Terry Stotts, who departed after the team's elimination in the opening round of the NBA playoffs this month.

Billups, named Finals MVP when the Detroit Pistons were crowned champions in 2004, is relishing a new challenge with the Trail Blazers.

The 44-year-old said: "I'm very excited and humbled to be the next coach of the Trail Blazers.

"Portland is a special place and a unique franchise. As a player I always loved playing here because the passion and knowledge of the fans brought out the very best in me as a competitor.

"Now I'm looking forward to being on the other side of that energy and engaging with the Portland community on a whole other level.

"I want to thank Jody Allen, Bert Kolde and Neil Olshey for their trust and for giving me this incredible opportunity. And, most importantly, I want to say to the fans that I know what this team means to you, and I promise to pour every ounce into continuing to make you proud of what the Trail Blazers stand for."

 

Trail Blazers chair Allen said: "Chauncey is a proven and consistent winner with NBA championship experience as an All-Star NBA player. 

"He has demonstrated throughout his career, first as a player, and currently as an assistant coach a unique ability to lead. We are very happy to welcome him to Portland."

Billups played 17 seasons in the NBA for Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit, New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Clippers.

A new generation of NBA superstars established themselves as the playoffs continued last week.

The first round concluded as a talented, young (with the exception of Chris Paul) Phoenix Suns team defeated LeBron James and defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Atlanta Hawks quickly gained an upper hand against the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, too.

And although Kawhi Leonard led the Los Angeles Clippers through to round two, they also suffered at the hand of an emerging talent, as Stats Perform's NBA Heat Check shows.
 

RUNNING HOT...

Devin Booker

Booker was dominant across the board for the Suns, earning praise from James after getting the better of the reigning NBA Finals MVP.

When comparing last week's performances with regular season returns, Booker ranked third for scoring improvement, second for rebounding improvement and second for three-point makes improvement. This was a staggering show of strength.

Playing in his sixth year, it is easy to forget this was a debut postseason series for Booker, who finished with 47 points at Staples Center and will back himself to deliver again against the Denver Nuggets.

Trae Young

The biggest potential upset of the second round is already under way after the Hawks took Game 1 against the 76ers in Philly despite Joel Embiid's return to fitness.

Young – another playoff debutant – was predictably at the centre of their success, following up 36 points in Game 5 against the New York Knicks with 35 in this opener.

He had 25 in the first half on Sunday on eight-of-13 shooting as Atlanta scored 74, the most ever by a road team in a Game 1. Considering the way the Sixers battled back to make the encounter close, Young might have to be similarly outstanding again in the forthcoming meetings.

Luka Doncic

Young was traded to the Hawks as part of the deal that saw Doncic go the other way to the Dallas Mavericks on draft night in 2018. But the Slovenian will play no further part in the playoffs after Sunday's Game 7 defeat to the Clippers.

Doncic has undoubtedly proven his class in the postseason, though, even if he is yet to win a series. Already one of the league's outstanding offensive stars, his career playoff average of 33.5 points per game is the best of any player to appear in 13 or more games – surpassing Michael Jordan's 33.4.

The Mavs ace reached that mark thanks to an outstanding week that included two 40-point performances despite Dallas' eventual series defeat.

Doncic's performances through 13 career playoff games are a match for the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Only Rick Barry, Bob McAdoo and Jordan have topped his 436 total points at this stage since 1963-64. He was certainly not to blame on Sunday...
 

GOING COLD...

Kristaps Porzingis

Expensive team-mate Porzingis may well have to take some responsibility for the Mavs' failings, although he was not alone. Among the players with the largest declines in scoring over the past week from their regular season outputs, three Dallas players were in the top seven.

Josh Richardson and Jalen Brunson were also in there, but Porzingis' presence should be of the most concern.

Although the big man put up 16 points and 11 rebounds – his second-most in a postseason game – on Sunday, his failure to make a single one of his five three-point attempts left Doncic short of help.

Enes Kanter

Doncic was not the only superstar left high and dry as he exited the first round. Damian Lillard did all he could to try to carry the Portland Trail Blazers past the Nuggets last week, averaging 41.5 points, but could not advance alone.

CJ McCollum underwhelmed, despite contributing 20.7 points across the series, yet it was the absence of effective defense that meant Nikola Jokic was always able to match Lillard.

Jusuf Nurkic had a combined plus/minus of 45 but fouled out of three of the six games, meaning poor Kanter had to guard Jokic on occasion and ended the series with a -34 plus/minus across only 56 minutes.

Jason Kidd will not vie to fill the Portland Trail Blazers' head-coaching vacancy, withdrawing from consideration despite Damian Lillard's endorsement.

Portland are looking for a new coach after the Trail Blazers and Terry Stotts mutually agreed to part ways on Friday following the team's elimination in the opening round of the NBA playoffs.

All-Star Lillard backed Los Angeles Lakers assistant and Hall of Famer Kidd for the role, telling Yahoo Sports: "Jason Kidd is the guy I want".

But former Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks head coach Kidd will not be pursuing the job in Portland.

"Portland's a first-class organisation and will have great candidates for its head coaching job, but I've decided not to be one of them," the 48-year-old told ESPN.

"Whoever they choose will have big shoes to fill from Terry [Stotts]."

Los Angeles Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups, ex-New York Knicks and Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy, Nets assistant Mike D'Antoni and Michigan's Juwan Howard are reportedly among the candidates.

Kidd led the Nets in 2013-14 – overseeing a 44-38 record as the franchise lost in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.

The 10-time All-Star and 2010 NBA champion coached the Bucks between 2014 and 2018, reaching the playoffs twice but losing in the opening round on both occasions.

Portland Trail Blazers All-Star Damian Lillard said Los Angeles Lakers assistant Jason Kidd "is the guy I want" to replace Terry Stotts as head coach.

The Trail Blazers and Stotts mutually agreed to part ways on Friday, following Portland's elimination in the opening round of the NBA playoffs.

Despite Lillard's heroic efforts, the Trail Blazers were ousted by the Denver Nuggets 4-2 in the Western Conference first round on Thursday.

Stotts – who oversaw eight consecutive postseason appearances – departs as the second-winningest coach in franchise history following a 402-318 record in nine seasons.

Los Angeles Clippers assistant Chauncey Billups, ex-New York Knicks and Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy, Brooklyn Nets assistant Mike D'Antoni and Michigan's Juwan Howard are reportedly among the candidates.

But Lillard talked up Hall of Famer Kidd, who previously served as coach of the Nets and Milwaukee Bucks.

"Jason Kidd is the guy I want," Lillard, who set a new NBA record for threes made in a single playoff series with 35, told Yahoo Sports.

In a statement following Stotts' exit, Trail blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey said: "I have the utmost respect for Terry and what he has accomplished these past nine seasons.

"This was a difficult decision on both a personal and professional level but it's in the best interest of the franchise to move in another direction.

"Terry will always hold a special place in the Trail Blazer family and the Portland community. We relied on the integrity, professionalism and consistency he brought to the job every day and we wish he and Jan nothing but the best."

During the postseason matchup, Lillard tallied a playoff career-high 55 points and record 12 made threes in a Game 5 overtime defeat to the Nuggets.

Lillard also became the fourth player in NBA history to record a 50-point, 10-assist game in the postseason, joining Russell Westbrook, Sleepy Floyd and Jerry West.

Damian Lillard believes Nikola Jokic can lead the Denver Nuggets to NBA glory after they eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday.

Jokic scored 36 points, provided six assists and grabbed eight rebounds as the Nuggets secured a 126-115 victory in Game 6 to win the series 4-2.

Trail Blazers star Lillard thinks the Nuggets can go all the way with Jokic at his brilliant best.

Lillard said of the Serbia center: "He's everything for them. I think if it was any year a guy like him, what he does for that team, could lead his team to a championship, it would be this year because of how open it is.

"There's no favourite. In my eyes at least, I feel like anybody can get beat and anybody can go get it done.

"That's why it's even more disappointing for me because I felt like if there's any year you can shoulder the load and go get one, it was this one. I definitely think he's capable of it."

Nuggets coach Michael Malone also lavished praise on Jokic.

He said: "That's why he's the clear-cut MVP, because you can take anybody away from our team, if we have Nikola, you could put me, Wes Unseld, Ryan Bowen, Charles Klask, whoever you want out there, we're going to find a way to compete because that's how great he is."

Malone says the Nuggets are aiming high after advancing from the first round of the playoffs.

"I just told our team this, hell of a win to come in here and win a Game 6 on the road is great. But we're not satisfied," said Malone. 

"Our goal coming into the season was not to get out of the first round. We have much bigger goals."

Devin Booker put on a show as the Phoenix Suns eliminated LeBron James and NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers from the playoffs en route to the Western Conference semi-finals.

The sun set on the Lakers' season and their title defence in the opening round after Booker's playoff career-high 47 points and 11 rebounds guided Phoenix to a 113-100 win in Game 6 on Thursday.

Booker's monster double-double – which included eight three-pointers – sealed a 4-2 series victory for the second-seeded Suns in the Western Conference as they moved through to the semi-finals.

Suns All-Star Booker became the first Phoenix player with a 40/10 playoff game since Amar'e Stoudemire in 2010, though he is the first to do it with five-plus threes.

The Lakers welcomed the Suns to Staples Center for the must-win showdown in Los Angeles, where star Anthony Davis had been cleared to return from a groin injury.

According to Stats Perform, the Lakers were 8-2 in home games when facing playoff elimination since 2000 but their hopes were dealt a blow when Davis' comeback lasted just five minutes.

The Suns – who were 8-1 in potential series-clinching games since 2000, with their only loss coming against the Clippers in Game 6 in 2006 – blew away the Lakers with a 36-14 opening quarter on the road.

Phoenix carried a 60-41 advantage into half-time and while James tried to spark a Lakers rally with 29 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two blocks, it was not enough.

A four-time NBA champion and MVP, it is the first time James has been eliminated in the opening round of the postseason in his illustrious 15-year playoff career.

Next up for the Suns are the Denver Nuggets, who claimed their series 4-2 following a 126-115 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers.

MVP favourite Nikola Jokic fuelled the third-seeded Nuggets with 36 points in Portland, where Michael Porter Jr. had 22 of his 26 points in the opening quarter.

The Nuggets reached the Western Conference semis for the third consecutive season, while Damian Lillard put up 28 points and 13 assists for the Trail Blazers – who led by 14 points in the third quarter but could not hold on.

 

Clippers at Mavericks

Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks can secure a semi-final date with the top-ranked Utah Jazz in the Western Conference by beating the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday. The Mavericks lead the series 3-2.

Michael Malone described Damian Lillard's staggering record-breaking performance as "superhuman" in the Portland Trail Blazers' dramatic playoffs defeat to the Denver Nuggets.

The Nuggets took a 3-2 series lead at Ball Arena on Tuesday after edging a double-overtime thriller 147-140.

That was despite an incredible display from Lillard, who scored 55 points – including a playoffs-record 12 three-pointers – from only 24 shots.

Lillard's points haul was his best in the post-season and the third-highest in a defeat in playoff history behind Michael Jordan's 63 against the Boston Celtics in 1986 and Donovan Mitchell's 57 versus the Nuggets last year.

The point guard also provided 10 assists and Nuggets coach Malone saluted his exploits.

Malone said: "Damian Lillard was superhuman tonight."

Nikola Jokic led the way for the Nuggets with 38 points as they got their noses in front in the series.

The center was full of admiration for Lillard and warned the Nuggets must try and find a way to stop the six-time NBA All-Star from making such an impact.

Jokic said: "He was incredible. He made some top shots, he put his team on his back and he was just carrying in.

"We tried, but we need to be better just to take the ball off his hands, especially later in the game, but it was kind of a pleasure to be on the court to witness that."

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