Anthony Edwards scored 27 points and helped spark a late run that propelled the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 107-101 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday in a clash of teams that had been tied for the Western Conference lead. 

Karl-Anthony Towns had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Rudy Gobert amassed 12 points and 18 rebounds as the Timberwolves bounced back from Saturday's one-point loss at Sacramento and dropped the Thunder to third place in the tightly bunched conference standings.

The Denver Nuggets moved a half-game ahead of Oklahoma City and remained a half-game behind Minnesota with Monday's win over the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Oklahoma City had erased a 10-point third-quarter deficit to take a 97-96 lead on two Shai Gilgeous-Alexander free throws with 2:43 left, but Minnesota's Jaden McDaniels hit a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession to start a pivotal 9-0 spurt.

The Thunder would miss their next four shots as the Timberwolves began pulling away. Edwards followed McDaniels' trey with a running dunk and McDaniels scored on a tip-in before Towns capped the run with two free throws that put Minnesota up 105-97 with 15.5 seconds to go. 

Minnesota owned a 62-52 advantage nearing the midway mark of the third quarter before the Thunder seized momentum with an 11-0 run. Gilgeous-Alexander had six points and Jalen Williams scored the last five of the flurry, which gave Oklahoma City a 63-62 edge with five minutes left in the period.

The Thunder, who were coming off a stunning 120-104 loss to the NBA-worst Detroit Pistons on Sunday, received 37 points and eight assists from Gilgeous-Alexander and 20 points from Williams. 

Chet Holmgren, Oklahoma City's third-leading scorer at 17 points per game, was held to just four points on 2-of-9 shooting, however, as the Timberwolves finished with a 46-34 point advantage in the paint.

Jokic has another triple-double as Nuggets spoil Rivers' debut with Bucks

Jamal Murray scored 35 points and Nikola Jokić posted his 14th triple-double of the season to power the Denver Nuggets to a 113-107 win over Milwaukee in Doc Rivers' first game as the Bucks' head coach.

Jokic compiled 25 points, 16 rebounds and 12 assists to add to his league-leading triple-double count and help the defending NBA champions keep pace with first-place Minnesota in the West. The Nuggets have now won five of their last six games.

Rivers, who coached the Boston Celtics to an NBA title during the 2007-08 season, was hired shortly after the Bucks dismissed Adrian Griffin on Jan. 23 despite sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference with a 30-13 record. Assistant Joe Prunty coached Milwaukee's last three games and went 2-1.

The veteran coach's tenure started off strong as the Bucks jumped out to a 24-11 lead midway through the first quarter, though the Nuggets ended the period on a 12-0 run to cut their deficit to 26-25 entering the second. 

Denver gradually asserted control and owned an 84-75 advantage early in the fourth quarter, but the Bucks hit three straight 3-pointers during a 13-2 spurt that put them back ahead with under nine minutes to play.

The game remained tight until the Nuggets pulled away with an 8-0 run, which Murray capped with a jumper that gave Denver a 106-97 lead with 3:17 to go.

Giannis Antetokounmpo paced Milwaukee with 29 points on 11-of-19 shooting along with 12 rebounds, while Brook Lopez had 19 points and Damian Lillard finished with 18 in the loss. 

Suns bounce back by handing Heat seventh straight loss

The Phoenix Suns kept rolling behind a balanced attack and strong defence that resulted in a 118-105 victory over the reeling Miami Heat, the seventh consecutive loss for the defending Eastern Conference champions.

Eric Gordon scored 23 points off the bench to lead six Phoenix players in double figures in a game the Suns led by as much as 28 points en route to stopping a two-game losing streak.

The Suns also got 22 points from Devin Booker and 20 from Kevin Durant, with both stars finishing with eight rebounds and seven assists each.

Miami went 14 of 36 from 3-point range but was stonewalled from inside the arc, shooting a subpar 39.6 per cent on 2-point attempts in this latest defeat. The Heat have lost seven straight for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

Jimmy Butler led Miami with 26 points and recent acquisition Terry Rozier had 21 in his fourth game with the Heat.

Miami shot just 35.4 per cent in the first half as the Suns built a 62-49 lead at the break, and its shooting woes continued as Phoenix extended the margin in the third quarter. 

Booker had 12 points and the Suns shot over 68 per cent for the period to open up a commanding 100-74 advantage entering the fourth quarter.

Bobby Portis and Giannis Antetokounmpo combined to score 20 straight points during a 25-0 run midway through the first half and the Milwaukee Bucks coasted to a 135-102 rout of the NBA-leading Boston Celtics on Thursday.

Portis finished with 28 points and Antetokounmpo added 24 while both players had 12 rebounds. Damian Lillard had 21 points in his return to the Bucks’ lineup after missing a 132-116 loss to Utah on Monday for personal reasons.

Milwaukee led by as many as 43 points and its 75-38 lead at the break was the fourth-biggest halftime advantage in franchise history.

Payton Pritchard scored 21 points for the Celtics, who missed 16 of their first 17 3-point attempts and finished 9 of 34 from deep. Boston was back in action after beating Minnesota in overtime on Wednesday and looked fatigued.

The Celtics allowed their highest point total of the season and dropped their second straight road game.

Giddey leads Thunder to historic rout

Josh Giddey had a triple-double and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 points as the Oklahoma City Thunder matched the fifth-largest rout in NBA history, 139-77 over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Jalen Williams scored 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting and Giddey finished with 13 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds for Oklahoma City, which was on the wrong end of the NBA’s biggest blowout, a 73-point loss to Memphis on Dec. 2, 2021.

The Thunder’s 62-point win shattered their previous record for victory margin of 45 points, set twice during the 2012-13 season.

Portland shot a dismal 27.7 percent from the field and suffered its second-worst loss, having fallen by 65 to Indiana on Feb. 27, 1998.

Irving’s big game lifts Mavericks

Kyrie Irving poured in a season-high 44 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. added 32 to lead the short-handed Dallas Mavericks to a 128-124 win over the New York Knicks.

Josh Green scored 18 points, the last coming on a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left to give Dallas a 124-120 lead. Irving and Hardaway combined to make four free throws in the final 11.1 seconds to seal the win.

Dallas superstar Luka Doncic sat out with an ankle injury and Dereck Lively II and Dante Exum also missed the game.

Julius Randle scored 32 points and Jalen Brunson had 30 for the Knicks, who had a five-game winning streak snapped and lost for the first time since acquiring OG Anunoby from Toronto on Dec. 30.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander poured in 36 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder held off the NBA-leading Boston Celtics, 127-123 on Tuesday for their fifth straight win.

Josh Giddey had 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Thunder, who have won eight of nine. During that stretch, they have beaten defending champion Denver twice, ended the Clippers’ nine-game win streak, beat West-leading Minnesota by 23 and now the Celtics.

Kristaps Porzingis scored 34 points and Jayson Tatum added 30 as Boston had a six-game winning streak snapped.

Oklahoma City opened a 108-90 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Celtics rallied to cut the deficit to 121-119.

Giddey hit a pair of free throws with 12.1 seconds left to put the Thunder up 4 before Porzingis hit a deep shot in the left corner with 3.7 seconds left to make it a two-point game.

Gilgeous-Alexander sealed the victory with a pair of free throws with 2.8 to play.

Embiid leads 76ers in return

Joel Embiid tallied 31 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists in his return from a sprained right ankle to lift the Philadelphia 76ers to a 110-97 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

Embiid, who missed all four games on the 76ers’ holiday road trip, was 10 of 20 from the field and notched his seventh career triple-double in the third quarter. He extended his franchise records with 15 straight 30-point games and 14 consecutive games of 30 points and 10 rebounds.

Tyrese Maxey had 21 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. added 16 for the 76ers, who have won three straight and seven of eight at home.

DeMar DeRozan led the Bulls with 16 points and Andre Drummond had 11 with 17 rebounds.

Rozier helps Hornets snap 11-game skid

Terry Rozier scored 14 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter after missing a game due to illness as the Charlotte Hornets stopped an 11-game skid with a 111-104 win over the Sacramento Kings.

Rozier shot 13 of 24 from the field and handed out six assists, while Miles Bridges added 27 points for Charlotte, which played without rookie Brandon Miller (bruised left hip), LaMelo Ball (right ankle sprain), Gordon Hayward (left calf strain), Mark Williams (bruised lower back) and Frank Ntilikina (left tibia fracture).

De’Aaron Fox scored 30 points for Sacramento and Domantas Sabonis had 23 with 19 rebounds for his 15th straight double-double, tied for the NBA’s longest streak this season.

The Oklahoma City Thunder condemned the Denver Nuggets to their heaviest defeat of the season but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander still says the defending NBA champions are "the level that you want to get to".

The Nuggets fell to their second defeat by Thunder in the space of two weeks and ended their six-match winning streak after a 119-93 defeat in Denver.

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 40 points – his fifth 40-plus game this season and four shy of his career-best set last season – for the Thunder and Chet Holmgren added 24.

A pair of defeats to Oklahoma are Denver's only two in their last 11 games, although Gilgeous-Alexander was quick to credit the Nuggets.

"It's not a fluke they won the championship," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "They're a really good team and we know that every night we play them.

"You get out of bed to play against teams like that knowing they're at the level that you want to get to."

Gilgeous-Alexander also went 14 of 20 from the field and made all 10 of his free-throw attempts.

"He was just cruising. He let the game come to him," Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. "It never seemed like he was forcing. Played the right way throughout, made the right passes, and kept them honest.

"It's kind of routine at this point but he played a great game."

Holmgren scored the Thunder's first 10 points of the game and finished with 24, hitting all four attempts from three-point range, and had two blocks.

"He's a threat on the court in so many ways and him drawing that attention only makes it easier for the guys around him, including myself," Gilgeous-Alexander said of his Oklahoma teammate.

Nikola Jokic had 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for the Nuggets, who were without Aaron Gordon for a second straight game due to hand and facial injuries sustained from dog bites.

Yet Jokic also committed seven turnovers, two shy of his career high.

"You've got to be clean with the ball, you can't play in a crowd," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said of the turnovers.

"It's something they do to most teams, but you're not going to give yourself a chance to win when you allow them to play to their strength."

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 22 of his 40 points in the second half to help the surging Oklahoma City Thunder pull away for an impressive 119-93 road win over the defending NBA champion Denver Nuggets on Friday.

Gilgeous-Alexander finished 14 of 20 from the field and a perfect 10 for 10 from the free-throw line to lead the upstart Thunder to their sixth win in seven games.

Oklahoma City, which last reached the playoffs in the 2019-20 season, is now 21-9 and percentage points ahead of Denver for second place in the Northwest Division.

Chet Holmgren added 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting for the Thunder, who outscored Denver by a 34-20 margin in the third quarter to turn a six-point half-time lead into a commanding 88-68 advantage.

The Nuggets had a six-game winning streak halted despite another efficient outing from Nikola Jokić, who made 9 of 10 field goal attempts while compiling 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. 

Jokic's primary teammates were off the mark, however. Jamal Murray missed 11 of 15 field goal attempts while being held to nine points, while Michael Porter Jr. was 4 of 12 and ended with 12 points.

Antetokounmpo, Lillard rally Bucks past Cavaliers

The Milwaukee Bucks got 34 points and 16 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo and a big second half from Damian Lillard to rally for a 119-111 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in a clash of the Central Division's top teams.

Lillard scored 24 of his 31 points after half-time to help Milwaukee overcome an early 15-point deficit and post its ninth win in 10 games. The Bucks extended their lead on second-place Cleveland to six games in the division.

The Cavaliers had won five of six coming in and got top scorer Donovan Mitchell back from a four-game absence, with the four-time All-Star registering 34 points and nine assists in his return. Cleveland also got a big effort from Jarrett Allen in defeat, as the centre amassed a career-high 30 points, 12 rebounds and six assists while finishing 15 of 17 from the field.

Cleveland owned a 50-35 lead midway through the second quarter before the Bucks closed the gap to 59-52 at the break. Milwaukee then opened the third quarter on a 12-2 run, then later put together an 11-0 spurt to claim an 88-73 advantage with under three minutes remaining in the period.

Both Antetokounmpo and Lillard had 14 points in the pivotal third quarter.

The Cavs were able to cut Milwaukee's lead to 115-111 inside the final minute, but didn't make a shot the rest of the way and the Bucks sealed the game with four late free throws.

Milwaukee finished 25 of 28 from the foul line, while Cleveland attempted just nine free throws on the night.

 

Wagner, Banchero lead Magic over Knicks

Franz Wagner had 32 points and Paolo Banchero added 29 as the Orlando Magic got back on track with a 117-108 victory over the New York Knicks.

Orlando bounced back from Wednesday's 20-point home loss to the Philadelphia 76ers behind strong performances from its two young stars. Wagner finished 11 of 19 from the field to go along with nine rebounds, while Banchero had 10 boards and scored 15 points in the second half.

Jalen Suggs contributed 21 points for the Magic, who never trailed after stringing together a 14-1 run in the second quarter that turned a 33-33 tie into a comfortable 47-34 lead.

The Knicks battled back behind Julius Randle, who finished with 38 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, but could only get their deficit down to five points in the game's late stages.

Wagner helped Orlando hold on by recording 10 of his points in the fourth quarter.

Jalen Brunson had 20 points for New York, which has now lost two straight, but was held to 4-of-15 shooting from the field.

 

 

Kevin Durant registered a career-high 16 assists to go with 27 points and 10 rebounds in his 18th career triple-double on Wednesday, leading the Phoenix Suns to a 129-113 win over the Houston Rockets.

Durant shot 9 of 16 from the field and 3 of 7 from 3-point range as Phoenix snapped a three-game losing streak with it first road victory since Nov. 26.

Eric Gordon also scored 27 points in his first game back in Houston since being traded in February. He had 17 points in the Suns’ 43-point second quarter.

Alperen Sengun had 24 points and Jalen Green added 23 for the Rockets, who have lost four of six following a five-game winning streak.

Gilgeous-Alexander, Williams help Thunder win

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jalen Williams scored 36 points apiece and Williams sank a pair of key 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to lift the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 129-120 victory over the New York Knicks.

Chet Holmgren added 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting as the Thunder followed Tuesday’s triumph over Western Conference-leading Minnesota with their fifth win in six games.

Williams scored 17 points on 6 of 7 from the field in the fourth quarter, including eight points and two 3s during a 10-2 run after the Knicks cut their deficit to five with 4:37 remaining.

Julius Randle had 25 points and Jalen Brunson added 24 for New York, which had won three of four.

Antetokounmpo, Bucks handle undermanned Nets

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and the Milwaukee Bucks pulled away for a 144-122 win over the short-handed Brooklyn Nets.

Khris Middleton added 27 points and 10 boards and Cameron Payne and Malik Beasley each hit five 3-pointers as the Bucks improved to 10-2 this month.

Milwaukee shot 23 of 51 from 3-point range and 58.4 percent (52 for 89) overall to bounce back from a Christmas Day loss to the Knicks.

The Nets rested three starters (Spencer Dinwiddie, Nic Claxton and Cam Johnson) and barely played two others one night after a victory in Detroit extended the Pistons’ losing streak an NBA-record 27.

The Detroit Pistons suffered their 25th straight loss – one short of the NBA single season record – as Kelly Olynyk scored 25 points to lead the short-handed Utah Jazz to a 119-111 victory on Thursday.

Detroit missed nine of 10 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and was 9 of 31 overall from long range as it remained winless since Oct. 28.

The 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers and 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers share the record at 26, which the Pistons will try to avoid Saturday in Brooklyn. The 76ers hold the overall mark of 28, a skid that started in 2014-15 and carried over into 2015-16.

Collin Sexton scored 19 points and Ochai Agbaji added 18 for the Jazz, who played without four of their top seven scorers – Lauri Markkanen, Jordan Clarkson, Keyonte George and Talen Horton-Tucker – on the second night of a back-to-back after losing at Cleveland on Wednesday.

Antetokounmpo propels Bucks to 6th straight win

Giannis Antetokoumpo tallied 37 points, 10 rebounds and six assists and the Milwaukee Bucks completed a perfect six-game homestand with a 118-114 win over the Orlando Magic.

Damian Lillard added 24 points and eight assists for the Bucks, who have won 15 straight games at Fiserv Forum. That’s the Bucks’ longest single-season home win streak since they opened 18-0 at home in 1991-92.

Franz Wagner scored 29 points and Paolo Banchero had 23 for the Magic, who have lost four in a row.

Thunder snap Clippers’ 9-game streak

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander poured in 31 points and Chet Holmgren gave the Thunder the lead for good with a dunk he threw off the backboard to himself, and Oklahoma City ended the Los Angeles Clippers’ nine-game winning streak, 134-115.

Holmgren’s flashy jam with 8:43 left in the third quarter gave the Thunder a 74-73 lead and sparked a decisive 13-0 run.

Holmgren finished with 23 points and Lu Dort added 21 for Oklahoma City, which has won three straight and five of six.

James Harden scored 23 points and Paul George had 22 for the Clippers, who played without leading scorer Kawhi Leonard due to a bruised right hip.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr believes his team are good enough to win the NBA championship, but only if they cut out the kind of errors which cost them against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.

The Warriors slumped to 10-12 as they finished on the wrong side of a thrilling contest at Paycom Center, losing 138-136 in overtime.

Golden State led 62-56 at halftime before the Thunder rallied, with Stephen Curry – who finished with a team-high 34 points – making a series of big shots to keep them in the game past regulation.

From there, however, mistakes cost the Warriors as the Thunder scored eight points off four turnovers in the extra period, winning it when Chet Holmgren fed Luguentz Dort for a decisive layup.

Kerr's team have now lost their last five road games, the last three of those defeats coming by a combined margin of four points, and he knows errors are contributing to them finishing on the wrong side of the fine margins.

"We're good enough to win a championship," Kerr said after the game. "With this team. I believe that.

"But if we are just going to turn it over and throw the ball to the other team and foul over and over, then we're going to lose."

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the way with 38 points for the Thunder, and despite the Warriors enduring an inconsistent campaign, he believes the way they fought back against the 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2022 NBA champions was something of a statement.

"We've got a bunch of competitors on the team, guys that don't back down, guys that want to be great," Gilgeous-Alexander said. 

"We all know that to be great, you've got to test yourself against the great. 

"Obviously, that's a dynasty that came in here today, and there's been multiple games like that this year. When we play the best of the best, we rise to the challenge."

Derrick White scored 30 points and Kristaps Porzingis had 21 in his return to the lineup as the Boston Celtics remained perfect at home with Friday's 133-123 win over the New York Knicks.

Jayson Tatum chipped in 25 points to help Boston improve to 10-0 at TD Garden this season and bounce back from Monday's 122-112 loss to the Indiana Pacers in the NBA's In-Season Tournament quarter-finals.

Porzingis, who had missed the Celtics' previous four games with a strained left calf, tallied 19 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the first half to help stake Boston to a 74-65 lead at intermission.

The Celtics stretched their advantage to as many as 20 points in the third quarter and the Knicks never got closer than seven points down in the fourth.

Jalen Brunson and RJ Barrett each had 23 points for New York, which had won three straight prior to Tuesday's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in the Tournament quarterfinals.

Fox leads rally as Kings top short-handed Suns

De'Aaron Fox scored 23 of his game-high 34 points in the fourth quarter as the Sacramento Kings dominated the second half en route to a 114-106 win over the Phoenix Suns.

Domantas Sabonis compiled 15 points, 17 rebounds and five assists for Sacramento, which overcame a nine-point half-time deficit by outscoring the Suns by a 33-12 margin in the third quarter.

Phoenix, which played without Kevin Durant due to an ankle injury and remains without fellow star Bradley Beal, shot 52.4 per cent in the first half to build a 59-50 lead. 

The Suns went 6 of 23 from the field in the third quarter, though, as the Kings fought back to tie the game before finishing the period on a 16-4 run to take an 83-71 advantage into the fourth.

Fox then took over in the final quarter as Sacramento gradually pulled away, with his 3-pointer with 1:44 remaining giving the Kings a comfortable 112-98 lead.

The slumping Suns lost for the fourth time in five games despite Devin Booker's 28 points on 10-of-14 shooting along with seven assists. Eric Gordon added 19 points for Phoenix.

Thunder continue mastery of Warriors with overtime win

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 38 points, Jalen Williams added 28 and the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied late in regulation before handing the Golden State Warriors a 138-136 overtime loss.

Chet Holmgren chipped in 21 points, including three free throws with 7.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter that forced overtime, as the upstart Thunder defeated the veteran Warriors for the third time in four meetings this season. 

Golden State fell to 10-12 on the season despite 34 points from Stephen Curry and 22 from Klay Thompson. Jonathan Kuminga posted 24 points and 12 rebounds off the bench before fouling out in OT.

The Thunder battled back from a 14-point second-quarter deficit, then never trailed in overtime after opening the session on a 12-3 run capped by a Holmgren 3-pointer that gave them a 130-121 lead with 2:40 left.

Golden State fought back and pulled to within 136-134 on Curry's 3-pointer with 29.7 seconds remaining, but Holmgren fed Luguentz Dort for a critical layup on the ensuing possession and the Warriors eventually ran out of time.

 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander believes the Oklahoma City Thunder reaped the rewards of being "battle-tested" as they kept their season alive by beating the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Thunder, the youngest team in the NBA, ended the Pelicans' season with a 123-118 victory at Smoothie King Center on Wednesday.

Oklahoma City's win in the Western Conference play-in tournament ensure they will face a trip to play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday, with a place in the NBA playoffs at stake.

A meeting with the number-one seeded Denver Nuggets will be the reward for the team that comes out on top in that showdown.

Gilgeous-Alexander stepped up to deliver 32 points, while Josh Giddey finished with 31 point, 10 assists and nine rebounds for Oklahoma City in that win over the Pelicans.

New Orleans led 69-62 early in the third quarter, but the Thunder stormed back and Gilgeous-Alexander felt the showed their strength of character. 

"We've been battle-tested. We've played in a lot of close games all year, for the past couple of years,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.

"Even when the season wasn't going our way, we played in a lot of close games and we have good habits and we know what gets it done down the stretch."

Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said: "Great 48-minute effort out of the team.

"Great poise. New Orleans made a couple of big runs at the end of the second and then the beginning of the fourth and I thought our guys just had a great temperament in the huddles and got back to our stuff.

"We weren't perfect tonight, but we got back to our habits and it was a great effort out of the team.

Brandon Ingram scored 30 points, 20 of which came in the second half, but the Pelicans were unable to stay in the hunt for the playoffs.

Zach LaVine scored 30 second-half points as the Chicago Bulls rallied from a 19-point deficit to eliminate the Toronto Raptors 109-105 in Wednesday's play-in tournament game.

The Bulls' victory sees them advance to the final play-in game against the Miami Heat on Friday, with the winner to take the eight seed and a playoffs first round series against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Chicago became the first 10th-place team to win a play-in game, but they did it the hard way, trailing by 16 with 2:42 left in the third quarter.

LaVine starred as they stormed home with a 37-24 fourth quarter, after the Bulls guard added 17 points in the third to cut the margin to nine points at the final change.

LaVine finished with a game-high 39 points on 12-of-22 shooting with six rebounds and three assists, while DeMar DeRozan added 23 points with seven rebounds and two blocks.

Raptors forward Pascal Siakam scored points with nine rebounds and six assists, with Fred VanVleet adding 26 points with seven three-pointers along with 12 rebounds and eight assists. VanVleet's 26 points included a half-time buzzer-beater from half court.

The Raptors were not helped by 50 per cent free-throw shooting, having to endure persistent and timed screams from DeRozan's daughter Diar upon each attempt throughout the game.

After trailing for most of the game, the Bulls went ahead on Patrick Beverley's three-pointer with 5:07 remaining.

Toronto's free-throw woes haunted them when Siakam spurned the chance to square the game up with 12.0 seconds left after Alex Caruso's foul when he missed two of three attempts.

Siakam had made it a one-point game with a driving dunk with 19.1 seconds remaining before the composed LaVine drained two free-throws.

Giddey and SGA lift OKC past Pels

A youthful Oklahoma City Thunder line-up showed maturity to progress past the New Orleans Pelicans 123-118 led by Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander who rebounded after a quiet first half.

OKC advanced to face the Minnesota Timberwolves in Friday's play-in tournament game with the winner to take on the Denver Nuggets, while the Pelicans' season is over.

Gilgeous-Alexander only had seven first-half points but finished with a game-high 32 on 11-of-22 shooting, making eight-of-eight free-throws including a series down the stretch.

Australian guard Giddey had a near triple-double with 31 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. Lu Dort added 27 points with four three-pointers.

Brandon Ingram top scored with 30 points, including a three-pointer to make it 119-118 with 4.1 seconds remaining, along with six rebounds and seven assists.

Herb Jones threw an out-of-bounds pass for CJ McCollum when the Pels were set for a three-point attempt to tie the game with 2.8 seconds left, allowing OKC to insure the win from the free-throw line.

OKC became the second 10th-place team to win a play-in game, following on from the Bulls achieving that earlier on Wednesday.

The NBA regular season has come to a close, which means the postseason is on the horizon to excite fans with its unpredictability and drama.

First, though, the play-in format returns for its third season and promises to once again add all sorts of further intrigue to the playoff picture.

The mini tournament takes place over April 11-14, with the teams that finished seventh and eighth playing one another to determine the seventh playoff seed from their respective conference, while the loser of that game gets a chance to secure the eighth seed when they host the winner of a game between the ninth and 10th seeds.

Therefore, the teams that finish seventh or eighth only need to win one game to advance to the playoffs, while those in ninth and 10th must win two.

Whoever clinches the seventh seed in the East will face the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs, while the eighth seed will take on the Milwaukee Bucks. In the West, the seventh seed will go up against the Memphis Grizzlies, and the eighth seed will be paired with the Denver Nuggets.

Stats Perform previews the eight teams looking to secure their place in the 2023 NBA playoffs.

Eastern Conference

Tuesday, April 11 – Miami Heat (7th) vs Atlanta Hawks (8th) 

One of these teams has made the Eastern Conference Finals in each of the last three seasons, although that trend appears unlikely to continue this year.

After starting the season 2-5, the Heat soon recovered some sort of form without threatening to repeat the performances that saw them clinch the top seed in the East the previous year. They at least strung together a solid run over December and January, going 19-11, to boost their playoff hopes.

The Heat will be favourites in this matchup, having gone 4-1 in April and 3-1 against the Hawks this season, including winning back-to-back games in Miami in early March.

The trio of Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro will be key, with all three scoring over 20 points per game in the regular season.

Opponents Atlanta went 7-3 to start the season, but their form dipped towards the end of 2022, before picking up again in January.

Trae Young, the star of their 2021 run, will be hoping to lead his team back to the playoffs, having averaged 26.2 points and 10.2 assists in the regular season, and the Heat's ability to stop him could be the key in this one.

The loser will host the winner of...

Wednesday, April 12 – Toronto Raptors (9th) vs Chicago Bulls (10th)

The Raptors have done well to reach this stage after a poor first half to the campaign, starting 16-23, but an improvement in 2023 saw them end level with the Hawks with an even .500 record.

Pascal Siakam averaged 24.2 points from his 71 games in the regular season, while Fred VanVleet (19.3) will also be required to lend a hand.

Chicago, who ended with a 40-42 record, will look to the pairing of Zach LaVine (24.8) and DeMar DeRozan (24.5) for inspiration after a promising end to the regular season on an 11-6 run.

The Raptors were 2-1 against the Bulls this season, including winning their most recent meeting in Toronto in late February on the back of a fourth-quarter fightback.

This promises to be another intriguing encounter.

Western Conference:

Tuesday, April 11 – Los Angeles Lakers (7th) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (8th)

This has been a fascinating season for the Lakers, who looked down and out but recovered to such an extent they ended up disappointed they had to settle for a play-in spot.

LeBron James and co. started 0-5 and then 2-10 as the word "crisis" was tossed about by all and sundry.

However, a subsequent run of 8-2 propelled them into a season few could have imagined in early November, while they also finished the year strongly on a 9-2 run.

James (28.9 points) and Anthony Davis (25.9) have each had injury issues, playing just 55 and 56 games respectively, but they have crucially found form and fitness at this crucial stage in the season.

 

The Timberwolves also have talent but come into this with a bit of a cloud over them after the fracas between big-trade flop Rudy Gobert and Kyle Anderson in their final game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Minnesota started 2-0 against the Lakers this season, but Davis had 38 points and 17 rebounds in a big win when the teams met less than two weeks ago.

The loser will host the winner of...

Wednesday, April 12 – New Orleans Pelicans (9th) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (10th)

The biggest story around this one centres on who will not be there, as Zion Williamson continues to sit on the sideline with a hamstring injury.

The Pelicans' star man averaged 26.0 points this season but played only 29 games and none since January 2.

Updates from New Orleans have remained vague, although Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin has spoken of a "best possible outcome" that would "maybe" see Williamson in practice around the first round. Again, "if everything lined up perfectly".

That means Brandon Ingram will be required to carry the scoring burden for now, a task he warmed up for in fine style with a 42-point return against the Timberwolves on Sunday.

The Thunder will look to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to lead them into the postseason, with the 24-year-old averaging 31.4 points this year, the fourth-most in the league.

New Orleans were 3-1 against OKC this season, but the Thunder won their last game in March with Gilgeous-Alexander scoring 35 – albeit the Pelicans were without Ingram as well as Williamson.

Philadelphia 76ers center and MVP hopeful Joel Embiid put together arguably his best game of the season on Tuesday to deliver a 103-101 home win against the Boston Celtics.

Embiid put up 52 points – over half of his team's total and the third-most in his career – while shooting a remarkable 20-of-25 from the field. He also grabbed 13 rebounds, dished six assists and blocked two shots in his 39 minutes.

The 29-year-old, who has finished as the runner-up in the past two MVP votes, had never scored more than 50 points in a game prior to this season, but he has done so three times this campaign, highlighted by a 59-point, 11-rebound, eight-assist, seven-block showing against the Utah Jazz in November.

Against the Celtics, Embiid was supported in style by James Harden as the 76ers' second star chipped in 20 points (seven-of-17 shooting) and 10 assists with no turnovers. It was only his second game this season without a turnover.

Meanwhile, the Celtics were left short-handed as All-Star Jaylen Brown was ruled out in the hours leading up to tip-off, and Jayson Tatum was disappointing in his highly anticipated showdown against Embiid, delivering just 19 points on seven-of-20 shooting with six rebounds, six assists and three steals.

Tatum had a plus/minus of minus 13 in his 38 minutes, meaning Boston were plus 11 in the 10 minutes he was on the bench.

LeBron lifts the Lakers in overtime

The Los Angeles Lakers have now won seven of their past eight fixtures after a 135-133 overtime victory on the road against the Utah Jazz.

It was a mediocre offensive showing from the red-hot Anthony Davis as he shot just seven-of-16 from the field and seven-of-12 from the free throw line for his 21 points, but he added 14 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocks.

Instead it was LeBron James coming through for the Lakers, producing his best game since the All-Star break with 37 points (14-of-27 shooting), six assists and five rebounds. Austin Reaves stepped up in D'Angelo Russell's absence, contributing 28 points (eight-of-13) and six assists in an equal team-high 42 minutes.

The win improved the Lakers' record to 41-38, leaving them tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for the sixth-best record in the West – with the Lakers and Clippers to face off on Wednesday.

Warriors stay out of the play-in

The Golden State Warriors were at risk of being leapfrogged by the Lakers and falling into the play-in tournament placings, before coming from behind to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder 136-125.

It was the Thunder leading 106-102 heading into the fourth quarter, but with Klay Thompson missing through injury, Jordan Poole stepped up as the Warriors' hero.

Poole scored 18 points in the fourth quarter while the Thunder scored 19 as a team, with the fourth-year guard finishing with 30 points (eight-of-19 shooting). 

Stephen Curry was just as good, dropping a game-high 34 points (11-of-25), while Most Improved Player candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 32 points (11-of-17) and seven assists for the Thunder.

The win means the Warriors have jumped the Clippers into the fifth seed with just two games remaining, while the Thunder's loss keeps the Dallas Mavericks alive, with just a half-game separating the 10th and 11th seeds.

Nikola Jokic recorded his 28th triple-double of the season as the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets rediscovered some form with a 108-102 road victory over the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.

The Nuggets had lost five of their past six games, but improved to 48-24 with the triumph, maintaining a sizeable buffer at the top of the West from the second-placed Sacramento Kings (43-27).

Serbian center Jokic starred with 22 points on nine-of-12 shooting with 17 rebounds and 10 assists, while Michael Porter scored a team-high 28 points with five-of-nine three-point attempts.

Jamal Murray added 25 points, nailing all four of his attempts from beyond the arc, and he posted 20 of his haul in the opening quarter as Denver got a fast start to lead 33-21 at the first break.

The Nuggets were coasting to victory with a 91-71 lead at three-quarter time before the Nets rallied in the fourth, with Porter settling the game with one of his five triples.

The defeat dents Brooklyn's aspirations to claim a top-six seed in the Eastern Conference, falling to 39-32, marginally ahead of the seventh-placed Miami Heat (39-34).

Mikal Bridges top scored for the home side with 23 points on eight-of-18 shooting from the field, while Nic Claxton chipped in 19 points and eight rebounds.

Giannis records triple-double in Bucks win

The Milwaukee Bucks stormed past the Toronto Raptors 118-111 on a 29-16 fourth-quarter charge as Giannis Antetokounmpo brought up his 33d career triple-double.

Antetokounmpo finished with 22 points on 100 per cent shooting from the field with 13 rebounds and 10 assists, while Brook Lopez added a team-high 26 points with Khris Middleton scoring 20.

Lopez scored 17 of his 26 points in the final period, including the first eight of the quarter, with the Bucks going on a game-changing 15-2 run. The NBA-best Bucks are now 51-20.

SGA leads OKC past Suns

Shai Gilgeous-Alezander scored 40 points, came up clutch down the stretch and garnered M-V-P chants as the Oklahoma City Thunder boosted their play-in hopes with a 124-120 win over the Phoenix Suns.

Gilgeous-Thunder hit two free throws with 10 seconds left to hold off the Suns, who had Devin Booker score 46 points, including 30 in the second half, having led 69-57 at half-time. Chris Paul scored 14 points with 13 assists.

OKC (35-36) have four wins from their past five games to stay in the play-in hunt, thanks in large part to Gilgeous-Alexander's perfect 11-of-11 free throws in the second half, while Luguentz Dort added 20 points.

Friday marked two games with Kyrie Irving in the line-up, and two wins for the Dallas Mavericks as they beat the Sacramento Kings 122-114 on the road.

Irving – who was acquired before the trade deadline in exchange for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith and three draft picks – led the Mavericks in scoring for the second game in a row as superstar Luka Doncic continues to recover from a heel injury.

He had 25 points against the Kings on five-of-14 shooting, hitting all 12 of his free throws, while also tying his season-high with 10 assists.

Irving was supported strongly by 22-year-old emerging Australian Josh Green, who chipped in 17 points on seven-of-12 shooting and a season-high seven assists, and rookie Jaden Hardy hit four of his five three-point attempts off the bench.

The Mavericks had been flailing without Doncic, having lost the first six games he missed this season, but they have now won three in a row during his current absence.

For the Kings, De'Aaron Fox was terrific with a game-high 33 points on 10-of-16 shooting, adding six rebounds and five assists, while All-Star selection Domantas Sabonis had 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.

With the victory, the Mavericks are now 31-26, sitting fourth in the Western Conference, while the 31-24 Kings are third.

Giannis accomplishes feat not seen since Wilt

The Milwaukee Bucks are the hottest team in the NBA and collected their 10th consecutive win with a 119-106 triumph against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way with 35 points (13-of-25 shooting), eight rebounds, six assists and two steals, giving him a total of 373 points during the 10-game winning streak. That is the most points by one player during a 10-game winning streak since Wilt Chamberlain's 416 during his rookie season in 1959-60.

At 39-17, the Bucks are just one game behind the 40-16 Boston Celtics in the race for the best record in the Eastern Conference, and the league.

Embiid dominates the Knicks

Joel Embiid was unstoppable as his Philadelphia 76ers defended home court 119-108 against the visiting New York Knicks.

Embiid scored a game-high 35 points on 14-of-18 shooting, and his field goal percentage of 77.8 set a new season-high. He also added 11 rebounds, six assists, two steals and a block.

James Harden delivered, dishing a game-high 12 assists to go with his 20 points (seven-of-17) and eight rebounds, while Tyrese Maxey exploded for 27 points (nine-of-16) off the bench.

The 76ers (35-19) climbed up to third place in the East, while the Knicks (30-27) occupy the seventh seed.

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