San Antonio Spurs star Victor Wembanyama became the first rookie to be voted to the NBA’s All-Defensive first team when the league unveiled the voting on Tuesday.

Wembanyama received 98 of a possible 99 first-team votes to add to an impressive list of accolades after his first NBA season.

Rudy Gobert, the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, was the only unanimous first-team selection.

Gobert and Wembanyama were joined on the first team by the Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans’ Herb Jones.

Gobert was voted All-Defence for the seventh time in his career, all on the first team.

Adebayo, long considered a top-tier defender, was selected to the first team for the first time in his career. Even the veterans, however, were appreciative of Wembanyama’s rookie campaign.

“Coming into this league, obviously he had high expectations because he's 7-3 and shooting step-back 3s. I think a lot of people paid attention more to that than what he actually did on the defensive end,” Adebayo said of Wembanyama. “So, for him to get first team, first come around, it's obviously a great accolade for him.”

Wembanyama led the league with 3.58 blocked shots per game, over a block more per game than any other player. The towering Frenchman was also eighth in the league at 10.6 rebounds per game and ranked in the top 25 with 1.24 steals per game.

This was the first season of position-less voting for the All-Defence teams, leading to a strong preference for interior defenders, but perimeter players were well-represented on the second team.

The Chicago Bulls’ Alex Caruso, the Orlando Magic’s Jalen Suggs, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Jaden McDaniels and Boston Celtics backcourt mates Jrue Holiday and Derrick White were voted to the All-Defensive second team.

The league will announce its three All-NBA teams on Wednesday.

 

 

Despite playing through a calf strain, Jamal Murray hit a pull-up 14-footer with 3.6 seconds remaining, and the Denver Nuggets beat the Los Angeles Lakers 108-106 on Monday for a 4-1 series win.

Murray, who also hit a buzzer-beater to win Game 2, was a game-time decision due to his calf injury but scored 12 of his 32 points in a fourth quarter in which the teams repeatedly traded leads.

LeBron James hit a pair of free throws to tie the game with 26 seconds left to give the Lakers hope, but Murray drove to his left with help from a high ball screen and pulled up for the go-ahead jumper over Austin Reaves.

Without any timeouts to advance the ball, the Lakers managed only a desperation heave from Taurean Prince at the buzzer which never had a chance.

Much like last year, when the Nuggets swept the Lakers in the Western Conference finals, Denver’s late-game execution proved to be the difference.

Nikola Jokić finished with 25 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists, while Michael Porter Jr. concluded his impressive series with a 26-point performance.

James led the Lakers with 30 points and 11 assists. Anthony Davis had 17 points and 15 rebounds but was not involved much in the offence late while playing through a shoulder injury.

The Nuggets will continue their championship defence with a second-round series against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who advanced Sunday by completing a sweep of the Phoenix Suns.

Denver eliminated Minnesota in the first round of last year’s playoffs with a five-game series win.

Thunder complete sweep of Pelicans

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams each scored 24 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 97-89 win over the New Orleans Pelicans and secure a four-game series sweep.

The youngest team ever to secure a conference’s No. 1 seed, the Thunder answered questions about play-off inexperience by easily securing their place in the second round, outscoring New Orleans by an average of 15.8 points per game.

Oklahoma City trailed 71-70 to start the fourth quarter but held the Pelicans to 18 points in the final frame.

Williams scored 11 of his points in the fourth quarter, including his own 8-0 run that put the Thunder up 93-82 with 3:08 remaining.

The Pelicans played the series without Zion Williamson due to a hamstring strain, with Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum failing to rise to the challenge.

Ingram shot under 35 percent from the field during the series and was 2 of 14 in Game 4. McCollum had 20 points on 9-for-16 shooting Monday but was just 7 of 29 from 3-point range in the series.

Celtics rout Heat for 3-1 series lead

Derrick White scored 38 points, and the Boston Celtics overcame an injury to Kristaps Porzingis to beat the Miami Heat 102-88 for a 3-1 series lead.

Porzingis exited with 2:27 remaining in the second quarter with right calf tightness and did not return. Al Horford started the second half in Porzingis’ place.

White, who is better known for his defensive contributions, went 8 of 15 from 3-point range en route to his 38 points, a career high for both the regular season and post-season.

Bam Adebayo led the way for the Heat with 25 points, 17 rebounds and five assists.

The Miami Heat are desperate to silence their doubters and are using outside criticism as fuel in their first-round playoff series against the Boston Heat, having levelled it up at 1-1.

That is according to forward Bam Adebayo, who had 21 points and was nine of 13 shooting in the Heat's 111-101 win at TD Garden on Wednesday.

Miami buried their hosts under a mountain of 3-pointers in Game 2, setting a franchise record for a postseason game by shooting 23 of 43 (53.5 per cent) from the field.

Speaking after the game, Adebayo said the way in which the Eastern Conference's eighth seeds have been written off by neutrals was spurring them on.

"We've been doubted a lot through our playoff runs, people saying we couldn't do a lot of stuff that we eventually did," Adebayo said.

"So for me and my team, why lose belief now? Our backs are against the wall. Everybody's against us. So just use that as fuel.

"Our guys believe we can win. So, let's make it mano a mano… a cage fight. Let's hoop!"

Caleb Martin joined Adebayo on 21 points with five 3s, being booed by the Boston crowd every time he touched the ball following his heavy collision with Jayson Tatum in Game 1.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. contributed 14 points with three 3s, Nikola Jovic added a trio of 3s and Haywood Highsmith came off the bench to sink three 3s.

Martin said Miami's new shoot-on-sight mentality was part of a plan drawn up by Erik Spoelstra, saying: "I think it was about realising that being passive hurts us. 

"We'd just be playing into their gameplan. We're too good of a shooting team to hesitate from 3."

Spoelstra himself said the Heat had taken the decision to be more proactive after being sunk by Boston's 3-point shooting in Game 1.

"I understand the math of it," the Miami coach said. "We're not going to shoot 50 of them. That's not realistic."

Erik Spoelstra singled out Bam Adebayo for an "inspiring" performance after the Miami Heat defeated the Chicago Bulls to clinch the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Heat went all the way to the NBA Finals last season, ultimately losing to the Denver Nuggets, after securing the No.8 seed.

And they will be seeded eighth once again for their playoff campaign, which they will kick-off against the Boston Celtics, who the Heat defeated in the Conference finals last season.

Jimmy Butler could not feature against the Bulls on Friday due to injury, but Adebayo stepped up with 13 points while also marking Bulls star DeMar De Rozan.

"What we needed, what we felt like, was inspiration," Spoelstra told ESPN.

"And Bam was our most inspiring player, especially with Jimmy being out. The two of them are our most inspiring players. And they've always been.

"When they're locked in at their highest level competitively, we feel like we can beat anybody. With Jimmy out, I had to.

"We felt like DeRozan is a guy who can totally take over a game in a one-game deal. If our most inspiring player has to make an impact, it would be against their best scorer."

Butler is unlikely to feature at all against the Celtics, either, though Spoelstra has not yet paid mind to how he will look to keep the likes of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown under wraps.

"I haven't even thought about that," Spoelstra said.

"This was for this kind of deal, to set the tone for the game, to help alleviate any stress or pressure from anyone else in the locker room, Bam had to be that, which he was."

Looking ahead to the Celtics series, Adebayo said: "It's going to be a dogfight. It's going to be a battle. It's going to be in the mud.

"It's not going to be pretty basketball. That's usually how it is when we play that team."

The Miami Heat are anticipating a "dog fight" in their play-in matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers, according to forward Caleb Martin.

The 8th-seeded Heat face the 7th-seeded Sixers - who have listed Joel Embiid as questionable - at Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday.

Defeat for the Heat would see them in a win-or-go-home contest, but victory would see them open the playoffs against the New York Knicks.

Speaking ahead of the showdown with the Sixers, Martin is quoted by the Miami Herald as saying: "Everybody knows what's at stake going into that building, including them.

"We just expect a dog fight. We went through a lot of difficult games this year, over the last couple years, to get us prepared for these types of moments.

"So we'll definitely come in with the right mentality."

An injury-ravaged Heat ended the regular season with a record of 46-36, including a run of 7-3 across their final 10 games.

The Heat hope to have Duncan Robinson back after a four-game absence through a back injury, but Terry Rozier has been ruled out.

Miami and Philadelphia split the season series, and Heat center Bam Adebayo sees no reason why his side cannot come out on top this time around.

"We've been in a lot of big games before," he said. "We've all experienced it. We've been to the Finals. We understand what's at stake."

Zion Williamson scored 34 points to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a 112-104 win over the slumping Los Angeles Clippers on Friday that tightened the race for the Western Conference's No. 4 seed.

The surging Pelicans moved within two games of Los Angeles for fourth place in the conference and improved to 14-5 since Jan. 31, tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder and Denver Nuggets for the best record in the West over that span. 

Los Angeles was dealt a third loss in four games despite 26 points from Paul George and 23 from Kawhi Leonard. The Clippers played a second straight game without starting point guard James Harden due to a left shoulder strain.

Williamson recorded 16 of his points during a dominant third quarter in which he went 7 of 7 from the field. The star forward closed out the period with a layup that snapped an 80-80 tie and ignited a 12-3 run that put the Pelicans ahead for good.

Trey Murphy and Naji Marshall each had 3-pointers during the spurt, which Murphy capped with an alley-oop dunk that gave New Orleans a 92-83 lead with 10:24 remaining.

Leonard's hook shot with two minutes left brought the Clippers within 107-102, but Los Angeles came up empty on its next three possessions as New Orleans scored the next five points to put the game out of reach. 

The Clippers trailed by 11 points early in the third quarter before putting together a 12-3 run that trimmed the Pelicans' lead to 65-63 with five minutes left in the period.

Heat handle Pistons to end four-game skid

Bam Adebayo recorded 22 points and nine rebounds to help the Miami Heat end a four-game losing streak with a 108-95 win over the lowly Detroit Pistons.

Terry Rozier scored 10 of his 18 points in the second half as Miami pulled away in the final two quarters to get back on track and remain 2 1/2 games behind first-place Orlando in the Southeast Division. The Magic also won on Friday, earning a 113-103 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

After Adebayo's floater in the closing seconds gave Miami a 56-54 lead at the half, the Heat dominated the final six minutes of the third quarter to stretch their advantage.

Miami broke things open with a 15-0 run, which began with six straight points from Rozier and ended with three consecutive 3-pointers by Duncan Robinson. The last of those baskets increased the margin to 83-65 with 2:29 to go in the third quarter.

The Heat maintained a double-digit cushion over the entire fourth quarter to end Detroit's modest two-game winning streak.

Simone Fontecchio led the Pistons, who own the NBA's second-worst record at 12-54, with 24 points. Jalen Duren compiled 15 points and 17 rebounds in the loss.

Jokic outduels Wembanyama, Nuggets top Spurs to stay hot

Nikola Jokić put up 31 points as the Denver Nuggets continued their strong recent stretch with a 117-106 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in a game played in the Texas capital of Austin.

Jokic finished 13 of 19 from the field while adding seven rebounds and five assists to outshine Spurs rookie sensation Victor Wembanyama, who was held to 17 points on 4-of-12 shooting.

Jamal Murray accumulated 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists to help Denver improve to 11-1 since the All-Star break. The defending NBA champions have won five straight games.

Jokic and the Nuggets imposed their will early on, as Denver closed out the first quarter on an 18-4 run to take a commanding 37-18 lead into the second. The two-time NBA MVP finished the period with 15 points.

The Spurs shot 60 per cent in the second quarter to close the gap to 58-49 at half-time, and got Denver's lead down to four when Zach Collins' jumper with 16.7 seconds left in the third quarter made the score 83-79.

Denver's Justin Holiday ended the third with a 3-pointer, however, and had another during a 9-1 run in the fourth that put the Nuggets up 101-84 with seven minutes to play.

The game drew a crowd of 16,223, the largest attended sporting event in the history of Austin's Moody Center.

 

 

LeBron James scored his 40,000th point, but the Denver Nuggets closed strong and won their sixth straight game, 124-114 over the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

James finished with 26 points and nine assists while reaching his latest milestone on a layup with 10:39 left in the second quarter. He extended his lead as the league’s career scoring leader.

Nikola Jokić had 35 points and 10 rebounds, Michael Porter Jr. added 25 and 10 and Jamal Murray had 24 points, 11 assists and six boards to help Denver get within one-half game of Minnesota for the Northwest Division lead.

The Nuggets closed the game on a 16-6 run, with Aaron Gordon’s 3-pointer with 3:49 left putting them ahead for good.

Jokic made a turnaround hook before Murray hit a jumper and Justin Holiday converted a running layup for a 117-110 advantage. After Anthony Davis’s basket got the Lakers within 117-112 with 1:49 left, Murray made a layup and Jokic added a layup of his own.

Booker injures ankle in Suns’ loss

Jalen Green poured in 34 points with six 3-pointers to lead the Houston Rockets to a 118-109 win over the Phoenix Suns, who lost star guard Devin Booker to an ankle injury.

Booker left late in the game after he injured his right ankle when he stepped on teammate Royce O’Neale’s foot. Booker had 24 points in 38 minutes before departing.

Fred VanVleet scored 24 points and Alperen Sengun added 21 with 10 rebounds as the Rockets snapped a three-game skid and avenged Thursday’s loss at Phoenix.

Kevin Durant had 30 points for the Suns, who had a nine-game home winning streak snapped.

Butler leads Heat past Jazz

Jimmy Butler scored 18 of his season-high 37 points in the third quarter and the Miami Heat defeated the Utah Jazz 126-120 for their 10th win in 13 games.

Bam Adebayo added 23 points and Caleb Martin had 18 for the Heat, who beat the Jazz at home for the seventh straight time.

Butler hit all three of his 3-point attempts and had a steal, extending his streak of having at least one 3 and one steal to 13 consecutive games – the fourth-longest run in the NBA this season and tying Tim Hardaway for the second-longest such streak in Heat history.

Keyonte George scored 31 points and Lauri Markkanen added 25 as the Jazz lost their third straight and eighth in nine games.

Bam Adebayo compiled 28 points and 10 rebounds as the Miami Heat overcame the absence of several key players to record a 121-110 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday and extend their winning streak to four games.

Miami moved a half-game ahead of the Orlando Magic for first place in the Southeast Division despite missing two of its stars in Jimmy Butler and Tyler Herro, as well as starting point guard Terry Rozier. Herro and Rozier sat out due to injuries, while Butler was serving a one-game suspension for his role in an on-court altercation in the Heat's win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday.

Rookie Jaime Jaquez helped fill the void by producing 26 points on 12-of-17 shooting, and the Heat also got key contributions from reserves Kevin Love and Haywood Highsmith.

Love poured in 19 points in just 15 minutes, while Highsmith scored 15 first-half points to help Miami take a 65-62 lead into the break.

Jaquez then put up 13 points during a dominant third quarter in which the Heat outscored Sacramento by a 36-19 margin. Miami took the lead for good with a 10-2 run that snapped a 71-71 tie, then later scored the final 10 points of the period to build a commanding 101-81 advantage entering the fourth.

The Kings had a three-game winning streak snapped despite Domantas Sabonis registering his league-leading 21st triple-double with 14 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.

Keegan Murray led Sacramento, which was coming off a 16-point road win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, with 28 points. De'Aaron Fox finished with 27 in the loss.

Barnes' triple-double powers Raptors past Pacers

Scottie Barnes recorded his fourth triple-double of the season with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to lead the Toronto Raptors to a 130-122 win over the weary Indiana Pacers.

Toronto also received big efforts from RJ Barrett and rookie Gradey Dick en route to its season-high third consecutive win. Barrett delivered 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting, while Dick had 11 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter and finished 7 of 9 from the field while making all four of his 3-point attempts.

Playing for the second straight night, the Pacers had a three-game winning streak snapped despite Bennedict Mathurin matching a career-high with 34 points to go along with nine rebounds. Former Raptors All-Star Pascal Siakam had 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists in his second meeting with his ex-team since being traded to Indiana on Jan. 17.

The Pacers got an off night from leading scorer Tyrese Haliburton, however, as the All-Star guard misfired on nine of 11 shot attempts while being held to nine points.

Indiana did manage to battle back from a 12-point third-quarter deficit, however, to tie the game at 102-102 with just over eight minutes left in the fourth.

The Raptors then regained control with a 13-2 run, which Dick started and finished with 3-pointers, to take a 115-104 lead with 6:21 remaining.

Indiana closed the gap to four points entering the final three minutes, but a jumper by Toronto's Gary Trent Jr. followed by a Barrett 3-pointer helped end any comeback hopes.

Hart's late basket lifts Knicks over Pistons

Josh Hart scored the go-ahead layup with 2.8 seconds left as the New York Knicks held off a determined upset bid from the Detroit Pistons and came away with a controversial 113-111 victory.

The Pistons fought back from a 13-point deficit in the third quarter to take a 111-110 lead on former Knick Quentin Grimes' layup with 37.3 seconds remaining. New York's Jalen Brunson misfired on a 3-point try on the ensuing possession, but Detroit's Ausar Thompson had the ball stolen away after colliding with the Knicks' Donte DiVincenzo to set up Hart's basket off a feed from Brunson.

Hart missed the free throw for a potential three-point play, but the Knicks collared the rebound and Hart was fouled again with 1.3 seconds left. He made 1 of 2 from the line to prevent a potentially damaging home loss to a Detroit team with an NBA-worst 8-49 record.

Game officials acknowledged afterward that a loose-ball foul should have been called on DiVincenzo during the collision that preceded Hart's basket.

Brunson finished with 35 points and 12 assists and Hart had 23 points and eight rebounds as the playoff-hopeful Knicks won for the second time in three outings following a four-game losing streak. DiVincenzo contributed 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting.

Detroit was dealt a sixth straight loss despite Cade Cunningham's 32 points and eight assists and an 11-point, 16-rebound effort from Jalen Duren. 

The teams were facing one another for the first time since collaborating on a six-player trade on Feb. 8 that sent veterans Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks to New York, with Grimes among the return pieces to the Pistons.

Grimes finished with 14 points while Bogdanovic recorded 13 points and six rebounds off the bench. 

 

Bam Adebayo will start in Sunday's All-Star game for the first time having replaced the injured Joel Embiid.

Reigning MVP Embiid was originally slated to start at center for the Eastern Conference All-Star team, but the Philadelphia 76ers man will miss the game because of a knee injury.

Adebayo initially made the reserve team having averaged 20.2 points and 10.6 rebounds per game for the Miami Heat so far this season, but has now been chosen as Embiid's deputee by Eastern Conference coach Doc Rivers.

Adebayo was also selected as a reserve team member in 2020, winning the skills competition that year, but this will be the first time he has made the starting line-up.

The former Kentucky Wildcat will become the seventh Heat player to be an All-Star starter and the first since Dwyane Wade eight years ago.

Adebayo's Heat currently sit at 30-25, in the play-in spots at seventh in the East having reached the NBA finals from the play-in positions last season.

James Harden's anticipated first game as a Los Angeles Clipper ended in a loss, as the New York Knicks spoiled the former NBA MVP's debut with his new team with Monday's 111-97 win.

Julius Randle had 27 points and 10 rebounds and RJ Barrett added 26 points in his return from injury as the Knicks handed the star-studded Clippers their second straight defeat following a 3-1 start to the season.

Harden took the court for the first time since being traded to Los Angeles by the Philadelphia 76ers last week. The 10-time All-Star had 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting along with six assists as a part of a starting lineup that included three other accomplished veterans in Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook.

The dynamic guard scored five straight points late in the third quarter to give the Clippers a 76-73 lead, but the Knicks countered with a 16-3 run to take an 89-79 advantage with under 9 1/2 minutes left and never trailed thereafter.

Barrett scored 11 points in the fourth quarter after missing New York's previous two games with a sore left knee, while Mitchell Robinson finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds to help the Knicks snap a two-game losing streak.

 

Edwards sparks overtime win as Wolves hand Celtics first loss

Anthony Edwards scored eight of his 38 points in overtime as the Minnesota TImberwolves handed the Boston Celtics their first loss of the season with a 114-109 victory.

Edwards added nine rebounds and seven assists to help Minnesota overcome an off night from fellow star player Karl-Anthony Towns, who managed just seven points in 28 minutes before fouling out in overtime.

Jaden McDaniels hit a game-tying 3-pointer late in regulation and finished with 20 points for Minnesota, which also received 14 points and 12 rebounds from Rudy Gobert en route to its third straight win.

Boston entered the game as the NBA's lone remaining unbeaten team following a 5-0 start. The Celtics got 32 points and five steals from Jayson Tatum and 26 points from Jaylen Brown, but shot just 28.2 per cent from 3-point range as well as a season-low 39.1 per cent overall. 

The Celtics held a 105-103 lead after Tatum hit two free throws with 3:56 left in overtime, but Minnesota's Mike Conley buried a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession before Edwards capped a pivotal 9-0 run with three consecutive baskets that put the Timberwolves up for good at 112-105 with 1:30 remaining in the extra session.

 

Adebayo's triple-double propels Heat past Lakers

Bam Adebayo delivered a massive performance with 22 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Miami Heat overcame a late scoring drought to hold on for a 108-107 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Adebayo became the first Heat player to record a triple-double with at least 20 rebounds, and Miami received 28 points from Jimmy Butler and 22 from Tyler Herro to record its second straight win following a four-game losing streak.

The Heat prevailed despite nearly blowing a 10-point lead with four minutes to play and not making a field goal over the final 4:15 of the contest.

The Lakers scored the game's final nine points and had a chance to win in the final seconds, but Cam Reddish was off the mark with a jumper and Butler grabbed the rebound right before time expired.

LeBron James finished with 30 points on 13-of-23 points to pace the Lakers, while Austin Reaves just missed a triple-double after compiling 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

Los Angeles has now dropped the first two outings of its current four-game road trip and played the entire fourth quarter without star forward Anthony Davis, who sustained a groin spasm during the game and was limited to nine points in 25 minutes. 

 

 

Jimmy Butler scored 23 of his 35 points after halftime and the Miami Heat used a dominant third quarter to beat the Boston Celtics 123-116 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday.

Miami faced a 71-59 deficit early in the third quarter before using a 17-4 run to take a 76-75 lead.

Butler scored nine straight points for the Heat, capped by a 3-pointer with 1:56 left in the quarter to make it 95-87.

Malcolm Brogdon's free throw with 2:31 to play pulled Boston within 114-110 but Caleb Martin and Butler made consecutive threes to extend the lead to 120-110 with under a minute left.

Miami, which has opened all three playoff series with road victories, scored a franchise playoff-record 46 points in the third quarter and outscored Boston 66-50 after halftime.

Bam Adebayo had 20 points and eight rebounds, while Kyle Lowry, Martin, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus each scored 15 points, with three 3-pointers apiece as part of the Heat's 16-for-31 effort from long range.

Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 30 points but didn't take a shot in the fourth quarter. Brown finished with 22 points and nine boards and Brogdon added 19 points.

Game 2 is Friday in Boston.

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