Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant believes Joel Embiid should win this season's NBA MVP award.

The Philadelphia 76ers center and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic are the clear favourites for this season's award, with Giannis Antetokounmpo in the running, too.

Durant, who was the MVP in 2014, pointed to Embiid's scoring when he said he deserved the nod marginally ahead of Denver Nuggets big man Jokic.

"If I had to choose, I would go Joel Embiid," Durant told reporters.

"He led the league in scoring, double-doubles, his team won 50 games this year. His numbers were incredible. It's a great year.

"But you can just close your eyes and just pick any one of the guys out of the top six or seven, and you can have a good MVP this year.

"That shows how great our league is right now and how talented our league is from top to bottom, but I would go with Embiid if I had to choose."

Embiid finished the regular season with the scoring title, averaging 30.6 points per game, along with 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists. He also had 46 double-doubles.

Jokic was second in the NBA across the regular season for rebounds, averaging 13.8. The Serbian center also contributed 27.1 points and 7.9 assists, with 66 double-doubles and 19 triple-doubles – two league highs.

The 76ers finished with a 51-31 record to claim fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Nuggets were sixth in the West with a 48-34 record.

Durant was also critical of MVP voting, claiming a player's narrative or story too often fed into the results.

"It's unfortunate," Durant said. "There's a lot of players that have been controlled by their narrative.

"Some of it has been because of the player, some of it just has been because of the perception of other people about that player.

"In Joel's case, more people just like Giannis and Jokic. It's as simple as that. They just prefer them more than Embiid's personality or his story, I guess."

Embiid was the runner-up for last season's MVP behind Jokic, with Stephen Curry in third.

The Brooklyn Nets defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-108 in the first game of the NBA Play-In Tournament on Tuesday.

The Nets are now the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, confirming a playoff matchup with the second seed Boston Celtics.

Kyrie Irving made 10 straight attempts on the way to 34 points and 12 assists, but Kevin Durant took over in the second half with 25 points and 11 assists, as well as two steals and three blocks.

The Nets led by as much as 22 points at one stage, but it was on the back of Durant and Irving starting off hot. The Cavs managed to hang in there and cut it down to single digits with Darius Garland's free-throws and triple following Goran Dragic's flagrant foul.

Garland finished with 34 points on 13-of-24 shooting, but Caris LeVert and Lauri Markkanen experienced a poor shooting night, combining for 25 points but on nine-of-26 attempts from the floor.

The Cavs will play the winner of Wednesday's matchup between the Charlotte Hornets and the Atlanta Hawks, for a chance to take on the Miami Heat in a seven-game series.

Timberwolves win through to face Grizzlies

The Minnesota Timberwolves reached the playoffs for the second time since 2004 with a 109-104 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Timberwolves, who lost All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns who fouled out early in the fourth quarter, finished with a 26-11 run to secure victory, which means they will face the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs.

Anthony Edwards (30 points with five three-pointers and five rebounds) and D'Angelo Russell (29 points and six assists) starred offensively, while the relentless Patrick Beverley was excellent against his former side with 11 rebounds.

Paul George kept the Clippers in the contest with 34 points including six three-pointers with seven rebounds and five assists.

The Clippers will next face the winner of the New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs' play-in game for a shot at the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Kevin Durant admits it will be tough to stop Jayson Tatum after the Brooklyn Nets progressed to the playoffs where they will face the Boston Celtics in a blockbuster first round series.

The Nets got past the Cleveland Cavaliers 115-108 in the play-in tournament on Tuesday to clinch the seventh seed, meaning they will face the second-seeded Celtics.

Durant scored 25 points with five rebounds and 11 assists, while ex-Celtics guard Kyrie Irving had 34 points with 12 assists.

The last time the two sides met, the Nets were beaten 126-120 by the Celtics on March 7 with Tatum scoring 54 points.

Tatum is seventh overall this season for points per game, averaging 26.9 shooting at 45.3 per cent from the field and 35.3 from three-point range.

"That's a tough question," Durant told reporters, when asked how to stop Tatum. "He's one of those players you've got to play hard and see what happens.

"He's just so talented, skilled and efficient at what he does. We've just got to play hard and I expect us to."

Irving added that keeping Tatum quiet would go a long way towards winning the series.

"It starts with really slowing JT down," Irving said. "He has a great feel playing against us. Everyone else around is very complementary to that attack."

Durant added: "[It's about] staying disciplined, playing together and playing with passion. I don’t have the schemes or the strategy to break it down to you. That's what every team needs to bring to win in the postseason."

The Celtics are one of the form teams in the NBA, going 35-12 since the turn of the year to finish the regular season with a 51-31 record.

Nets head coach Steve Nash said: "I'm really impressed with the Celtics, the job Ime [Udoka] has done. They've been able to build on that continuity.

"That group has been together for quite a while. They've made some tweaks and adjustments that have really improved their team both ends of the floor.  

"It'll be a great challenge for us. For a new group to go and play a team like that that's terrific at both ends is going to be something that hopefully brings the best out of us."

The Brooklyn Nets showed how they plan to approach their playoff rotation in a 118-107 home win against the Cleveland Cavaliers to leapfrog into the seven seed with one more game to play. 

In a game considered a must-win for the Nets to avoid the much more difficult Play-In Tournament setup for teams who finish ninth and 10th, Brooklyn cut their rotation down to eight players while Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Bruce Brown all played at least 39 minutes.

Seth Curry and Andre Drummond filled out the starting five, while Kessler Edwards, Patty Mills and Nic Claxton came off the bench, with LaMarcus Aldrige, Blake Griffin and rookie Cam Thomas out of the mix.

Durant went on to finish with a game-high 36 points on 11-of-20 shooting (four-of-six from long range, 10-of-10 from the free throw line) to go with five assists, five rebounds, two steals and a block, while Brown had 10 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks to go with his 18 points (six-of-12 shooting).

With the win, Brooklyn is now in position to host their first Play-In Tournament game – likely against the Cavaliers – with the winner entering the playoffs as the seven seed, while the loser gets another chance to play for the eight seed.

Most Improved Player contender Darius Garland was spectacular for the Cavs, scoring 31 points on 12-of-24 shooting, but the loss means his side has now lost eight of their past 10, and have been sputtering without injured center Jarrett Allen.

Overall, the Cavaliers are 43-38 this season, but just 8-17 in games Allen has missed.

No stoppin' Obi Toppin

It was a career night for New York Knicks cult figure Obi Toppin as he scored a career-high 35 points in his side's 114-92 away win against the Washington Wizards.

In only his eighth start of the season, the former first-round pick shot 14-of-22 from the field, including six-of-nine from deep, while fellow fan-favorite Immanuel Quickley was terrific off the bench, scoring 23 points (nine-of-18 shooting) with 10 assists.

 

Siakam shines, Heat hang on

Pascal Siakam seems destined to receive All-NBA honors this season after another great performance lifted his Toronto Raptors to a 117-115 win against the Houston Rockets.

In his past 10 games, Siakam is averaging 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists while shooting 53 per cent from the field, and improved those numbers with 29 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists against the Rockets.

Meanwhile, the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks played their shortened playoff rotations, and Trae Young's 35 points and eight assists was not enough as the top-seeded Heat prevailed 113-109 at home.

Kevin Durant believes his knee injury near the midway point of the NBA season "derailed" the Brooklyn Nets' campaign.

The Nets are sitting 10th in the Eastern Conference, occupying the last of the Play-In Tournament spots.

Durant did not play a game between January 17 and March 3 as a result of his injury, with the Nets going 3-10 in February.

If the season were to end now, the Nets would need to win on the road against the Charlotte Hornets, and then triumph again on their travels against the winner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks' matchup in their clash for the seventh seed.

Brooklyn have a winning percentage of .513 (40-38) for the season, but that jumps to .627 in games Durant has played (32-19), and plummets to .296 (8-19) when he has been absent.

"So I'm not looking at it like we're just not a good basketball team. There wasn't a lot of continuity with me and Kyrie [Irving] out of the line-up, that's just what it is. 

"When we're all on the floor together, I like what we got."

Reflecting on what has been a hectic season off the court, the two-time Finals MVP made it clear what it takes to be in the upper echelon of such a competitive league.

"You can talk about expectations and what you see this team on paper – I always said this, but everyday matters," he said. 

"You want to be a champion every second that you step on the floor, not just when we play a good team or the playoffs coming up. 

"I think being a champion is in the habits and the work ethic, the care that you have for the game. [There's] a lot of champions out here that never won a ring, but they approach their work that way.

"So that's how I felt our team needed to approach this season – and guys have – but some stuff that's out of individuals' control is the reason why we're in certain positions. 

"That doesn't stop you from having the championship mentality every day as an individual."

Durant was emphatic when asked if he spends time thinking about all the different scenarios the Nets could be faced with due to playoff seeding.

"Who cares?" he asked reporters.

"Whoever we play, we play. I don't care who we play. I don't care that we're in the play-in. 

"Just tip the ball up, see what happens. That's all you can control. 

"It's too stressful thinking about trying to dodge a team, just play the game. We'll see what happens."

Despite Durant's knee injury, he has still played in 51 games, while Irving has played in just 25 as New York previously had a mandate preventing players unvaccinated against COVID-19 featuring in matches in the city.

Kyrie Irving recognised the Brooklyn Nets have to do more to support Kevin Durant as the two-time Finals MVP's career night from three-point range was not enough to beat the Atlanta Hawks.

The Nets fell to 10th place in the Eastern Conference with a 122-115 reverse to the Hawks, who are eighth.

As things stand, Brooklyn will have to win consecutive games in the play-in tournament just to make the playoffs, while Atlanta get two shots at reaching the postseason.

This Nets setback came despite Durant scoring 55 points and making eight of 10 attempts from beyond the arc.

Eight threes made represented a career high for Durant, but he was more focused on the result.

"Every loss is deflating," Durant said. "I ain't even worried about [losing after a career high], I'm just mad at the loss.

"I'm glad I shot the ball well, made eight threes, a career high, but I wish we would have came out with a W just by doing the little stuff.

"My points are going to come, my shots are going to come, but the little stuff that we've got to do we've got to be on the same page with."

Team-mate Irving had 31 points but was the only other Net to make double figures. Brooklyn became the first team in NBA history to lose a game while having one player score 55 points and another 30.

Irving's came on 12-of-32 shooting, however, compared to Durant's 19-of-28 performance.

"It doesn't even feel like he had 55 tonight," Irving said. "You know what I mean? Just the way that we feel about the game afterwards.

"We just have to ease his burden on the offensive end. He's going to be Kevin Durant. We know who he is. We know what he's capable of.

"But we have to be there to support him. And we have to be there ready to play just as much as he is and not allow frustration seep in at all."

Irving did not go to the foul line once, with the Nets having only 19 free-throw attempts to the Hawks' 49.

"It's not because of the refs," said a frustrated Durant. "It was because we're reaching and being undisciplined and just playing too aggressive. That's the game."

The Philadelphia 76ers tied a franchise record of 21 three-pointers in their 144-114 rout of the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.

Tobias Harris scored 23 points and had a season high of five triples, with the Sixers getting seven players in double figures and able to play their bench for the majority of the fourth quarter.

MVP candidate Joel Embiid was as dependable as ever with 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting, 14 rebounds and six assists. Despite an off-shooting night, James Harden was still able to fill up the stats sheet with 12 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds.

The Sixers moved the ball exceptionally throughout to generate clean looks, coming up with 38 assists for the night and shooting 49 per cent from the perimeter.

Philadelphia are still yet to clinch a playoff berth in a tight Eastern Conference, but moved a step closer at 47-30, 4.5 games ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers in seventh.

The Hornets had already wrapped up the final play-in spot in the East but were dominated on the boards, coming up with 15 less rebounds.

Durant and Irving light up but Nets go cold

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving combined for 86 points, but the Brooklyn Nets still came up short against the Atlanta Hawks in a 122-115 defeat.

Durant put up a season-high 55 points at an efficient 19-of-28 shooting, including eight-of-10 from beyond the arc. Aside from Irving though, not a single Nets player went into double figures, with Patty Mills and Cam Thomas particularly going a combined one-of-14 from the floor.

In what could be a potential play-in matchup in the Eastern Conference, Trae Young notched up 36 points, 10 assists and six rebounds.

Dubs down Jazz with second-half fightback

The Golden State Warriors overturned a double-digit deficit at the main interval to claim a big 111-107 win at home over the Utah Jazz.

Still without the injured Stephen Curry and down by 13 at the half, the Dubs put the defensive clamps on and kept the Jazz to just 20 points in the fourth quarter.

Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson eventually combined for 67 points, but Golden State forcing four misses out of Utah's final five field goal attempts was definitive. 

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant vented his frustration over perceived dirty play by the Milwaukee Bucks in Thursday's defeat but begrudgingly acknowledged they did an effective job on him.

Durant missed a three-point shot on the buzzer that would have given his Nets the win, but they ultimately went down 120-119 in overtime.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 44 points (14-of-21 shooting) for the Bucks to go with 14 rebounds and six assists, while Jrue Holiday finished with a game-high six steals.

The hotly contested matchup between two teams that played out a seven-game series in last year's playoffs featured a contentious moment late in overtime as Durant was fouled on a three-point attempt by Wesley Matthews, which was reviewed as a potential flagrant.

Speaking to post-game media, Durant made a point of it being the second time in as many games that he feels he was targeted with a dangerous foul.

"We all thought that was reckless, right?" Durant asked the media in attendance.

"I think technically, I have to be in the air and come down on his foot, and that's the flagrant… but as soon as I hit the floor, here he comes running at my leg.

"It wasn't a [basketball play] – I thought it was supposed to be a flagrant. But I didn't make the correct play to get a flagrant, I was supposed to still be in the air while he's underneath me.

"I'm hurting. That's two games in a row where players have walked up underneath me while I'm trying to make a basketball play, so my ankle hurts."

After discussion moved to the game itself, Durant got frustrated when a reporter asked if the reason the Nets lost this game had anything to do with chemistry, a subject often brought up in reference to Durant's close friend Kyrie Irving.

"It was just basketball mistakes – we're not going to play a perfect basketball game," he said.

"It always sucks when you lose, and you tend to think back on the mistakes that you made, but we try to play mistake-free basketball – everyone in this league does.

"Giannis [Antetokounmpo] had eight turnovers, Jrue [Holiday] had six. They had 14 turnovers between their two best players – I'm sure they don't want that either, but that's just the game.

"They hit one more shot than we did. I don't think it's because of a lack of chemistry, or we didn't play hard. It's just one of those games that didn't fall our way at the end."

Durant then paid some respect to the reigning champions and gave some details about the way the Bucks defended against him.

"They did a good job – they know [who I am], they know what it is," he said.

"If I get the ball out top, I'm seeing the whole team looking at me. Kyrie got the same treatment.

"Brook Lopez, he's played against me in the playoffs before. This team knows how to prepare for me.

"If I get a drive, if I get a lane, I'm hearing guys coming over to help, and they're calling for more help. It's only going to make me better as a player to see those looks.

"We shot the ball pretty well [as a team] – I think that's because we were making the right plays."

When asked if his sore ankle could force him to miss any games, Durant said no chance.

"No, I'm good," he said. "It's a little sore, you know how it goes."

After a hard-fought seven-game series in last year's NBA playoffs, the Milwaukee Bucks and Brooklyn Nets added another chapter to their recent rivalry with an overtime thriller.

The Bucks ended up coming out on top 120-119 thanks to a mammoth performance from two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, finishing with 44 points on 14-of-21 shooting to go with 14 rebounds and six assists.

It was not just the raw numbers for Antetokounmpo, but the situations where he delivered, hitting a crucial step-back three to tie the game at 110-110 with less than 20 seconds remaining in regulation.

Down 118-119 with three seconds left in overtime, Antetokounmpo was fouled, and connected on both free throws to give the Bucks the lead and the win.

Jrue Holiday was crucial for the reigning champions, claiming six steals to go with his 19 points (six-of-18 shooting), eight rebounds and four assists.

Kevin Durant was terrific for the Nets, scoring 26 points on 10-of-21 from the field (three-of-six from long range) and also dishing out 11 assists, while Kyrie Irving chipped in with 25 points (nine-of-22 from the field) with five assists.


DeRozan's 50-piece leads comeback

The Chicago Bulls came back from an 11-point deficit with 4:58 remaining in regulation to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 135-130 in overtime.

After DeMar DeRozan hit three free throws in the final five seconds to tie the game and force overtime, the Clippers were forced to contest the extra period without star Paul George, who had hit his minutes restriction as he returns from a long-term elbow injury.

DeRozan went on to score 50 points on 17-of-26 shooting, while highly-regarded second-year forward Patrick Williams caught the eye coming off the bench, scoring 10 points without missing a shot while adding 12 rebounds and two blocks.

Cunningham shows class

Number one pick from this year's rookie class, Cade Cunningham, showed why he is viewed as a future star in this league as he led his Detroit Pistons to a 102-94 upset against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Cunningham was Detroit's best player, finishing with 27 points (12-of-20 shooting) to go with six assists and four steals and the Pistons out-scored the 76ers 29-15 in the final frame.

Joel Embiid was not to blame for the 76ers struggles, scoring 37 points on 11-of-19 shooting with 15 rebounds.

Kevin Durant was satisfied with his night's work after recording 41 points as the Brooklyn Nets eventually overcame a spirited Detroit Pistons on Tuesday at Barclays Center.

The Nets moved to 40-36 following the win, and sit in eight place in the Eastern Conference, while the Pistons have the joint-worst record in the east (20-56, along with the Orlando Magic).

Kyrie Irving added 24 in only his second home appearance of the season following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions on unvaccinated athletes in New York.

Durant was the star of the show, though, also managing 11 rebounds and five assists, while sinking four of six attempts from beyond the arc.

"I want to get better shots sometimes, but like a couple of them are like, 'I'm hot, let me risk it,'" Durant said after the win.

"I was just trying to get the best shots that I can. Sometimes it might be over a guy in the lane, but I feel like that’s open and I have to keep knocking them down."

The Nets had been 12 points behind at one point, but were able to turn things around to eventually secure victory, and Durant was quick to praise Detroit despite their undesirable record. 

"I know their record isn’t good, but they still have pros over there," he added. "They still made shots early and gained confidence as a team. This was a good test for us."

Andre Drummond put up 14 points and 13 rebounds, and expressed his belief that Brooklyn will need to be better against stronger opponents, with the playoffs not far away and the Nets hoping to sneak in.

"We can't hang our hat on the second half, we have to play a complete game," Drummond said.

"It's never going to be easy to make that turn against great teams. Not that the Pistons aren't a great team. They played a great game, but we just turned it up in the second half."

Giannis Antetokounmpo came up with a game-winning block on Joel Embiid after scoring 40 points in the Milwaukee Bucks' crucial 118-116 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday.

Antetokounmpo rose to block Embiid's attempt to level the scores with less than two seconds left on the clock, with head coach Mike Budenholzer labelling it "special".

The Greek superstar finished with 40 points on 66 per cent shooting with 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks.

The Bucks win is significant in the race for Eastern Conference seeds, moving Milwaukee (47-28) into second behind the Miami Heat (48-28), while the 76ers (46-29) slip to fourth.

Khris Middleton added 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists and Jrue Holiday contributed 18 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists.

Embiid finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists, while James Harden had 32 points making four-of-10 from beyond the arc, with five rebounds and nine assists.

 

George returns in Clippers comeback win

Paul George marked his first game since December 22 with 34 points including six three-pointers as the Los Angeles Clippers fought back from 25 points down to win 121-115 over the Utah Jazz who have lost five in a row. The Clippers finished the game on a 34-12 run.

Kevin Durant scored 41 points with 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocks while Kyrie Irving managed 24 points in his second home appearance as the Brooklyn Nets won 130-123 over the Detroit Pistons.

The Chicago Bulls found some form after winning only four of their past 15 games with an important 107-94 win over the Washington Wizards led by DeMar DeRozan with 32 points, seven rebounds and two steals.

 

Lakers slide continues

The Los Angeles Lakers' struggles continued with a heavy 128-110 loss to the Dallas Mavericks as Luka Doncic recorded a triple-double with 34 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. The Mavs led by as much as 37 points. The Lakers, who were without LeBron James and Anthony Davis, are 31-44 and slip to 11th out of the west's play-in spots.

The Miami Heat's slide continued on Saturday, with a disappointing 110-95 home defeat against the Brooklyn Nets making it four losses on the trot.

Miami entered the week multiple games clear of the chasing pack, but after the loss against the Nets, the Philadelphia 76ers usurped the Heat as the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The race for home-court advantage throughout the Eastern playoffs is far from over, as the top four teams, including the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics, are only separated by a half-game.

Things were ugly early for the Heat, with its once-feared defence giving up 40 points in just the second quarter to hand the Nets a 67-46 half-time lead, which was never threatened.

Kevin Durant led a balanced offensive performance from the Nets, finishing with a team-high 23 points on seven-of-14 shooting, while seven of his teammates scored at least eight points each.

The win was Brooklyn's seventh from their past nine games, with Kyrie Irving set to make his home debut the next time out against the Charlotte Hornets.

No Morant, no problem

The Memphis Grizzlies passed another real test when the Milwaukee Bucks came to town, sending the reigning champions home with their tails between their legs after a 127-102 result.

In one of the more unlikely storylines of this season, the Grizzlies are now 17-2 in games where their best player and MVP candidate Ja Morant has not played.

Emerging franchise centrepiece Desmond Bane rose to the occasion, scoring 20 points on nine-of-19 shooting to go with five assists, while Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jaren Jackson Jr blocked two shots and snatched one steal to go with his 16 points and six rebounds.

Kings rookie continues to break out, Bulls finally beat a good team

With De'Aaron Fox missing yet again, Sacramento Kings rookie Davion Mitchell had his third consecutive game with at least 22 points and seven assists in his side's 114-110 overtime win against the Orlando Magic.

Mitchell's line of 22 points (10-of-23 from the field) with seven rebounds and nine assists comes after games of 25 points and seven assists against the Indiana Pacers, and 28 points with nine assists against the Phoenix Suns.

Meanwhile, after entering the game with a sputtering record of 3-10 in their past 13 games, the Chicago Bulls collected a much-needed 98-94 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Since February 12, Chicago have only beaten two teams who currently occupy playoff spots – the Cavaliers, and the Toronto Raptors.

Kevin Durant said his Brooklyn Nets were expecting a tough, physical performance from the Miami Heat on Saturday night, but they had all the answers in the 110-95 win.

Brooklyn used a 40-point second quarter to open up a 67-46 half-time lead, extending the margin to 37 points when Seth Curry's three-pointer made it 94-57 with 4:02 to play in the third period.

Durant scored a team-high 23 points on seven-of-14 shooting, while seven of his teammates scored at least eight points each in one of the Nets' most balanced offensive performances of the season.

Speaking at a post-game news conference, Durant said the key to playing well in Miami is being prepared to bring the physicality.

"[Miami] has been struggling lately – they'd lost their last three – so we assumed they'd come out with a lot of firepower," he said.

"They did – we were down 15-7 early – but we weathered the storm. We took their punch and were able to keep going. 

"[Miami] is a physical basketball team, so if you match their physicality you can make it an even game, and we have a lot of shot-makers on our team.

"They normally blitz a lot of teams [in Miami] by just being more physical, and getting out in transition and knocking down threes, but they had to take the ball out of the basket a lot and play against a set defense."

Kevin Durant said his Brooklyn Nets were expecting a tough, physical performance from the Miami Heat on Saturday night, but they had all the answers in the 110-95 win.

Brooklyn used a 40-point second quarter to open up a 67-46 half-time lead, extending the margin to 37 points when Seth Curry's three-pointer made it 94-57 with 4:02 to play in the third period.

Durant scored a team-high 23 points on seven-of-14 shooting, while seven of his teammates scored at least eight points each in one of the Nets' most balanced offensive performances of the season.

Speaking at a post-game news conderence, Durant said the key to playing well in Miami is being prepared to bring the physicality.

"[Miami] has been struggling lately – they'd lost their last three – so we assumed they'd come out with a lot of firepower," he said.

"They did – we were down 15-7 early – but we weathered the storm. We took their punch and were able to keep going. 

"[Miami] is a physical basketball team, so if you match their physicality you can make it an even game, and we have a lot of shot-makers on our team.

"They normally blitz a lot of teams [in Miami] by just being more physical, and getting out in transition and knocking down threes, but they had to take the ball out of the basket a lot and play against a set defense."

The Miami Heat's slide continued on Saturday night, with a disappointing 110-95 home defeat against the Brooklyn Nets making it four losses on the trot.

Miami entered the week multiple games clear of the chasing pack, but after the loss against the Nets, the Philadelphia 76ers usurped the Heat as the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The race for home-court advantage throughout the Eastern playoffs is far from over, as the top four teams, including the Milwaukee Bucks and the Boston Celtics, are only separated by a half-game.

Things were ugly early for the Heat, with its once-feared defence giving up 40 points in just the second quarter to hand the Nets a 67-46 half-time lead, which was never threatened.

Kevin Durant led a balanced offensive performance from the Nets, finishing with a team-high 23 points on seven-of-14 shooting, while seven of his teammates scored at least eight points each.

The win was Brooklyn's seventh from their past nine games, with Kyrie Irving set to make his home debut the next time out against the Charlotte Hornets.

No Morant, no problem

The Memphis Grizzlies passed another real test when the Milwaukee Bucks came to town, sending the reigning champions home with their tails between their legs after a 127-102 result.

In one of the more unlikely storylines of this season, the Grizzlies are now 17-2 in games where their best player and MVP candidate Ja Morant has not played.

Emerging franchise centrepiece Desmond Bane rose to the occasion, scoring 20 points on nine-of-19 shooting to go with five assists, while Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jaren Jackson Jr blocked two shots and snatched one steal to go with his 16 points and six rebounds.

Kings rookie continues to break out, Bulls finally beat a good team

With De'Aaron Fox missing yet again, Sacramento Kings rookie Davion Mitchell had his third consecutive game with at least 22 points and seven assists in his side's 114-110 overtime win against the Orlando Magic.

Mitchell's line of 22 points (10-of-23 from the field) with seven rebounds and nine assists comes after games of 25 points and seven assists against the Indiana Pacers, and 28 points with nine assists against the Phoenix Suns.

Meanwhile, after entering the game with a sputtering record of 3-10 in their past 13 games, the Chicago Bulls collected a much-needed 98-94 win against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Since February 12, Chicago have only beaten two teams who currently occupy playoff spots – the Cavaliers, and the Toronto Raptors.

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