Recent AP Articles

Ingram has triple-double to help Pelicans rout Nuggets

14.8h ago 3/31/2023 1:05 AM ET By MICHAEL KELLY, Associated Press DENVER

DENVER (AP) — Brandon Ingram had 31 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his third triple-double of the season and the New Orleans Pelicans took advantage of Nikola Jokic’s absence to beat the Denver Nuggets 107-88 on Thursday night.

Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 12 rebounds and CJ McCollum scored 23 points for New Orleans. The Pelicans tied Minnesota for seventh in the West with their sixth victory in seven games.

“We know that they’re missing a huge component to the team in Jokic but it’s important for us no matter who’s on the floor we execute on both ends of the floor,” New Orleans coach Willie Green said. “I thought we did that.”

Jokic was in street clothes due to lingering calf tightness that bothered him Monday night in a victory over Philadelphia.

“When you’re playing with the MVP, things are a lot easier," Denver coach Michael Malone said.

Jamal Murray had 21 points for Denver, and Bruce Brown added 19. The Nuggets lead in the Western Conference dropped to three games over Memphis with six to play.

“I don't think about it that much, just trying to win ever night,” Brown said. “Because we've got a little lead we're focused on us trying to play our best every night.”

Malone said after the game that Murray, who played 36 minutes, may not play Friday night in Phoenix and Jokic's status is to be determined.

Malone added that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was almost held out because he wasn't feeling good but he gutted out 28 minutes.

Denver’s offense struggled without its leading scorer, rebounder and assist man, managing just 40 points in the first half on 34.8% shooting. The Nuggets were 4 of 28 from 3-point range on the night and scored 28 points below their season average.

“We just didn’t make shots,” Brown said. “We shot 14 percent from three and terrible from the free-throw line. That was the game.”

Two of Ingram's triple-doubles have come in the last five games.

“He’s playing at a high level,” Green said. “Everybody’s getting the opportunity to see him display his game and we’re putting the ball in his hands a lot more, allowing him to be a playmaker.”

TIP-INS

Pelicans: F Zion Williamson missed his 40th consecutive game with a hamstring injury. He will be re-evaluated Wednesday. ... New Orleans committed five fouls in the first half and 11 in the third quarter.

Nuggets: Missed their first nine shot attempts before Gordon’s layup with 7:42 left in the first quarter. ... Michael Porter Jr. was 0 for 7 from 3-point range. ... G Reggie Jackson, signed after he was bought out by Charlotte in February, has not played in the last four games.

UP NEXT

Pelicans: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night.

Nuggets: At Phoenix on Friday night.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Tatum has 40 points, Celtics rout NBA-leading Bucks 140-99

14.8h ago 3/31/2023 1:05 AM ET By The Associated Press MILWAUKEE

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored 40 points, Jaylen Brown added 30 and the Boston Celtics steamrolled the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks 140-99 on Thursday night.

The Celtics (53-24) shot 22 of 43 from 3-point range and moved within two games of the Bucks (55-22) in the Eastern Conference standings. The Celtics won the season series 2-1, giving Boston the tiebreaker.

Boston’s performance in those three games with Milwaukee should give the Celtics plenty of confidence they could knock out the Bucks again if they meet in the postseason. The Celtics beat the Bucks in seven games last season in the East semifinals.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 24 points in their most-lopsided loss of the season. They were playing a night after a 149-136 victory at Indiana in which they shot a season-high 62.4%.

PELICANS 107, NUGGETS 88

DENVER (AP) — Brandon Ingram had 31 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his third triple-double of the season and New Orleans took advantage of Nikola Jokic’s absence to beat Denver.

Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 12 rebounds and CJ McCollum scored 23 points for New Orleans. The Pelicans tied Minnesota for seventh in the West with their sixth victory in seven games.

Jokic was in street clothes due to lingering calf tightness that bothered him Monday night in a victory over Philadelphia. Jamal Murray had 21 points for Denver, and Bruce Brown added 19. The Nuggets lead in the Western Conference dropped to three games over Memphis with six to play.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Tatum, Brown help Celtics demolish NBA-leading Bucks 140-99

17.8h ago 3/30/2023 10:05 PM ET By STEVE MEGARGEE, AP Sports Writer MILWAUKEE

Games: BOS@MIL from 3/30/2023

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Whether or not Boston catches the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference standings, the Celtics will have reason to feel confident if the teams meet in the playoffs for a second straight season.

Jayson Tatum scored 40 points, Jaylen Brown added 30 and the Celtics steamrolled the NBA-leading Bucks 140-99 on Thursday night. The Celtics (53-24) shot 22 of 43 from 3-point range and moved within two games of the Bucks (55-22).

“It does matter,” Brown said about the possibility of earning the No. 1 seed. “We want to finish out the season strong and see what happens.”

Boston won the season series with the Bucks 2-1, which would give the Celtics the tiebreaker if both teams finish with the same record. Boston beat the Bucks in seven games in last season’s East semifinals.

The Celtics trounced the Bucks 139-118 in Boston on Christmas Day and lost 131-125 in overtime on Feb. 14. The Celtics didn’t play Brown, Tatum, Marcus Smart or Al Horford in that overtime loss.

Boston's players downplayed the notion that their lopsided victory would send any sort of message to the Bucks in case they meet again in the postseason. They noted the Bucks were playing for a second straight night and shot just 37.6%, well below their norms.

“This don’t really mean much,” Brown said. “If we play them again, we’ve got to be ready to take their best shot.”

The Bucks didn't provide anything close to their best shot Thursday.

“We know what the deal is,” said Giannis Antetokounmpo, who led the Bucks with 24 points. “If you’re not focused and you don’t play hard, they are going to kick our (butt). Simple as that. There is no level of concern. It’s a fact. If we play the same way, we’ll have the same outcome. We’ve got to have some pride.”

Milwaukee took a hit on the floor as well as in the standings. Bucks forward Khris Middleton left midway through the third quarter after taking an elbow to the face from Brown, who was called for charging. Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said after the game that Middleton got “three or four stitches” on his upper lip.

Boston built a 114-74 lead through three periods, causing most of the starters for both teams to sit out the entire fourth quarter.

The Bucks were playing one night after a 149-136 victory at Indiana in which they shot a season-high 62.4% from the floor with Jrue Holiday scoring 51 points and Antetokounmpo having 38 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists. This marked the first time an NBA team had one player score at least 50 points and another have a triple-double with at least 35 points in the same game.

Milwaukee found the going quite a bit tougher Thursday.

Antetokounmpo shot just 11 of 27, including 0 for 5 from 3-point range. Holiday started his night by sinking a 3-pointer, but went 1 of 7 the rest of the way and finished with just six points.

After the first 8½ minutes of the game featured nine lead changes and five ties, the Celtics seized control by going on a 29-9 over the last seven-plus minutes. Boston capped that spurt by scoring 13 straight points.

Boston didn't let up the rest of the night as the Celtics shot 56% and bounced back from a 130-111 loss at Washington two nights earlier.

“We responded well from the jump,” Tatum said. “That's all that I wanted and we wanted as a team, regardless of if we won or not, just to respond and play better than we did last game.”

TIP-INS

Celtics: Boston outscored Milwaukee 41-21 in the second period and matched its highest second-quarter point total of the season. ... Payton Pritchard didn't play due to left heel pain.

Bucks: Milwaukee’s Thanasis Antetokounmpo was ejected with 1:25 left for head-butting Boston’s Blake Griffin. The head-butting came after Griffin committed a flagrant-1 foul against Antetokounmpo. ... This matched the Bucks' most lopsided loss of the season. They fell 142-101 at Memphis on Dec. 15.

UP NEXT

Celtics: Host the Utah Jazz on Friday.

Bucks: Host the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday. ___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Irving tries to finish tumultuous season on a high in Dallas

1.5d ago 3/30/2023 5:01 AM ET By DAN GELSTON, AP Sports Writer PHILADELPHIA

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Kyrie Irving -- he says now -- wanted to finish out this season in Brooklyn. He has five games left instead to potentially finish this season out of the playoffs with Dallas.

And the enigmatic guard suddenly has more questions -- none having to do with Earth’s shape -- about his basketball future as he prepares to become a free agent in the summer.

As for the current state of the team?

“It kind of looks like a little bit of a cluster (expletive)," Irving said.

The Mavericks’ 116-108 loss in Philadelphia on Wednesday night dropped them to 8-14 since Irving was acquired in February and has a franchise that reached the Western Conference finals last season on the brink of missing the playoffs this season.

Dallas is 37-40 and in 11th place in the West. The NBA play-in tournament includes teams with the seventh through 10th-highest winning percentages in each conference.

“It’s been a scramble since I’ve been here,” Irving said.

Irving was expected to team with Luka Doncic and put the focus on his game again after a disastrous stint with the Nets that included fallout from his tweet of a link to a film containing antisemitic material.

Irving, who scored 23 points against the 76ers and continued his recent beef with courtside fans, said growing pains have come in Dallas from “learning each other on the fly.”

“Who do guys go to on the team to confide in off the court? Who is our coaching staff as people? he said. “What do they expect from me? The big question, why they traded for me? And you know, what does it look like for the future? That’s the big question."

The eight-time All-Star hasn’t been interested in talking much about what his long-term future could be with the Mavericks and has been focused more on trying to jostle them ahead of Oklahoma City for the final play-in spot. The Mavericks, losers of five of six games, have a back-to-back weekend set at Miami and Atlanta. They finish with three games at home.

“The realistic view is that when I came here was that this was going to be a growing process. This was for the long term,” Irving said. “This was for something that is bigger than ourselves. We can’t just be a championship team overnight, especially me coming here. I think I’ve wrapped my head around that aspect of it. I'm at peace with it. It doesn’t mean that I’m giving up on the season or any of my teammates are.”

While Irving said his overall tenure in Dallas has been good -- “outside of the losses, of course,” he said -- he acknowledged little has gone right for him this season.

“I didn’t expect to ask for a trade,” he said. “I wanted to finish out with Brooklyn, finish out with the season that we had going and I didn’t get a chance to do that. Some of the goals I had previously this season had to be shifted. I had to be more than willing, which I am, to be flexible and adaptable and live with the results, whether we make the playoffs or not.”

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Booker leads Suns over Timberwolves in Durant's home debut

1.6d ago 3/30/2023 12:51 AM ET By DAVID BRANDT, AP Sports Writer PHOENIX

Games: MIN@PHO from 3/29/2023

PHOENIX (AP) — Kevin Durant's a 13-time All-Star, a two-time NBA champion, a four-time league leader in scoring and has done just about everything else a player can do in the game of basketball.

But even he can get a little nervous on a night like Wednesday.

Devin Booker scored 29 points, Durant had 16 points and eight rebounds in his home debut and the Phoenix Suns won their third straight game, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves 107-100.

After a huge ovation from the sellout crowd — which waited more than a month to see him play a game in Phoenix after his trade from Brooklyn — Durant missed his first six shots and finished 5 of 18 from the field, though he did hit a couple important 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter.

“It was hard for me to get sleep today, it was hard for me to stop thinking about the game,” Durant said. “Sometimes you can want it too bad and you come out, start rushing and being uncharacteristic.”

“I'm glad I'm back, I'm glad I'm playing again and being one of the guys. Just building from here.”

Even with the nerves, the Suns are 4-0 with Durant in the lineup. The Timberwolves had a four-game winning streak snapped.

The Suns and Wolves are in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race, fighting to stay in the top six so they don't fall to the play-in tournament. Every game is crucial at this point — just three wins separated the Nos. 4-11 spots coming into Wednesday.

The Suns took an 81-74 lead into the fourth quarter and held on in the final minutes.

Durant changed his shoes at halftime, hoping for some better mojo.

“I thought he battled on both ends,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “I think his cardio has got to get back to the level he wants it. Once he gets that, we’ll see the Kevin that we all know.”

Chris Paul added 19 points and six assists for Phoenix.

Anthony Edwards led Minnesota with 31 points. Karl-Anthony Towns added 25.

Durant played for the first time since March 5. He was warming up for his first home game with the Suns three days later when he sprained his left ankle during pregame preparation. The injury cost him 10 games.

The timing of that ankle injury — less than an hour before his expected home debut — felt like a bad omen for the Suns, who added the 34-year-old Durant in a blockbuster trade-deadline deal that sent Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder and draft picks back to the Nets.

But Phoenix managed to tread water in the standings without its newest star. His second attempt at the home debut went much better, even if his shooting touch was off.

The Timberwolves took a 51-48 halftime lead. Towns scored 20 points, hitting four 3-pointers. Booker led the Suns with 12.

MAD GOBERT

The Timberwolves — and particularly center Rudy Gobert — were irritated about a 27-12 advantage in free throw attempts for the Suns.

“It's really not fair every night,” Gobert said. "I have been in this league for 10 years and I try to always give the benefit of the doubt, but it is hard for me to think that they are not trying to help (the Suns) win tonight.

“It is hard for me to think that they didn't try to have the Warriors win the other night or the Sacramento Kings the other night. It is just so obvious as a basketball player. I have been in this league for so long and it is disrespectful.”

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: Forwards Taurean Prince and Matt Ryan missed the game with an illness. ... Rudy Gobert had 15 rebounds.

Suns: Hosted a 63rd straight sellout crowd. ... Deandre Ayton and Bismack Biyombo both blocked three shots. ... Cam Payne scored 11 points off the bench on 5 of 10 shooting.

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.

Suns: Host Denver on Friday night.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Kings end long playoff drought with 120-80 win over Blazers

1.6d ago 3/30/2023 12:20 AM ET By ANNE M. PETERSON, AP Sports Writer PORTLAND, Ore.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — While a throng of purple-clad visiting fans were already celebrating, De'Aaron Fox was watching from the bench as the moments ticked down in Sacramento's 120-80 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

For Fox, drafted by the Kings in 2017, the wait was finally over. Sacramento clinched a spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

“We want to do bigger things, but 16 years — that’s a long time,” Fox said.

Fox finished with 18 points in the victory, which also gave the Kings home-court advantage. The team’s 16-year playoff drought was the longest in NBA history and the longest active postseason dry spell among teams in the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball.

“Definitely with this team, I think you’re just playing for a higher purpose,” Fox said. “And I think we have a team that’s capable and we know that we can continue to get better.”

The last time the Kings made the playoffs, Fox was 8 years old.

Kings rookie Keegan Murray made his 188th 3-pointer of the season with 6:44 to go in the third quarter to set the NBA record, passing Donovan Mitchell's mark of 187 set in 2017-18. Murray, who flashed an understated grin after the shot fell, finished with 13 points.

Malik Monk finished with 19 points off the bench and Kevin Huerter added 17. The Kings fans at Portland's Moda Center celebrated with the team's rallying cry, “Light the Beam!”

“For all the support they've given us over the years, continuing to come to the arena, heartbreak, frustration and disappointment season after season," forward Harrison Barnes said. "To finally get this moment for them, it's everything.”

The Kings (46-30) sit in third in the Western Conference. The first-place Denver Nuggets and the Memphis Grizzlies, who sit three games back, had already clinched.

Rookie Shaedon Sharpe had 30 points for the Blazers, who have lost four straight and 10 of their last 11 games. The loss to the Kings eliminated Portland from playoff contention.

Portland was depleted with regular starters Damian Lillard (right calf), Jusuf Nurkic (right knee), Anfernee Simons (right foot) and Jerami Grant (left quad) all nursing injuries. It got a bit worse for Portland on Wednesday when Keon Johnson, who had 20 points in a loss to New Orleans on Monday, broke a finger in shootaround. Only seven Blazers played.

The Kings are 23-14 on the road this season, third-best in the NBA. And they’ve avoided extended losing streaks: The team’s longest came at the start of the season when the Kings opened with four straight.

“Our guys are excited about it,” Kings coach Mike Brown said about finally reaching the playoffs. “They're excited about the way that they played tonight and the accomplishments that they've had so far. They were excited for Keegan. But in the same breath, and not to downplay anything, they expect more.”

Portland had a 20-19 edge after the first quarter, but the Kings took over, going up 44-32 on Huerter’s 3-pointer with 3:51 to go before halftime. Portland closed the gap to 50-46 at the break.

The Kings went on to lead by as many as 40 points in the second half. Domantas Sabonis finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

“Biggest difference was in the second half, they started making 3s, and they're that type of team," Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said. "They're going to play the same way. They're going to shoot a lot of 3s, and miss or make, they're going to play that way. We just couldn't keep up.”

PRAISE FOR MURRAY

Murray's milestone was not lost on Brown in the midst of the celebrating.

“Breaking any type of records at the highest level in anything you do is absolutely amazing. And to see Keegan do that tonight, with the way he's played all year and how hard he's worked, was an amazing feat,” Brown said. “You don't take that for granted. That is hard to do when you're talking about something in the history of something.”

TIP-INS

Kings: The Kings were also in a position to clinch Monday, but they fell to Minnesota 119-115. ... “I think every experience that we’ve gone through this year can help translate (to the playoffs),” Brown said before the game. “But I’m telling you, we’ll experience it in the playoffs at another level. And every round you advance in the playoffs, it’s going to even take it up another notch.”

Trail Blazers: It will likely be the second straight season the Blazers have missed the postseason. ... Forward Justise Winslow had surgery Wednesday on his left ankle. He is expected to be ready to play next season.

UP NEXT

The Kings and the Trail Blazers play again Friday night at the Moda Center.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Jalen Williams' late tip-in gives Thunder win over Pistons

1.7d ago 3/29/2023 11:01 PM ET By CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer OKLAHOMA CITY

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Rookie Jalen Williams' putback with less than a second remaining gave the Oklahoma City Thunder a 107-106 win over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night.

The pressure was on for the Thunder, who entered the night two games under .500 and hanging on to the final Western Conference play-in spot. The Thunder lost to the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday night and couldn't afford another loss to a team near the bottom of the league's standings.

And Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — the league’s No. 4 scorer with 31.3 points per game — was out with a sprained left ankle for the second straight game.

It wasn't pretty, but the Thunder found a way.

“We were grittier tonight than we were last night," Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “And I thought the response of our players coming off of a disappointing performance last night was right where it needed to be, and this team’s made a habit of that all year. We’re not perfect, but these guys do a great job of refocusing and getting the car back on the road, and I thought they did that tonight.”

Williams answered the call with 27 points, eight rebounds six assists — and the tip-in on Josh Giddey's miss in the closing second. Williams celebrated his first NBA game-winner with some of the fans.

“It was dope," Williams said. “Throughout all that, some fan grabbed me, and that’s when I was like, ‘Oh, OK, like I’m really close to the crowd.’ But that’s a moment that’s dope to share.”

Lu Dort scored 20 points, Aaron Wiggins had 19 and Giddey added 18 for the Thunder.

Dort said the players embraced the high stakes.

“I mean, we definitely all take a look at that, honestly," Dort said. “We’ve worked so hard this season to be in this position today.”

Jaden Ivey followed his season-high 32-point performance against Milwaukee on Monday with 24 against the Thunder. The Pistons have the league’s worst record and have lost seven straight and 18 of 19.

Detroit coach Dwane Casey said it came down to more than just the final basket.

“We always remember that play, but there’s so many other little things that led into that that we have to make sure we grow from and learn from and really correct to win close games like that,” he said.

Williams scored two quick buckets in close to put the Thunder ahead 97-90 with six minutes remaining, but the Pistons rallied and tied it on a 3-pointer by Ivey with 3:35 to play.

The Thunder led 103-100 with just under two minutes remaining when Oklahoma City's Jaylin Williams took a charge from Ivey with 1:48 remaining for Ivey's sixth foul. Williams then hit a short jumper to bump Oklahoma City's lead to five.

Detroit rallied and Cory Joseph hit a 3-pointer with 13.5 seconds left to put the Pistons ahead 106-105, setting up the final sequence.

It appeared the Thunder had taken the lead on a putback by Dort, but a jump ball was called. Dort won it and Giddey tracked it down. He got a decent turnaround shot off before Jalen Williams put it back in.

Daigneault said the sequence by Dort was typical of his style of play.

“I think his physicality, his toughness, his resilience — that stuff is contagious and it helps our team stick its chest out,” he said. “And you really can’t quantify that. But he brings that to us and the end of the game, you know, it’s just a small example that.”

TIP-INS

Pistons: F Eugene Omoruyi, waived by the Thunder earlier this season, finished with 14 points and five rebounds in 28 minutes. ... C James Wiseman was called for a Flagrant 1 for a hard foul to Jaylin Williams' head in the fourth quarter.

Thunder: G Lindy Waters sat out with plantar fasciitis in his left foot. ... G Isaiah Joe, one of the top 3-point shooters in the league this season, missed all seven of his shots from long range. He shot 4 of 5 inside the arc and finished with 12 points.

UP NEXT

Pistons: In Houston to play the Rockets on Friday night.

Thunder: Take on the Pacers in Indiana on Friday night.

___

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Westbrook has season-high 36 points, Clippers beat Grizzlies

1.7d ago 3/29/2023 10:51 PM ET By CLAY BAILEY, Associated Press MEMPHIS, Tenn.

Games: LAC@MEM from 3/29/2023

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Russell Westbrook had a season-high 36 points, Robert Covington also had a season best with 27 points and the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Memphis Grizzlies 141-132 on Wednesday night to open a two-game set.

The teams — both short-handed Wednesday — will meet again Friday night in Memphis.

Westbrook made five 3-pointers without a miss and had 10 assists. Covington was 9 of 10 from the field, making all seven of his 3-point attempts.

Bones Hyland added 20 points for Los Angles, including 12 in the fourth quarter as the Clippers pulled away in the final seven minutes.

“Just being composed,” Westbrook said about the difference down the stretch. “As a point guard, I was taught the last five or six minutes of the game were very important. Getting stops, getting good shots. We did a good job of executing down the stretch.”

Ja Morant led the Grizzlies with 36 points and nine assists. Dillon Brooks added 30 points as all five Memphis starters finished in double figures. The Grizzlies had won seven in a row and 12 straight at home.

While the Clippers were already without Paul George as he recovers from a right knee sprain, Kawhi Leonard was a late scratch for personal reasons.

The Grizzlies sat a number of key players on the second night of a back-to-back. Morant was back after sitting out against Orlando on Tuesday night, but Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, Tyus Jones and reserve John Konchar were declared out with various ailments.

The game built in intensity and the teams got into a scrum near midcourt in the third quarter with Brooks and Covington barking at each other. Throughout the game, coaches were yelling at officials, players were mouthing to each other and the physical play put everybody on edge.

For the Clippers, the 3-point line was a benefit. Los Angeles made 22 of 37 3-pointers fueled by Covington and Westbook making all of their attempts.

“I think this is the first time in my career that I went perfect from the 3-point line,” said Covington in his 10th season.

The shooting percentage from outside the arc — just under 60% — was well above Los Angeles' average at 38%.

“Obviously, they made a lot of shots,” said Memphis forward Santi Aldama, who finished with 17 points on 6 of 7 from the field, adding: “I think the looks we gave them were very easy for the most part. They just got so many free looks.”

The win left the Clippers in fifth place in the Western Conference, one game ahead of idle Golden State. But the way the middle of the conference is jumbled, each game is important.

“It's going to be tight,” Covington said of the playoff spots. “The West from four through 12 or 13 is like a three-game gap, something like that? So, anything can happen. That's why these last five or six games for us are very important.”

TIP-INS

Clippers: In addition to George and Leonard, Marcus Morris Sr. sat out his second game under health and safety protocol. ... Terance Mann started in Leonard’s spot. ... G Norman Powell returned after missing 11 games with left shoulder subluxation. He scored 13 points.

Grizzlies: C Steven Adams missed his 30th game with a PCL sprain in his right knee. ... Former Clipper Luke Kennard, obtained in a trade-deadline deal, started his 12th game of the season, but first game in a Memphis uniform. He finished with 12 points. ...Memphis' last home loss was Feb. 5 to Toronto.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Embiid, Harden power 76ers past Mavericks, 116-108

1.7d ago 3/29/2023 10:31 PM ET By DAN GELSTON, AP Sports Writer PHILADELPHIA

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embid returned from a hotly debated one-game absence because of injury and got the 76ers to 50 wins in the fewest amount of games since 2001. Maybe like Allen Iverson and the ‘01 Sixers, perhaps Embiid's next step is an MVP and a trip to the NBA Finals.

And if that MVP doesn't come?

“I don't care,” Embiid said. “It's all about the playoffs.”

Embiid had 25 points and nine rebounds, James Harden added 15 points and 12 assists and Philadelphia beat the Dallas Mavericks 116-108 on Wednesday night.

Embiid flashed his MVP credentials as he plays with a calf injury and powered the Sixers back in the fourth against Luka Doncic and got them to 50 wins in 76 games. Embiid hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 103 and followed with a 16-footer the next time down for what ended up the winning basket and keep the 76ers as the No. 3 seed in the East.

Doncic had 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving scored 23 points for the Mavericks, who did not score the final 3:18 of the game.

The Mavericks fell to 37-40 and are in danger of missing the playoffs in the West.

“We just can't be a championship game overnight,” Irving said. “I've wrapped my head around it. I'm at peace with it.”

Tyrese Maxey added 22 points to help the 76ers snap a three-game losing streak. They returned from a 1-3 trip with both Embiid and Harden healthy. Harden (Achilles) missed the last four games.

“They looked good. not great,” coach Doc Rivers said of his returning stars.

Embiid sat out against against Denver and fellow MVP candidate Nikola Jokic because of a balky right calf. Embiid played in both games of a back-to-back set against Golden State and Phoenix. After a day off, Embiid couldn’t go in the anticipated showdown of MVP frontrunners, leaving the team and the All-Star center open for criticism.

“If one game is going to hurt anybody's chances, then I guess everybody should be out of it,” Embiid said. “We all have bad games, guys miss matchups, that's not the first time.”

Rivers said the issue wasn’t as simple as just resting Embiid a game in the back-to-back. The plan was always to play Embiid on the entire trip but the NBA’s reigning scoring champion simply couldn’t go against the Nuggets.

That scuttled the highly anticipated showdown between MVP candidates that many felt could have decided whether Embiid, the runner-up the last two years, denied Jokic a third consecutive award.

Some voters opined Embiid’s day off could cost him MVP first-place votes. Rivers said that wasn’t a fair decision.

“You’re not (MVP) for just one game, that I know of,” Rivers said. “It’s for the entire season of work your team’s record and how you perform. He’s been dominant all year. He’s missed other games, should we ... you know, what I’m saying. Will that hurt him? I doubt it but it could. I don’t know what people use as a criteria. It seems like it changes weekly what the real criteria is.”

The MVP is voted on regular-season play. The real criteria for a successful season these days for Embiid is a title.

“There's a bigger goal in sight, that's to make sure we're healthy for the playoffs,” he said.

HOME COOKING

The 76ers are not only coming off a four-game trip, they wrapped a stretch where they played 12 of 15 games this month on the road.

“Let's get through this game and I then I think we can take a deep breath,” Rivers said. “I think the first game is hard. Then you can get your legs back.”

The Sixers are off Thursday and play another home game on Friday before the season starts to wind down. Embiid and Harden are banged up but can get some time off once the play-in tournament starts.

“I'm not worried about rest as much anymore,” Rivers said. “That the one great thing about the play-in. You do get a little bit of time to practice and rest. We are probably way more focused on conditioning than we are rest.”

TIP-INS

Mavericks: Led by 12 points in the first half.

76ers: The start of the second half was briefly delayed because one of the nets needed to be replaced.

UP NEXT

Mavericks: At Miami on Saturday night.

76ers: Host Toronto on Friday night.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Horton-Tucker's career-high 41 lead Jazz past Spurs 128-117

1.7d ago 3/29/2023 10:31 PM ET By RAUL DOMINGUEZ, Associated Press SAN ANTONIO

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Talen Horton-Tucker scored a career-high 41 points and the Utah Jazz defeated the Spurs 128-117 on Wednesday night in what could have been coach Gregg Popovich’s final home game in San Antonio.

Utah snapped a four-game skid to keep its fading playoff hopes alive in its first season under Will Hardy, who served five seasons under Popovich as an assistant coach.

“I’m probably not the right person to ask and, at this point, I’m not sure he’s the right person to ask either,” Hardy said about Popovich’s possible retirement.

Popovich has given no indication that he is retiring or even that he will return for his 28th season. The annual speculation has intensified, though, especially since the 74-year-old coach allowed his expected induction this summer into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame after years of refusing to even be nominated.

The Spurs have two home games remaining, but those will be played 73 miles away in Austin’s new Moody Center.

“It’s something that is real, but I try not to think about it too much,” Spurs point guard Tre Jones said. “I feel like he has time left, for sure, coaching. I don’t see him stopping anytime soon, but honestly, nobody really knows. Obviously, I hope he will be back coaching us next year.”

Popovich has overseen a young roster that has struggled with injuries, consistency, and defense — and that continued against Utah.

San Antonio (19-57) lost its fifth straight in its worst season since 1997, the year it drafted Tim Duncan with the No. 1 overall pick.

Rookie Malaki Branham led San Antonio with 21 points. Jones, Sandro Mamukelashvili and Devonte’ Graham each added 17.

The Jazz were without Lauri Markkanen, Collin Sexton, Jordan Clarkson and Rudy Gay, while the Spurs were without starters Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan and Devin Vassell.

“It’s pretty much been like that all year, so we’re kind of used to it,” Popovich said. “As long as they’re giving effort, they’re all learning. They’re making mistakes, but overall, that’s what we’re trying to do. No matter who’s out, no matter who’s not playing, other guys are happy to get minutes.

"So, trying to get to learn how to play is what this is all about.”

Horton-Tucker responded by shooting 15 for 25 from the field, including 6 for 11 on 3-pointers.

“Just trying to get out in transition and get easy buckets,” Horton-Tucker said. “Usually when we have Lauri or JC (Clarkson) playing, (I’m) hitting them early in transition, getting them baskets. But, also for me, getting downhill early in the clock is something I feel is hard to guard for certain teams.”

Kris Dunn added 17 points and Udoka Azubuike had 12 points, both off the bench for the Jazz.

Utah remains in 12th place in the Western Conference, a half-game behind Dallas for 11th and 1 1/2 games behind Oklahoma City for the final berth in the play-in tournament.

TIP-INS

Jazz: Former Spurs first-round pick Luka Samanic had nine points and nine rebounds in his first NBA game since May 12, 2021. Utah recently signed Samanic to a 10-day contract.

Spurs: Veterans Doug McDermott and Gorgui Dieng were both active but did not play as Popovich opted to give his younger players extended minutes.

MIC DROP

While Johnson and Sochan did not play, the team’s starting forwards addressed the crowd before the game during the Spurs’ Fan Appreciation Night.

After thanking Spurs fans for their support, Sochan said: “And any Utah fans here, you’re about to lose tonight. Go Spurs, go!”

The Spurs joked about Sochan's bold words after the game.

“I don’t think we should ever do that again,” Jones said, laughing. “When he mentioned the other team, I was like ‘Oh, God. Where is this going?’"

UP NEXT

Jazz: At Boston on Friday.

Spurs: At Golden State on Friday.

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Jrue Holiday scores career-high 51 points, Bucks beat Pacers

1.7d ago 3/29/2023 10:31 PM ET By The Associated Press INDIANAPOLIS

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jrue Holiday scored a career-high 51 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 38 points in a triple-double and the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks beat the Indiana Pacers 149-136 on Wednesday night.

Antetokounmpo added 17 rebounds and 12 assists to help the Bucks improve to 55-21. The two-time NBA MVP was an assist shy of a triple-double at halftime with 20 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. He returned after sitting out Monday night in a victory at Detroit because of a sore knee.

Holiday had 18 points in the third quarter, when the Bucks scored a season-high 46 points to build a 12-point lead. He was 20 of 30 from the field with three 3-pointers and hit 8 of 10 free throws. His previous best was 40 points in an overtime victory over visiting Boston on Feb. 14.

Brook Lopez added 21 points for the Bucks.

Rookie Bennedict Mathurin led Indiana — playing without its top three scorers — with 29 points. Aaron Nesmith had 22 and Jordan Nwora 18. Jalen Smith fouled out early in the fourth with 17. Rookie Andrew Nembhard had 15 points and 15 rebounds.

KINGS 120, TRAIL BLAZERS 80

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — De’Aaron Fox scored 18 points and Sacramento beat Portland to wrap up its first playoff berth since 2006.

The 16-year playoff drought was the longest in NBA history and the longest active postseason dry spell among teams in the NBA, NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball.

Kings rookie Keegan Murray made his 188th 3-pointer of the season with 6:44 to go in the third quarter to set the NBA record, passing Donovan Mitchell’s mark of 187 set in 2017-18. Murray finished with 13 points.

Rookie Shaedon Sharpe had 30 points for Portland. The Blazers were eliminated from playoff contention.

SUNS 107, TIMBERWOLVES 100

PHOENIX (AP) — Devin Booker scored 29 points, Kevin Durant had 16 points and eight rebounds in his home debut and Phoenix beat Minnesota for its third straight victory.

Durant — playing in his first home game with the Suns since being traded from the Brooklyn Nets in February — missed his first six shots from the field before hitting a turnaround mid-range jumper midway through the second quarter. He finished 5 of 18, hitting a couple of important 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter.

Durant played for the first time since March 5. He was warming up for his expected first home game with the Suns three days later when he sprained his left ankle during pregame preparation. The injury cost him 10 games. The Suns are 4-0 with Durant in the lineup.

Anthony Edwards led Minnesota with 31 points. Karl-Anthony Towns added 25. The Timberwolves had a four-game winning streak snapped.

LAKERS 121, BULLS 110

CHICAGO (AP) — LeBron James scored 25 points in his return to the starting lineup and Los Angeles beat Chicago.

James also had seven rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes in his second game back after he was sidelined for a month because of a torn tendon in his right foot. The four-time MVP scored 19 points Sunday in as 118-108 loss to Chicago in just his second appearance as a reserve in his 20-year NBA career.

Fighting for playoff positioning in the Western Conference, Los Angeles (38-38) kicked off a five-game trip with its fourth win in five games overall. Anthony Davis had 38 points and 10 rebounds in his hometown, and D’Angelo Russell scored 17 points.

Nikola Vucevic had 29 points and 12 rebounds for Chicago in its second straight loss.

76ERS 116, MAVERICKS 108

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid had 25 points and nine rebounds, James Harden added 15 points and 12 assists and Philadelphia beat Dallas.

Embiid flashed his MVP credentials when he powered the Sixers back in the fourth against Luka Doncic and the Mavs. Embiid hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 103 and followed with a 16-footer the next time down for what ended up the winning basket.

Doncic had 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving scored 23 points for the Mavericks.

Tyrese Maxey added 22 points to help the 76ers snap a three-game losing streak. They returned from a 1-3 trip.

CLIPPERS 141, GRIZZLIES 132

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Russell Westbrook had a season-high 36 points, Robert Covington also had a season best with 27 points and Los Angeles beat Memphis to open a two-game set.

The teams — both short-handed Wednesday — will meet again Friday night in Memphis. Westbrook made five 3-pointers without a miss and had 10 assists. Covington was 9 of 10 from the field, making all seven of his 3-point attempts.

Bones Hyland added 20 points for Los Angles, including 12 in the fourth quarter as the Clippers pulled away in the final seven minutes.

Ja Morant led the Grizzlies with 36 points and nine assists. Dillon Brooks added 30 points as all five Memphis starters finished in double figures. The Grizzlies had won seven in a row and 12 straight at home.

JAZZ 128, SPURS 117

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Talen Horton-Tucker scored a career-high 41 points and Utah beat the Spurs in what could have been coach Gregg Popovich’s final game in San Antonio.

Utah snapped a four-game skid to keep its fading playoff hopes alive. But San Antonio (19-57) lost its fifth straight in its worst season since 1997, the year it drafted Tim Duncan with the No. 1 overall pick.

Popovich has given no indication that he is retiring or even that he will return for his 28th season. The annual speculation has intensified, though, especially since the 74-year-old coach allowed his expected induction this summer into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame after years of refusing to even be nominated. The Spurs have two home games remaining, but those will be played 73 miles away in Austin’s new Moody Center.

Rookie Malaki Branham led San Antonio with 21 points.

KNICKS 101, HEAT 92

NEW YORK (AP) — Immanuel Quickley scored 24 points, Quentin Grimes had 23 and New York moved closer to a postseason berth with a victory night that sent Miami closer to the play-in tournament.

The Knicks overcame the loss of Julius Randle to a sprained left ankle to win their second straight and remained firmly in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They are 2 1/2 games ahead of Brooklyn four games ahead of the seventh-place Heat.

Gabe Vincent scored 21 points for Miami.

NETS 123, ROCKETS 114

NEW YORK (AP) — Cam Johnson had 31 points, Mikal Bridges scored 12 of his 27 in the fourth quarter and Brooklyn rallied to beat Houston.

Johnson and Bridges came over together from Phoenix in the trade that sent Kevin Durant to the Suns. Durant finally made his home debut for Phoenix on Wednesday night.

Nic Claxton added 18 points and 10 rebounds for Brooklyn.

Kevin Porter Jr. had 31 points, nine rebounds and six assists for Houston. The Rockets have lost seven in a row.

THUNDER 107, PISTONS 106

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Rookie Jalen Williams’ putback with less than a second remaining lifted Oklahoma City past Detroit.

The pressure was on for the Thunder, who entered the night two games under .500 and hanging on to the final Western Conference play-in spot. Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — the league’s No. 4 scorer with 31.3 points per game — was out with a sprained ankle for the second straight game.

Williams had 27 points, eight rebounds six assists — and the tip-in on Josh Giddey’s miss in the closing seconds. Lu Dort scored 20 points,

Jaden Ivey had 24 for Detroit. The Pistons have the NBA’s worst record and have lost seven straight and 18 of 19.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

LeBron James, Anthony Davis lead Lakers past Bulls 121-110

1.7d ago 3/29/2023 10:30 PM ET By JAY COHEN, AP Sports Writer CHICAGO

Games: LAL@CHI from 3/29/2023

CHICAGO (AP) — LeBron James wants to build up his stamina, and there are a couple more little things he is working on.

“I think by the end of the road trip I should be pretty good,” he said.

He certainly looked pretty good Wednesday night.

James scored 25 points in his return to the starting lineup, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 121-110 victory over the Chicago Bulls.

James also had seven rebounds and four assists in 31 minutes in his second game back after he was sidelined for a month because of a torn tendon in his right foot. The four-time MVP scored 19 points in Sunday's 118-108 loss to Chicago in just his second appearance as a reserve in his 20-year NBA career.

“I'm just trusting the work that I've been putting in,” James said. “I know I put in a lot of work. I know my body.”

Fighting for playoff positioning in the Western Conference, Los Angeles (38-38) kicked off a five-game trip with its fourth win in five games overall. Anthony Davis had 38 points and 10 rebounds in his hometown, and D’Angelo Russell scored 17 points.

“I always look forward to coming back home,” Davis said. “Kind of one of the first games I look at when the schedule drops. ... It's always a great feeling coming back, especially getting a win.”

Nikola Vucevic had 29 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for Chicago in its second straight loss. DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points, and reserve Coby White had 17 points and nine assists.

The Bulls (36-40) are 10th in the Eastern Conference, clinging to the last spot for the play-in tournament.

“Obviously we didn't close the (first) half very well. ... And in the third quarter, LeBron made some tough shots and then our inability to score with them hurt us," coach Billy Donovan said.

LaVine's dunk got Chicago within seven with 56.7 seconds left in the third. But Los Angeles quickly pulled away in the final period.

Dennis Schröder's three-point play made it 97-79 with 8:22 left, capping a 12-3 Lakers run. Davis connected on his only 3-point attempt with 6:07 to go, lifting Los Angeles to a 105-87 lead.

Austin Reaves added 19 points for the Lakers, who shot 52% (45 for 86) from the field.

“Just wanted to try to put them in some uncomfortable positions with their defense,” Los Angeles coach Darvin Ham said, “and sort of spread the ball around a little bit, not overdose on any one or two actions, but just try to slowly sift through the offense and see what was bringing us the most returns.”

After leading by as many as 17 in the first quarter, Los Angeles closed the first half with a 10-0 run for a 59-51 lead at the break. James made four foul shots and a driving layup during the spurt.

FAIR PLAY

Reaves had a little fun with former teammate Patrick Beverley in the fourth quarter.

After driving into the lane and making a floater over Beverley with 2:50 remaining, Reaves lowered his right hand to make the dismissive “too small” gesture sometimes used by NBA players to taunt their opponents.

Beverley did the same thing against James on Sunday.

“It wasn't something I thought about doing all game,” Reaves said. “But I felt like right time, right situation. Me and Pat (have) a good relationship. I respect him. It's just me competing.”

TIP-INS

Lakers: Russell (right hip soreness) started after he was sidelined for the previous two games. He went 7 for 12 from the field. ... Led by Davis, Los Angeles had a 45-32 rebounding advantage.

Bulls: C Andre Drummond missed the game because of personal reasons. Drummond posted on Twitter on Tuesday that he was deleting his social media apps to focus on his mental health. ... G Alex Caruso (left foot soreness) returned to the starting lineup after missing Monday night's 124-112 loss to the Clippers. ... Vucevic scored Chicago’s first 13 points of the game.

UP NEXT

Lakers: At Minnesota on Friday night. The Lakers are 0-2 against the Timberwolves this season.

Bulls: At Charlotte on Friday night. The Bulls are 7-3 in their last 10 games against the Hornets.

___

Follow Jay Cohen at https://twitter.com/jcohenap

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Knicks pull away late without Randle to beat Heat 101-92

1.7d ago 3/29/2023 10:11 PM ET By BRIAN MAHONEY, AP Basketball Writer NEW YORK

NEW YORK (AP) — Tom Thibodeau stuck with the same five players, three off his bench, for the entire fourth quarter of a key victory.

Those guys may need to keep producing in the clutch if the New York Knicks have to play for long without Julius Randle.

Immanuel Quickley scored 24 points, Quentin Grimes had 23 and the Knicks moved closer to a postseason berth with a 101-92 victory Wednesday night that sent the Miami Heat closer to the play-in tournament.

Josh Hart added 13 for the Knicks, who overcame the loss of Randle to a sprained left ankle to win their second straight and remained firmly in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Brooklyn Nets and opened a four-game gap over the seventh-place Heat.

They did it with reserves Quickley, Hart and Isaiah Hartenstein going all 12 minutes, along with Grimes and RJ Barrett.

“The way they were playing was incredible and they just found a way to keep fighting, and everything they were doing on both sides of the ball, they were clicking,” point guard Jalen Brunson said. “So you’ve just got to go with that.”

Brunson returned after a two-game absence with a sprained right hand. Now the Knicks will wait to see about Randle, who will be evaluated Thursday. The All-Star forward has started all 77 games.

“I thought our bench was terrific,” Thibodeau said. “So next guy get in there, next man up, get it done and that’s the way we have to approach it.”

The top six teams are guaranteed postseason spots. The Heat's third straight loss dropped them 1 1/2 games behind the Nets.

“Losing is what got us here,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “None of us feel good about it. This is where we are. You are what your record is. You are what has happened recently. But things can change quickly. ... The only solutions we have right now are in that locker room. We have the competitive character.”

Brunson scored 12 points, and RJ Barrett also finished with 12 after shaking off an 0-for-8 start. New York visits Cleveland on Friday in what could be the preview of the 4-5 matchup in the East.

Gabe Vincent scored 21 points and Tyler Herro had 16 for the Heat, who faded down the stretch after losing in Toronto on Tuesday. The No. 1 seed in last year's East playoffs are searching for answers why they might not even get in this time.

“We didn’t win games. At the end of the day, that’s what it is,” Jimmy Butler said. “I don’t know why we didn’t win. Probably because the opposing team scored more points than we did. That’s literally what happened.”

The Knicks led 86-85 midway through the final quarter before Hart had a pair of baskets and Grimes added four points in a 9-0 burst that pushed it to 95-85 on Quickley's free throw with 4:17 remaining. The Heat never made another run.

Randle sprained his left ankle late in the second quarter when Bam Adebayo landed on him after Randle had grabbed an offensive rebound and faked the Heat's center in the air. Randle remained in to shoot the free throws, but was clearly in pain and the Knicks quickly fouled to check him out of the game.

The Heat led 23-19 after a first quarter in which New York went 0 for 6 on free throws. Brunson made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give New York a 48-46 halftime edge.

TIP-INS

Heat: Kyle Lowry sat out the second half of the back-to-back after playing Tuesday against his former team. ... Butler returned after not playing Tuesday and had 12 points.

Knicks: The Knicks urged fans to sing “Happy Birthday” to Hall of Famer and MSG Network announcer Walt Frazier during the first quarter. ... Randle visited the Earl Monroe New Renaissance Charter School in the Bronx on Tuesday for the presentation of an $880,000 check, the result of a campaign that began when he pledged to donate $500 for every 3-pointer he made over two seasons and was joined by other individuals and organizations.

“SWEETWATER” STARS

Actors Everett Osborne, Jeremy Piven and Cary Elwes, who star in the upcoming “SWEETWATER,” were at the game. Osborne plays Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, a former Harlem Globetrotter who signed with the Knicks, becoming the first Black player to sign a contract with an NBA team.

UP NEXT

Heat: Host Dallas on Saturday.

Knicks: At Cleveland on Friday.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Cam Johnson, Mikal Bridges carry Nets past Rockets, 123-114

1.7d ago 3/29/2023 10:10 PM ET By PAT PICKENS, Associated Press NEW YORK

NEW YORK (AP) — Cam Johnson had 31 points, Mikal Bridges scored 12 of his 27 in the fourth quarter and the Brooklyn Nets rallied to beat the Houston Rockets 123-114 on Wednesday night.

Johnson and Bridges came over together from Phoenix in the trade that sent Kevin Durant to the Suns. Durant finally made his home debut for Phoenix on Wednesday night.

Nic Claxton added 18 points and 10 rebounds for Brooklyn, and Spencer Dinwiddie had 20 points and 11 assists. The Nets had 33 assists on 44 baskets and won for the second time in three games to snap a four-game home losing streak. The victory, coupled with the Miami Heat’s loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, boosted the Nets' lead to 1 1./2 games over Miami for the No. 6 spot in the East.

“We (have) six games left, They’re all super-important for us,” Johnson said. “There’s no excuse for how we played the first 40 minutes of the game, but we were able to clean it up and come out of it with a win.”

Kevin Porter Jr. had 31 points, nine rebounds and six assists for Houston, and Alperen Sengun had 21 points and 12 rebounds. The Rockets have lost seven in a row.

“After being on the road for nine days, for them to come out and show the grit and fight they did, that shows the character of this group,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “It shows they’re still competing, they’re still fighting, they’re still trying to do what’s right.”

Houston outrebounded Brooklyn 52-41 and was on the verge of dealing the Nets a blow to their playoff chances with a 110-105 lead with 3:05 left.

”(Porter) was making plays for himself, making plays for his teammates,” Silas said. “Him and (Sengun) had a real connection going. I thought (Sengun) was great on the offensive glass.”

But Brooklyn roared back with an 11-0 run and closed the game by outscoring the Rockets 18-4. Brooklyn made nine fourth-quarter 3-pointers, with Johnson and forward Royce O’Neale each knocking down three and Bridges hitting two from deep.

“We feed off each other, we feed off the crowd,” O’Neale said. “We trust each other to keep knocking them down.”

“We made shots, and it gave us a little bit of steam, a little bit of momentum,” Johnson said.

TIP INS

Rockets: Forward Jae’Sean Tate (knee) missed his sixth straight game.

Nets: Guards Edmond Sumner (right hip contusion) and Seth Curry (personal) and O’Neale returned to the lineup after missing the previous game in Orlando. Curry also missed Brooklyn’s victory Saturday in Miami.

UP NEXT

Rockets: Host Detroit on Friday night.

Nets: Host Atlanta on Friday night.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Holiday has career-high 51 points, Bucks beat Pacers 149-136

1.7d ago 3/29/2023 10:01 PM ET By PHILLIP B. WILSON, Associated Press INDIANAPOLIS

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Jrue Holiday scored a career-high 51 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 38 points in a triple-double and the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks beat the Indiana Pacers 149-136 on Wednesday night.

“Obviously, I'm happy about it,” Holiday said. “It took me 14 years to get 50 points. It came in a game that we needed to win, so I couldn't be happier.”

Antetokounmpo added 17 rebounds and 12 assists to help the Bucks improve to 55-21. The two-time NBA MVP was an assist shy of a triple-double at halftime with 20 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. He returned after sitting out Monday night in a victory at Detroit because of a sore knee.

“It's hard to come up with the superlatives to describe them,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said of his top scorers. “They were phenomenal. Giannis set the tone with his aggressive attacking. Then Jrue for the whole game to have 51, that's hard to do in an NBA game.”

Holiday had 18 points in the third quarter, when the Bucks scored a season-high 46 points to build a 12-point lead. He was 20 of 30 from the field with three 3-pointers and hit 8 of 10 free throws. His previous best was 40 points in an overtime victory over visiting Boston on Feb. 14.

“Together with Giannis with 38, those two guys were special, they put us on their backs,” Budenholzer said.

The 6-foot-5 Holiday scored 30 points in the paint.

“I felt like Giannis,” Holiday said with a smile. “No dunks though.”

Brook Lopez added 21 points for the Bucks.

Rookie Bennedict Mathurin led Indiana — playing without its top three scorers — with 29 points. Aaron Nesmith had 22 and Jordan Nwora 18. Jalen Smith fouled out early in the fourth with 17. Rookie Andrew Nembhard had 15 points and 15 rebounds.

“It starts with Giannis, one of the best players in the world,” said Nwora, acquired from the Bucks on Feb. 9. “It's always tough playing a guy like him who is so different. You have to really lock into him. Then other guys get going, Jrue comes in and gets 51. It's tough to beat them on a night like that.”

TIP-INS

Bucks: Forward Khris Middleton (knee) was inactive. He's averaging 15.5 points. ... Averaged 136.2 points in winning season series 3-1.

Pacers: Five inactives included All-Star point guard and leading scorer Tyrese Haliburton (ankle/elbow), center and second-leading scorer Myles Turner (back), and guard Buddy Hield (illness), the NBA's 3-point leader.

UP NEXT

Bucks: Host Boston on Thursday night.

Pacers: Host Oklahoma City on Friday night.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Bulls C Drummond ruled out after posting about mental health

1.8d ago 3/29/2023 7:50 PM ET By JAY COHEN, AP Sports Writer CHICAGO

CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago Bulls center Andre Drummond missed the team's 121-110 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night after he posted on Twitter that he was deleting his social media apps to focus on his mental health.

Drummond was ruled out because of personal reasons, according to the Bulls. Coach Billy Donovan said he is hopeful about the possibility of Drummond traveling with the team ahead of Friday night's game at Charlotte.

“As we come here and play games there's also a human side, a personal side to all these guys,” Donovan said, “and you feel bad when anybody's going through something like that. I think you try to give as much support as you can.”

The 29-year-old Drummond is in his first year with Chicago and his 11th season in the NBA overall. The two-time All-Star posted on Tuesday that he was deleting his apps and changing his number.

“Time to focus on my mental health,” Drummond wrote. “If you too are struggling with your mental health, you are not alone ... it’s okay to ask for help.”

Drummond is averaging 6.1 points and 6.7 rebounds in 62 games for the Bulls in a reserve role. He had 11 points and eight rebounds during Monday night's 124-112 loss at the Los Angeles Clippers.

“Sometimes when people look at these guys and they see them play and they see these NBA players, stars, all this other stuff, and all the stuff that comes with it that gosh, their lives must be just absolutely perfect,” Donovan said, “and they're not. We're all flawed. We all have challenges. We all have issues and things we all have to deal with.”

Bulls star DeMar DeRozan, who has been open about his own battle with depression and mental health issues, said he plans to give Drummond his space while also letting him know that he is there for him.

“We love this game. We play this game. This game's been good to us all,” DeRozan said before the loss to Los Angeles. “But at the end of the day you got to worry about and care for yourself first and foremost.”

DeRozan's honesty about his issues has led to frequent encounters with people who have expressed their gratitude about his openness with his mental health. Donovan said he was approached by a man in Toronto this season who wanted to thank DeRozan, and the player then spent some time with the man.

“Moments like that to me is bigger than playing a basketball game, a paycheck, I mean, you name it, man,” DeRozan said. “There's just something about it that speaks volumes when someone's story can help someone else and when I actually see it, it touched me in a different type of light. It's nothing but appreciation and it just shows a different type of empathy that I wish we all had.”

___

Follow Jay Cohen at https://twitter.com/jcohenap

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

NBA, players still talking about new deal as deadline looms

2.0d ago 3/29/2023 3:40 PM ET By TIM REYNOLDS, AP Basketball Writer NEW YORK

NEW YORK (AP) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday he is hopeful that a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players can get done by the end of this week, though he stopped short of predicting that a deal would actually get struck.

“I think everyone understands what's at stake," Silver said.

The league and the National Basketball Players Association face a midnight Friday deadline for either side to decide that they will opt out of the deal and end the current CBA on June 30. That opt-out deadline already has been extended twice, and Silver said the NBA's current plan is to exercise that option if there is no deal by Friday night.

“I certainly can foresee one getting done and I hope we do get one done,” Silver said at the conclusion of a two-day meeting of the league's Board of Governors. “It's just because, honestly, I’m only one side of the negotiation, it’s difficult for me to place odds on whether or not that’s going to happen.”

NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio said the players do not intend to opt out if Friday's deadline passes without a deal.

“The March 31st deadline is an important benchmark, and we are doing everything in our power to reach an agreement with the league," Tremaglio said. “If we don’t have a deal and the league decides to opt out, it will be disappointing considering all the work both sides have put into the negotiations, and the fair nature of our requests. As far as our fans are concerned, it will be business as usual. Games will continue uninterrupted."

Both sides have said throughout this process — and in past labor talks — that they do not intend to negotiate or discuss specifics publicly.

The sides have been talking about a new CBA for more than a year, and Silver said he expected negotiations to resume Wednesday night. And if Friday passes without a deal, it wouldn't be dire immediately because the sides still will have three months to get something done before the current CBA expires.

The opt-outs were put in place to avoid the drama of having talks go right up until the end of a deal, which would increase the odds of a work stoppage.

“Still a lot to go in the next few days. There’s just something about collective bargaining where deadlines are necessary and seemingly sides tend to hold their best positions until the very end,” Silver said. “So, my sense is this will go down to the very end.”

The league has made clear that it wants some changes to the current CBA and has been in discussions with the union on matters such as an upper spending limit, returning to a plan where players can jump to the draft directly from high school and enacting a minimum number of games played in order to be qualified for season-ending awards.

“Every issue seemingly seems related to every other issue,” Silver said. “If you line up these 10 issues, you sort of go 80% of the way there on each issue and everybody’s holding their last move to say: ‘Well, OK, maybe I’m willing to do that, but I’m going wait to see what you’re going to do on those three issues. And if you make those moves on those three issues, then I’ll feel a little bit more comfortable.’ I mean, people are constantly trading things."

The current CBA, which took effect July 1, 2017, came with a mutual option for either the NBA or the NBPA to opt out after six seasons — June 30 of this year.

The sides originally had a Dec. 15 deadline to announce an intention to exercise the opt-out, then pushed it back to Feb. 8, then to Friday.

A lockout would be damaging on many levels — well beyond the obvious part of how a league that is coming off a season of record revenue (it topped $10 billion for the first time last season and basketball-related income reached $8.9 billion, another record) would see that momentum interrupted. It could also interfere with the makeup of teams for this summer's World Cup in the Philippines, with NBA players expected to fill the U.S. and other rosters (and three NBA coaches set to be part of the U.S. coaching staff).

It could also disrupt plans for an NBA Summer League in Las Vegas this July that figures to feature presumed No. 1 draft pick Victor Wembanyama in what would be a global spectacle, as the French phenom begins his NBA career.

“I think for both sides in various categories we acknowledge we’ve come closer together,” Silver said. “There still is a gap between where we feel we need to be in order to get a deal done. I’d say throughout the discussions have had a very positive tenor and continued the strong sense of partnership that we have with our players and the players association.”

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Curry scores 39, Warriors rally from 20 down, beat Pelicans

2.6d ago 3/29/2023 1:00 AM ET By JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer SAN FRANCISCO

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Draymond Green yelled at the other bench, his own team and even his coach, and this time those intense emotions absolutely made the difference.

Steve Kerr loved it.

“We need his fire,” Golden State's coach said.

“It was perfect, right, perfectly executed,” Green said with a grin.

Stephen Curry had 39 points with eight 3-pointers, eight rebounds and eight assists, Jordan Poole added 21 points with consecutive layups that gave Golden State the lead early in the fourth quarter, and the Warriors rallied past the New Orleans Pelicans 120-109 on Tuesday night in a testy, playoff-like matchup in late March.

Klay Thompson scored 17 and hit five 3s to set a new single-season career high of 278, which leads the NBA.

The Warriors moved up a spot into sixth place in the crowded Western Conference standings, a half-game up on Minnesota and 1 1/2 games ahead of New Orleans. Golden State lost 99-96 at home to the Timberwolves on Sunday, so coming back from 20 down to win this one was key as the defending champions try to avoid the play-in round. The top six teams are guaranteed playoff berths.

“We lost a heartbreaker the other night. We knew we had to bounce back,” Kerr said.

Brandon Ingram had 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, Trey Murphy III scored 21 points and CJ McCollum added 15 for the Pelicans, who came in riding a five-game winning streak.

Green chirped and pushed the emotions and physicality all game, then threw an alley-oop to Jonathan Kuminga for a dunk with 7:09 left for one of his 13 assists and a 101-98 advantage.

“Draymond willed us to victory tonight,” Kerr said. “His frustration early with the way we were playing. Mad at the world. Yelling at everybody, their bench, our bench, me, and frankly we all deserved it.”

Green was whistled for a double technical for tussling with Ingram late in the second quarter — and Green’s foul was upgraded to a Flagrant 1. He already served a one-game suspension March 17 at Atlanta for his 16th technical.

Green committed an offensive foul moments later and players for both sides tangled, Green’s feet getting caught up with Herbert Jones’ head. A replay showed no additional infractions but Kerr briefly took Green out with tensions running high because of his “extreme energy” in that moment.

“We looked dead those first 18 minutes of the game," Kerr said. "We had to find some energy somewhere. I knew it wasn’t just going to come.”

Three straight 3-pointers by Curry late in the third got Golden State within 89-83. Poole then stole the ball from Ingram and dunked on the other end as the Warriors trailed 89-85 going into the final 12 minutes.

Golden State started the third on an 8-0 burst fueled by Donte DiVincezo. He made a putback dunk over Ingram early in the second half then a three-point play before Thompson's 3 at 10:44 made it 63-54.

McCollum's 3 with 1:40 left before halftime put the Pelicans up 60-43, then Ingram made it a 20-point game with a 3 New Orleans' next time down.

The Pelicans, coached by former Warriors assistant Willie Green and longtime Golden State assistant Jarron Collins on his staff, had won five straight after a 124-90 romp at Portland on Monday night.

The Warriors' victory prevented the Sacramento Kings, coached by former top assistant Mike Brown, their first playoff berth since 2006 that would end the worst drought in NBA history at 16 years.

TIP-INS

Pelicans: McCollum was hit with a Flagrant 1 at the 6:43 mark of the third. ... The Pelicans split the season series 2-2 and have lost 17 of the last 19 on the Warriors' home floor. ... New Orleans made 9 of 14 3-pointers in the first half and forced 14 turnovers leading to 11 points, then wound up 12 for 27 from deep. ... The Pelicans are 14-25 on the road, including 9-15 vs. the Western Conference.

Warriors: Thompson made 276 3s in 2015-16. ... The Warriors remain hopeful of Andrew Wiggins returning this season but there's still no timetable. He missed his 20th game while dealing with a family matter. ... The Warriors have won 14 of 16 overall in San Francisco. ... Golden State hosted the state champion Oakland High School boy's basketball team after its first title, honoring the group on the floor before the game and coached by Damian Lillard's former coach, Orlando Watkins.

UP NEXT

Pelicans: At Denver on Thursday night.

Warriors: Host the Spurs on Friday night, having won the last three in the series.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Washington scores career-high 43 as Hornets top Thunder

2.7d ago 3/28/2023 11:00 PM ET By CLIFF BRUNT, AP Sports Writer OKLAHOMA CITY

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — P.J. Washington scored 22 of his career-high 43 points in the fourth quarter, and the Charlotte Hornets rallied to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 137-134 on Tuesday night for their third straight win.

Washington made 8 of 11 field goals and 3 of 5 3-pointers in the final quarter to help the Hornets recover from an eight-point deficit early in the period.

“Credit to my teammates getting me in the right spots,” he said. “I was just trying to be aggressive with the shots that I did take."

Three Thunder players scored career highs — Isaiah Joe with 33 points and Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams with 31 each. But Williams and Giddey each missed one of two free throws in the final 16 seconds, and Williams missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.

It was a potentially costly loss for Oklahoma City. The Thunder were looking to strengthen their position in the Western Conference play-in race despite being short-handed. Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who entered the day fourth in the league averaging 31.3 points per game, sat out with a sprained left ankle.

“We have to buckle down and understand what we are playing for and what the stakes are at this end of the season,” said Giddey, who also had 10 rebounds and nine assists.

Charlotte was short-handed, too. Terry Rozier (right foot discomfort) and Kelly Oubre (strained right shoulder) sat out for the third straight game and Dennis Smith (sprained right toe) also did not play.

That didn't stop the Hornets from scoring 80 points after halftime.

“I was most disappointed in our defense, especially in the second half, really from the first five minutes all the way through,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said. “We've got to look in the mirror on that.”

The Hornets were coming off two wins over the Dallas Mavericks, who also need victories to get into the Western Conference playoffs.

Joe hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the second quarter to give the Thunder a 68-57 lead. Oklahoma City took a 99-93 lead into the fourth, but the Hornets battled back. Former Thunder guard Theo Maledon scored, was fouled and made the free throw to put Charlotte ahead, 104-103, with just under 10 minutes to play.

Maledon hit a 3-pointer with six minutes left to give Charlotte a 123-110 lead. The Thunder responded with a 7-0 run, with six of the points coming from Lu Dort, to stay in the game. Oklahoma City tied the game at 129 on an acrobatic layup by Williams with just over two minutes to play, and it was close the rest of the way.

“Obviously, we had our moments tonight, but certainly didn’t string together enough in order to earn the win," Daigneault said.

TIP-INS

Hornets: Maledon got his second start of the season. He finished with 19 points and nine assists. ... C Nick Richards had 14 points and 11 rebounds and F/C Kai Jones added 12 points and 14 rebounds.

Thunder: G Lindy Waters (left foot plantar fasciitis) sat out. ... Giddey scored 11 points in the first quarter. ... F Aleksej Pokusevski returned after a leg injury, playing for the Thunder for the first time since Dec. 27. He went scoreless in 10 minutes.

HISTORIC TRIO

It was just the third time three Thunder players scored at least 30 points in a game. In 2012, it was Russell Westbrook (31), James Harden (30) and Kevin Durant (30). In 2015, it was Anthony Morrow (32), Westbrook (31) and Enes Kanter (30).

UP NEXT

Hornets: Host the Chicago Bulls on Friday.

Thunder: Host the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday.

___

Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: twitter.com/CliffBruntAP

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Bane's 31 points, late free throws lead Grizzlies over Magic

2.7d ago 3/28/2023 10:50 PM ET By CLAY BAILEY, Associated Press MEMPHIS, Tenn.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Desmond Bane scored 31 points and made 8 of 10 free throws down the stretch as the Memphis Grizzlies held off the Orlando Magic 113-108 on Tuesday night.

Bane's free throws thwarted a last-minute rush by the Magic, led by Franz Wagner, who ended up with 25 points, including nine in the final 1:10.

"We've just got to keep our composure," Bane said. “We had a couple of silly turnovers. I thought we just kind of played with the game.”

Xavier Tillman had a career-high 20 points for Memphis, while Luke Kennard and Jaren Jackson Jr. finished with 16 points apiece. Jackson added 10 rebounds and three blocks.

Ja Morant, the Grizzlies' leading scorer, sat out the first night of a back-to-back with right thigh soreness.

Paolo Banchero finished with 24 points and Wendell Carter Jr. added 14 for the Magic.

Orlando, which trailed by 23 in the third quarter, got the deficit to single digits early in the final period. Then a 10-2 run pulled Orlando within 105-100 with 38 seconds left. Bane's free throws kept Memphis ahead for its seventh straight win.

“Being ready to go from the beginning of the game. That's the biggest key,” Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said. “Knowing (the Grizzlies) are a playoff team that's fighting for a championship, they're going to come out and set the tone early. Our guys felt that right off the bat.”

Memphis led by as many as 22 in the first half, benefitting from the Magic shooting 37%. A dozen turnovers only added to the Magic troubles. Memphis would extend the lead to 23 in the third.

Still, Orlando made a push to get back in, partially fueled by Goga Bitadze, who came off the bench for 11 of his 13 points in the third to cut the Memphis lead to 87-73. Things got even tighter in the fourth, but Memphis was able to hang on. Orlando has faced similar close games on several occasions lately.

“It's very valuable,” Banchero said. “Just knowing how to manage games and coming down and putting good possessions together at the end of the game. Today was different. It was more of us just chasing them.”

By holding off the late-charging Magic, the Grizzlies won their 33rd game at home, setting a franchise record for home wins in a season.

“A win is a win. Glad we got it, but we can definitely play a whole lot better,” Bane said.

TIP-INS

Magic: Entering the game, Orlando had averaged 117.2 points a game in March. If the Magic continue on that pace, it would be the highest-scoring month in franchise history, eclipsing the 116.8 points a game in November 1994. ... Banchero, who leads NBA rookies in scoring with a 19.8 average, has reached double figures in 65 games. ...Franz Wagner recorded his 500th career assist in the third quarter.

Grizzlies: Jackson's three blocks gave him 177 for the season, tying his own record for the most in franchise history. ... Kennard, who was 17 of 25 from 3 in his last three games, made all four of his 3-pointers in the first half.

MORANT SITS

Morant sat for the first time since returning March 22 from his eight-game, league-imposed suspension. Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said as the team set up the playmaking guard's return to action, they were aware that Tuesday's game would be the first back-to-back he would face. The Los Angeles Clippers visit Memphis on Wednesday night. Jenkins emphasized the decision was precautionary and not anything long term.

THEY SAID IT

Bane makes 89% of his free throws, among the top 15 in the league. Yet he missed two in the final 40 seconds. “A couple of them rattled in and out, and I was like: ‘What the hell is going on?’” Bane said after the game. “But I regathered myself and was able to knock them down down the stretch.”

UP NEXT

Magic: At Washington on Friday.

Grizzlies: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday in the first of two consecutive games between the teams.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Hawks hold off Mitchell, Cavaliers; Bucks win Central

2.7d ago 3/28/2023 10:40 PM ET By CHARLES ODUM, AP Sports Writer ATLANTA

ATLANTA (AP) — Dejounte Murray and Trae Young displayed what Atlanta coach Quin Snyder called a “connectivity” in the backcourt against the Cleveland Cavaliers that could be important for the Hawks' postseason hopes.

Murray sank three free throws with 2:14 remaining to give Atlanta the lead and added a fall-away jumper with less than a minute left to lead the Hawks to a 120-118 win over the short-handed Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

Murray led Atlanta with 29 points and Onyeka Okongwu added a season-high 21. Young, usually Atlanta's top scorer, had 16 points with 10 assists and only one second-half turnover.

“I thought they played off each other and there was a connectivity there that was important to the team,” Snyder said.

The Hawks remained tied with Toronto, which beat Miami 106-92 on Tuesday night, for the eighth-best record in the Eastern Conference.

Murray said the Hawks know there's no room for home losses with only six games remaining in the regular season.

“Just knowing we're in a must-win situation, trying just to control the Atlanta Hawks,” Murray said. “We came out ready to play for 48 minutes and got a great win.”

The Cavaliers held out starting forward Isaac Okoro (left knee soreness) and center Jarrett Allen (strained right groin) and were led by Donovan Mitchell's 44 points. Mitchell tied LeBron James' Cavaliers record of 10 games of 40-or-more points in a season.

With Atlanta's win, NBA- and Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee clinched the Central Division title.

After Murray's jumper gave Atlanta a 119-115 advantage, Mitchell's 3-pointer cut the lead to one point. Mitchell missed another 3 with 12.5 seconds remaining. After Young made one of two free throws with 3 seconds remaining, Mitchell's last-gasp 3-pointer from beyond half court hit the back iron.

The Cavaliers, who were knocked out of last season's Eastern Conference play-in tournament by Atlanta, locked up their first playoff spot since 2018 by beating Houston 108-91 on Sunday.

Mitchell passed 10,000 career points in his reunion with Snyder, the former Utah coach. Mitchell played for Snyder for five seasons (2017-22) in Utah. Snyder was hired by Atlanta on Feb. 26, after the Hawks fired Nate McMillan.

Mitchell began the night 13 points away from 10,000 points and passed the mark on a layup to open the second half.

GUARDING AGAINST FREE THROWS

Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said before the game a goal was to limit Young's trips to the free-throw line. “He does such a good job of putting you in harm's way,” Bickerstaff said. Young made 6 of 9 free throws.

Meanwhile, Okongwu made 11 of 12 free throws.

“I told him after the game he's got to go 12 for 12,” Snyder said.

PRAISE FOR MITCHELL

After the game, Snyder said “it was kind of strange seeing (Mitchell) on the other team.”

Snyder said he is not surprised to see Mitchell, who is averaging a career-best 27.4 points, thriving with Cleveland.

“The way he's playing now, it's not surprising to me in the slightest," Snyder said. "... I think the world of him, obviously.”

BREY VISITS

Mike Brey, who stepped down as Notre Dame's coach after posting a 483-280 record in 23 seasons, visited the Hawks' shootaround practice Tuesday morning. Snyder said the two “go back about 35 years” and added “I don't know what he's going to be doing, but it's good to see him and have him with us.”

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Darius Garland scored 27 points. ... Bickerstaff said he was protecting Okoro, who he said was “extremely disappointed because Isaac wants to play all 82 games.” ... Evan Mobley had 20 points and 15 rebounds. ... PF Dean Wade (non-COVID illness) and G Raul Neto (left hamstring strain) also did not play.

Hawks: Young missed his first four shots from the field and was scoreless before sinking two free throws with 3:37 remaining in the first half. ... F Jalen Johnson (groin, hamstring) missed his seventh straight game. ... Saddiq Bey had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

UP NEXT

Cavaliers: Host New York Knicks on Friday.

Hawks: Visit Brooklyn on Friday.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Hawks beat Cavaliers 120-118, help Bucks clinch Central

2.7d ago 3/28/2023 10:40 PM ET By The Associated Press ATLANTA

ATLANTA (AP) — Dejounte Murray sank three free throws with 2:14 remaining to give Atlanta the lead and added a fall-away jumper with less than a minute left to lead the Hawks to a 120-118 win over the short-handed Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday night.

Murray led Atlanta with 29 points and Onyeka Okongwu added a season-high 21. The Hawks remained tied with Toronto, which beat Miami 106-92 on Tuesday night, for the eighth-best record in the Eastern Conference.

The Cavaliers held out starting forward Isaac Okoro (left knee soreness) and center Jarrett Allen (strained right groin) and were led by Donovan Mitchell’s 44 points. Mitchell, who surpassed 10,000 career points, tied LeBron James’ Cavaliers record of10 games of 40-or-more points in a season.

With Atlanta’s win, NBA- and Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee clinched the Central Division title.

WARRIORS 120, PELICANS 109

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Stephen Curry had 39 points with eight 3-pointers, eight rebounds and eight assists, Jordan Poole added 21 points and Golden State rallied past New Orleans.

Klay Thompson scored 17 and hit five 3s to set a single-season career high of 278, which leads the NBA. Draymond Green was whistled for a double technical for tussling with Brandon Ingram late in the second quarter — and Green’s foul was upgraded to a Flagrant 1. He already served a one-game suspension March 17 at Atlanta for his 16th technical.

The Warriors moved up a spot into sixth place in the crowded Western Conference standings, a half-game up on Minnesota and 1 1/2 games ahead of New Orleans. The top six teams are guaranteed playoff berths.

Ingram had 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, Trey Murphy III scored 21 points and CJ McCollum added 15 for the Pelicans, who came in riding a five-game winning streak.

GRIZZLIES 113, MAGIC 108

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Desmond Bane scored 31 points and made 8 of 10 free throws down the stretch, leading Memphis past Orlando.

Bane’s free throws thwarted a last-minute rush by the Magic, led by Franz Wagner, who ended up with 25 points, including nine in the final 1:10.

Xavier Tillman had 20 points for Memphis, while Luke Kennard and Jaren Jackson Jr. finished with 16 points apiece. Jackson added 10 rebounds and three blocks.

Ja Morant, the Grizzlies’ leading scorer, sat out the first night of a back-to-back with right thigh soreness.

Paolo Banchero finished with 24 points and Wendell Carter Jr. added 14 for the Magic.

HORNETS 137, THUNDER 134

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — P.J. Washington scored 22 of his career-high 43 points in the fourth quarter, and Charlotte rallied to beat Oklahoma City for its third straight win.

Three Thunder players scored career highs — Isaiah Joe with 33 points and Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams with 31 each. But Williams and Giddey each missed one of two free throws in the final 16 seconds, and Williams missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.

It was a potentially costly loss for Oklahoma City. The Thunder were looking to strengthen their position in the Western Conference play-in race despite being short-handed. Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who entered the day fourth in the league averaging 31.3 points per game, sat out with a sprained left ankle.

Charlotte was short-handed, too. Terry Rozier (right foot discomfort) and Kelly Oubre (strained right shoulder) sat out for the third straight game and Dennis Smith (sprained right toe) also did not play.

RAPTORS 106, HEAT 92

TORONTO (AP) — Pascal Siakam scored 26 points, Scottie Barnes had 22 points and a career-high 12 assists and Toronto beat Miami.

O.G. Anunoby scored 22 points, and Precious Achiuwa and Fred VanVleet each had 12 as Toronto won for the 10th time in 11 home games.

Tyler Herro scored 33 points and Bam Adebayo had 21 points and 12 rebounds as Miami lost its second straight. The Heat are 15-22 on the road.

Miami played without leading scorer Jimmy Butler, who sat because of a sore neck.

WIZARDS 130, CELTICS 111

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kristaps Porzingis had 32 points and 13 rebounds, and Washington boosted its flickering postseason hopes with a victory over Boston.

The Wizards, playing without Bradley Beal (left knee soreness) and Kyle Kuzma (right ankle sprain), pulled within 2 1/2 games of Chicago for the final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference. Washington has six games remaining in the regular season.

The Celtics had their three-game winning streak snapped. Jayson Tatum led Boston with 28 points, and Jaylen Brown contributed 18 points.

Deni Avdija matched a career high with 25 points and added 10 rebounds for Washington. Monte Morris scored 19 points.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Barnes has 22, career-high 12 assists, as Raptors beat Heat

2.8d ago 3/28/2023 9:54 PM ET By IAN HARRISON, Associated Press TORONTO

TORONTO (AP) — Pascal Siakam scored 26 points, Scottie Barnes had 22 points and a career-high 12 assists and the Toronto Raptors beat the Miami Heat 106-92 on Tuesday night.

O.G. Anunoby scored 22 points, and Precious Achiuwa and Fred VanVleet each had 12 as Toronto won for the 10th time in 11 home games.

The ninth-place Raptors evened their record at 38-38, reaching .500 for the first time since they were 13-13 on Dec. 9.

“We need every game right now,” Barnes said. “It’s going to be close but we need every game, and every game is important for us.”

Miami played without leading scorer Jimmy Butler, who sat because of a sore neck.

Knocked out of the sixth spot by Sunday’s 129-100 home loss to Brooklyn, the Heat fell a half-game behind the Nets. Atlanta and Toronto are two games behind Miami.

“Every loss right now is tough,” Heat guard Victor Oladipo said. “Obviously it’s a tight situation in the race in the East. Every loss is tough, but it’s about figuring it out so we’ve just got to figure it out.”

Miami won’t have long to dwell on this one. The Heat visit the Knicks on Wednesday night.

“We all feel a certain way about this but we’re going to regroup,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’ve got 24 hours, we get to play in Madison Square Garden. That’s the only thing we’re thinking about right now.”

Toronto outscored the Heat and 23-10 on fast-break points and 62-36 on points in the paint.

“I don’t have an answer for that,” an agitated Spoelstra said. “For four and half months of this season we were the very best in the league at protecting the paint. Since All-Star break we haven’t done what we were able to do better than anybody.”

Tyler Herro scored 33 points and Bam Adebayo had 21 points and 12 rebounds as Miami lost its second straight. The Heat are 15-22 on the road.

Former Raptor Kyle Lowry had six points and five rebounds in 24 minutes. The sellout crowd of 19,800 responded with a warm ovation when Lowry checked in to start the second quarter.

Toronto won three of four against Miami, winning the season series for the first time since a 4-0 sweep in 2018-19.

Miami jumped out to a 14-4 lead but Toronto battled back to lead 24-23 after one. Barnes scored 12 points in the opening quarter.

Herro scored 11 points in the second but Barnes and Siakam each had six to give the Raptors a 53-47 halftime lead. Toronto took an 84-67 lead to the fourth.

TIP-INS

Heat: Shot 18 for 19 at the free throw line. Adebayo was 7 for 8, missing in the fourth quarter. … Herro had six of Miami’s 18 assists.

Raptors: Barnes had seven rebounds. … G Gary Trent Jr. (right elbow) sat for a fourth straight game. … G Will Barton (left ankle) was not available. Barton left injured in Sunday’s win over Washington. … Shot 0 for 9 from 3-point range in the first quarter and 1 for 16 in the first half. Toronto missed its first 10 attempts before Anunoby connected in the second. … Jakob Poeltl had 10 rebounds, while Siakam and Achiuwa each had nine.

MASKED MAN

Heat C Cody Zeller returned after missing the past six games because of a broken nose. Wearing a mask, Zeller scored six points and had seven rebounds.

“I felt fine,” Zeller said. “I did get hit, just in the mask, but it didn’t hurt. It did its job. It felt good to be back.”

CENTURY MARK

The Raptors are 8-0 this season when holding opponents below 100 points.

UP NEXT

Heat: Visit New York on Wednesday.

Raptors: Begin a five-game road trip at Philadelphia on Friday.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Warriors are hopeful of Andrew Wiggins returning this season

2.8d ago 3/28/2023 9:34 PM ET By JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer SAN FRANCISCO

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Warriors coach Steve Kerr remains hopeful that Andrew Wiggins will return this season after the veteran forward missed his 20th straight game because of a family matter.

Wiggins has been working out on his own every day but when and if he returns to the defending NBA champions, the training and medical staffs would need to evaluate his fitness and how much he might be able to contribute and how soon.

“Beyond that, once he's back our training staff will be able to get with him and see where he is,” Kerr said Tuesday.

There have been no details on what Wiggins is dealing with because it is private. He hasn't played since Feb. 13 against the Wizards.

He missed his 40th game overall Tuesday against New Orleans, having been sidelined for three with left foot soreness, 10 because of a strained adductor in his right thigh, and seven games with a non-COVID illness.

Stephen Curry said he is giving Wiggins the space he needs.

“We’d love to have him and hope that that does happen, because we want to be whole and I’m sure he wants to be a part of this,” Curry said after a 120-109 victory over New Orleans on Tuesday night. “But when he walks in the door it’ll be when it’s the right time for him. That's kind of the expectation at this point.”

The 28-year-old Wiggins signed a four-year contract extension last October. He is averaging 17.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 37 games this season.

A first-time All-Star last season, Wiggins reached the playoffs for just the second time in his eight-year career and often took on a tough defensive assignment in helping the Warriors capture their fourth championship in eight seasons.

Still, the timeline for when Wiggins might play is still unclear.

“There's hope but it's I guess indefinite, it's also appropriate because we don't know,” Kerr said.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Short-handed Wizards rout Celtics 130-111

2.8d ago 3/28/2023 9:34 PM ET By NOAH TRISTER, AP Sports Writer WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON (AP) — Just when it appeared Washington fans would have little to worry about besides draft position over the next couple weeks, the short-handed Wizards delivered a dominating victory over one of the NBA's best teams.

Go figure.

Kristaps Porzingis had 32 points and 13 rebounds, and the Wizards boosted their flickering postseason hopes with a 130-111 victory over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night.

The Wizards won despite the absence of Bradley Beal (left knee soreness) and Kyle Kuzma (right ankle sprain) and pulled within 2 1/2 games of Chicago for the final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference. Washington has six games remaining in the regular season.

“Probably the best pace, for 36-to-40 minutes, that we've seen all year,” Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. “After makes, misses, were able to accumulate quite a few fast break points. Not all those were just off of misses. So being able to play with pace and kind of get stuff early in the clock I thought helped us.”

Washington finished with a 19-11 edge in fast break points.

The Celtics had their three-game winning streak snapped and fell to 2 1/2 games behind Milwaukee for the top record in the NBA. Jayson Tatum led Boston with 28 points, but the Celtics trailed 64-51 at halftime, and then their deficit rose to as many as 23 points in the third quarter.

Milwaukee plays at Indiana on Wednesday before a showdown Thursday against the Celtics.

Deni Avdija matched a career high with 25 points and added 10 rebounds for Washington. Monte Morris scored 19 points.

“Trying to make the right decisions, trying to be aggressive,” Avdija said. “I guess I'm just not thinking, I'm just playing my game, making plays for others.”

Jaylen Brown contributed 18 points for the Celtics.

The Wizards went 1 of 8 from 3-point range in the first quarter but still led 29-23. Their shooting picked up in a big way — they finished 13 of 37 from beyond the arc — and Boston never mounted much of a challenge in the second half.

The Celtics substituted liberally in the fourth quarter and actually cut the lead down to 13, but then Avdija had a steal and dunk and the Wizards held on without any trouble.

AT THE BOTTOM

Unseld had a response to those who suggest the Wizards would be better off losing these games. Washington still has an uphill climb to make the play-in round.

“That might be something that on paper makes sense, but you can't go in the locker room and tell your team that we're about winning, we're about being competitive, and we're just going to lay down and give games away," he said. "I think that's the wrong message.”

After Tuesday's win, the Wizards (34-42) are a game ahead of Indiana (33-43), 1 1/2 ahead of Portland (32-43) and two up on Orlando (32-44). Falling behind those teams could certainly boost the lottery odds.

“We understand the situation and the fact that that is a potential outcome. It's not a guarantee," Unseld said. "If we don't get some guys back, it is what it is, but we still want to make sure whoever's available is going to play the right way, compete at a certain standard.”

TIP-INS

Celtics: Tatum played 31:52, and no other Boston player reached that total. Tatum, Marcus Smart and Al Horford did not play at all in the fourth quarter. Brown and Derrick White — the team's other two starters — played 2:39 each in that period. ... Smart scored 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon added 13.

Wizards: Washington was actually down three starters. In addition to Beal and Kuzma, Daniel Gafford missed the game with left foot soreness.

UP NEXT

Celtics: At Milwaukee on Thursday night.

Wizards: Host Orlando on Friday night.

___

Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Analysis: This Hall of Fame class could be an all-time great

3.4d ago 3/28/2023 6:05 AM ET By TIM REYNOLDS, AP Basketball Writer

The Springfield Symphony Hall lists a capacity of 2,611. This is going to be a problem when the basketball world heads to western Massachusetts on Aug. 12.

Act surprised on Saturday when the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announces its class of enshrinees for 2023. Among the finalists: Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich. It's widely assumed that they'll enter the Hall this summer, in what will be a most star-studded event.

“We might need a stadium for that one,” Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn said.

He’s not wrong. More than 2,611 people will want to go to this. Probably more than 261,111 people will want to go to this.

It was never a question that the biggest names — the Nowitzki, Gasol, Wade, Parker group — would get into the Hall.

The question was about Popovich. Not if. But when.

The NBA’s all-time winningest coach, a five-time champion and the coach of the team that won Olympic gold at the Tokyo Games quietly rejected overtures from the Hall in the past. He wanted to see his best San Antonio players — Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili among them — go into the Hall first. He also wanted to see some coaches he respected most, like Rudy Tomjanovich, finally get the call first. Besides, it's not like people will look at Popovich with more reverence or respect after he gets his orange jacket from the Hall and officially gets to be introduced as a Hall of Famer.

“It will mean more to us as former coaches, former players, than to him I think,” Vaughn said. “And that’s not a slight at all. I think what he will enjoy is seeing his former players there, and people who he has touched in a tremendous way, families he’s impacted for a long time because of his knowledge and his ability to share his knowledge and his ability to care for people.”

More than 300 people have either played for or coached under Popovich in his time with the Spurs and USA Basketball. Nowitzki had more than 200 teammates. Gasol is beloved by teammates on two continents. The Miami Heat will probably send their entire staff up to see Wade give his speech. Add up the numbers, and we’re getting toward that magic 2,611 number really quickly. And that doesn’t even include, you know, the enshrinees’ families and friends, along with the other living Hall of Famers.

“I know this much,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “I’ll be on a plane from wherever we are, and I’ll be there."

Spoelstra will be coaching with USA Basketball this summer under head coach Steve Kerr at the Basketball World Cup, which takes them to the Philippines in August and September following warm-up games in Las Vegas, Spain and Abu Dhabi. They’ll be in Las Vegas until a few days before the Hall enshrinement, then the American contingent will head to Spain for games against Spain and Slovenia. Can’t imagine they’ll be very well-attended, not with Gasol going into the Hall that same weekend, with Slovenia’s Luka Doncic probably going to pick being with Nowitzki over a pair of exhibitions, with Popovich set to be enshrined.

The Hall will give the enshrinees a number of tickets. It won’t be enough for any of them. Popovich’s guest list will be impossible to pare down, especially his innermost circle of confidants, who remain there even after they leave the Spurs.

Case in point: Utah coach Will Hardy. He left the Spurs to be an assistant in Boston under another former Spurs player and coach, Ime Udoka. But when Popovich was coaching the Olympic team, he picked some of the best and brightest to be alongside him, Kerr, Spoelstra, Mike Krzyzewski and others for the process of getting ready. Hardy made that list.

“I’ve talked about imposter syndrome some this year — maybe never higher than those moments when you’re sitting in a room and it’s Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, Erik Spoelstra, Jerry Colangelo, Jay Wright, Lloyd Pierce, Ime Udoka, Coach K is in the room,” Hardy said. “And you’re going, ‘How am I sitting at this table right now?’ In a lot of ways it makes no sense. I felt like I was in the greatest basketball grad school class of all time. You almost can’t write fast enough in terms of taking notes and listening."

So many of the pairings will be fitting. The Popovich-Parker duo and Wade faced off twice in the NBA Finals. Popovich-Parker and Nowitzki had Texas-sized battles for years. Nowitzki and Wade played in the finals against one another twice, each winning a title on the other’s home floor. Gasol played against them all for years.

They’re all beloved. Wade has teammates already planning their trips to Springfield. Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley doesn’t have his entire summer plan picked out yet, but he’s going to Springfield for Nowitzki — who he coached in Dallas.

“The most wonderful thing about him is that being around him in public and going to events, I’ve never seen him turn people down or say no,” Mosley said of Nowitzki. “Whether he’s tired or doesn’t want to do it, he’s always going to go the extra mile to make sure those around him feel his appreciation for how much they’ve given to him. He might be one of the most humble Hall of Famers I’ve ever been around in that regard.”

Mosley will have a seat for the big night. So will Hardy. So will Vaughn. How close they’ll be to the stage is anyone’s guess, but with this Hall class, there won’t be a bad seat in the house.

___

Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds(at)ap.org

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Nicolas Batum hits 8 3-pointers, Clippers beat Bulls 124-112

3.6d ago 3/28/2023 1:05 AM ET By GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer LOS ANGELES

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nicolas Batum got all of his season-high 24 points on eight 3-pointers, and Eric Gordon added 22 points in the Los Angeles Clippers' comfortable 124-112 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Monday night.

Kawhi Leonard scored 22 as the Clippers rebounded from an embarrassing loss to New Orleans with 20 3-pointers in an impressive outside shooting display led by Batum. The Frenchman replaced ailing Marcus Morris in the starting lineup and produced a spectacular game from the perimeter, hitting eight of his first nine 3-point attempts while Los Angeles ran away in the first three quarters.

“It was nothing crazy, just really open shots,” said Batum, who finished one shy of his career high in 3s, set 11 years ago. “I didn't have to take a dribble on any of those shots. I just had open shots, and my teammates made some good passes. It was just good basketball.”

Gordon had his biggest scoring performance since returning to the Clippers in a trade last month, and Russell Westbrook added 12 points, 10 assists and five rebounds. The Clippers finished with a season-high 41 assists, topping 40 in a game for the first time since January 2015.

“When we're attacking the paint, attacking the rim and playing the right way, we're a really good team,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “Tonight was a blueprint of how we should play.”

Los Angeles (40-36) kept hold of fifth place in the Western Conference standings and moved a half-game behind fourth-place Phoenix.

Zach LaVine scored 23 points and Nikola Vucevic had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Bulls, who followed up their impressive win over the Lakers on Sunday with a dud.

DeMar DeRozan had 21 points and seven assists in his hometown, but Chicago lost for only the third time in 10 games and missed a chance to pull even with Toronto and Atlanta for eighth place in the East.

“When a team gets into a rhythm, that's what generally happens,” coach Billy Donovan said. “Tonight we just didn't do a good enough job all around. ... I felt we gave up too many uncontested 3s, especially early when they started to find their rhythm. And then the ones we did contest, they made, because I think we gave them too many open looks early.”

The Clippers improved to 2-1 without leading scorer Paul George, who is all but certain to miss the rest of the regular season after spraining his right knee in a loss to Oklahoma City last Tuesday.

Batum immediately clicked with the Clippers' starters, hitting five 3-pointers in the first half. Morris has hit only five 3s in his last seven games combined, and Batum's contributions along with Gordon's 16 first-half points mostly against LaVine's defense boosted Los Angeles to an early 11-point lead.

The Clippers rolled to a 22-point lead in the third quarter, and Batum didn't miss his second 3-point attempt until right before the quarter buzzer. Batum didn't take a 2-point shot.

TIP-INS

Bulls: Alex Caruso sat out to rest his foot injury. ... Vucevic was well rested after getting ejected early in Sunday's win. ... DeRozan got a technical foul in the third quarter. ... Patrick Beverley had nine points in 30 minutes against his former team.

Clippers: Morris sat out with an illness. ... Norman Powell missed his 11th straight game with an injured left shoulder, but is expected to return during LA's upcoming road trip. ... The Clippers have won 40 games for the 12th straight season. They had only eight 40-win seasons in their previous 41 years of existence.

UP NEXT

Bulls: Host the Lakers on Wednesday.

Clippers: Play at Memphis on Wednesday.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Ingram scores 29 as Pelicans rout Trail Blazers 124-90

3.6d ago 3/28/2023 12:45 AM ET By ANNE M. PETERSON, AP Sports Writer PORTLAND, Ore.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Brandon Ingram scored 29 points and the New Orleans Pelicans routed the depleted Portland Trail Blazers 124-90 on Monday night for their fifth straight victory.

CJ McCollum, who played nine seasons with the Blazers before he was traded to the Pelicans last season, added 17 points. Jonas Valanciunas finished with 10 points and 21 rebounds, and New Orleans led by as many as 36.

The Pelicans are eighth in the Western Conference, a half-game behind Minnesota and Golden State. The top six teams avoid the play-in tournament and are guaranteed playoff spots.

“We're playing with energy. We play together. We enjoy basketball,” Valanciunas said. “That gives us extra motivation, playing for something. So I think everybody is motivated. Everybody has a goal.”

Keon Johnson had 20 points off the bench for the Blazers, who have lost nine of 10 and will likely miss the playoffs for the second straight season. Most of their regular starters were out with injuries, including top scorer Damian Lillard (right calf), Jerami Grant (bruised left quad), Jusuf Nurkic (right knee) and Anfernee Simons (right foot).

“I wasn't concerned about the effort. I thought we played hard," coach Chauncey Billups said. “That's a team that's on a mission. They're playing very well, and they just kicked our butt, man.”

Ingram was selected the NBA Player of the Week on Monday after averaging 31.3 points, 10 assists and 6.3 rebounds in wins over San Antonio, Charlotte and the Los Angeles Clippers last week.

He had 18 points in the first half and the Pelicans led 58-35 at halftime.

With the game well in hand, Ingram and McCollum both went to the bench for the final quarter.

“We came in and just took care of business,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “We know the Trail Blazers are down guys, but it was important for us to respect our opponent.”

Given the injuries and the Western Conference standings, Billups has turned his attention to developing young players.

“Most of these guys that are out there right now, they weren’t planning on being out there this time of year,” Billups said. “So they’re grateful and thankful for the opportunity. And I feel like they’re doing a pretty good job with it.”

SCOREBOARD WATCHING

Valanciunas said the Pelicans are keeping an eye on the scoreboard and the standings as the postseason approaches.

“It's go time now,” he said. “We're watching all the games, we're watching all the scores. And we're trying to climb up."

TIP-INS

Pelicans: Green praised Ingram before the game: “He understands the moment. He understands what's in front of us right now. So he's doing a great job of setting the tone early in games, and then finding his teammates when guys are open. When he has scoring opportunities, he's taken advantage of it.”

Trail Blazers: Won the first of their four games this season against the Pelicans, but dropped the next two. ... Nassir Little was given a technical foul while on the bench in the first half. ... The Blazers finished with 15 assists, compared to 31 for New Orleans.

UP NEXT

Pelicans: Visit the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.

Trail Blazers: Host the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Timberwolves win 119-115 to deny clinching party for Kings

3.6d ago 3/28/2023 12:45 AM ET By JOSH DUBOW, AP Sports Writer SACRAMENTO, Calif.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Jaden McDaniels scored 20 points and the Minnesota Timberwolves spoiled Sacramento's hopes for a clinching party by beating the Kings 119-115 on Monday night.

The Kings were hoping to end the longest playoff drought in NBA history in front of their fans, but sent them home unhappy.

“Guys wanted to clinch a playoff spot at home and wanted to share it with our fans,” guard De'Aaron Fox said. “But at the end of the day, regardless of where we do it, I think people are going to be appreciative and people are going to love it.”

The Timberwolves won their fourth straight game and swept a back-to-back set at Golden State and Sacramento to tie the Warriors for sixth place in the Western Conference playoff race. The top six teams avoid the play-in tournament.

“These guys really like each other and love playing with each other," coach Chris Finch said. “They have lifted their game with the games being so big.”

Minnesota wasn't fazed by the frenzied sellout crowd and pulled away in the fourth quarter.

Naz Reid hit a 3-pointer to give the Timberwolves a six-point lead early in the fourth, and McDaniels' emphatic dunk made it 114-104 with about four minutes left.

The Kings had a chance to make it close late, but Keegan Murray missed a 3 from the corner that could have cut the deficit to three with 42 seconds left.

Reid added 18 points, Anthony Edwards scored 17 and Rudy Gobert had 16 points and 16 rebounds.

“We know we have the talent and the personnel to be able to beat anybody on any given night," Gobert said. "Really out of urgency and consistency ... we play every game like it’s our last and we play every game like there’s no tomorrow. That’s the mindset that we need.”

Fox scored 29 points and Domantas Sabonis added 24 points and 10 rebounds for Sacramento. The Kings struggled from the outside, shooting just 5 of 26 on 3-pointers.

Sacramento now will look to clinch its first playoff berth since 2006 later this week, when the Kings travel to Portland for two games.

Sacramento's 16-year stretch without a playoff appearance is the longest in NBA history and the longest active postseason drought among any team in the NBA, NFL, NHL or Major League Baseball.

The excitement in Sacramento was palpable leading up to the game, with success-starved fans eager to have something consequential to celebrate.

The stakes might have contributed to a shaky start for the Kings, who fell behind by 13 in the first quarter. But led by an emphatic dunk for a three-point play by Sabonis and three baskets in the final minute of the half, the Kings took a 58-57 lead into the break.

The game stayed close from there until the Timberwolves pulled away in the fourth quarter.

“Obviously a missed opportunity tonight to get this game, but the season continues on,” Kings forward Harrison Barnes said.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: Star big man Karl-Anthony Towns sat out the back end of a back-to-back as he deals with a lingering right calf strain. ... F Taurean Prince (illness) also missed the game.

Kings: Murray made one 3-pointer to give him 185 on the season, tied with Damian Lillard for the second-most ever by a rookie. Donovan Mitchell holds the record with 187 in 2017-18. ... Kings owner Vivek Ranadive missed the game because he was home sick with pneumonia.

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: At Phoenix on Wednesday night.

Kings: At Portland on Wednesday night.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Embiid sits out, Jokic leads Nuggets past 76ers 116-111

3.7d ago 3/28/2023 12:05 AM ET By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Sports Writer DENVER

Games: PHI@DEN from 3/27/2023

DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic posted his 29th triple-double of the season Monday night and the Denver Nuggets beat the shorthanded Philadelphia 76ers 116-111 in a game Joel Embiid sat out with a sore right calf.

That scuttled the highly anticipated showdown between MVP frontrunners that many felt could have decided whether Embiid, the runner-up the last two years, denies Jokic a third consecutive award.

With Embiid in the locker room, Jokic scored 25 points, pulled down 17 rebounds and dished out 12 assists.

While insisting Embiid's absence had no effect on his own approach to the game, Jokic praised his counterpart as a dominant force on both ends of the court.

“The guy's a beast," Jokic said. “He can affect the game in so many ways on the floor.”

The MVP clash wasn't the race that was on Doc Rivers' mind.

“It was not a hard decision for us," the 76ers coach said of holding out Embiid, who complained of discomfort at the team's morning shootaround after playing both ends of a back-to-back on the road over the weekend.

Rivers said he didn't know if Embiid's injury would linger, but noted that calf injuries are notoriously slow to heal and can lead to more serious leg injuries.

"Everybody wants to see these two guys play against each other,” Rivers said, but “we’re just going to take it slow and be smart. We want to get him and the whole team healthy for the playoffs.”

Embiid, the NBA scoring leader, first experienced tightness in his right calf against Chicago last week and Rivers held him out of the second half of that game. Embiid returned to the lineup and scored 46 points at Golden State and 28 in Phoenix, seemingly putting the issue behind him.

The Sixers, who also were without James Harden (Achilles) for a fourth consecutive game, matched their season high with their third consecutive loss.

Tyrese Maxey scored 23 of his 29 points in the first half, helping keep the 76ers close. They trailed 61-57 at halftime and fell behind by 22 before a late push brought them to 114-111 on Montrezl Harrell's dunk with 29 seconds remaining.

Jeff Green sank two free throws with 13.3 seconds left and Harrell misfired on an open 3-pointer in the closing seconds.

“We can't have that" kind of letdown “especially against a team with their two superstars out,” Nuggets sixth man Bruce Brown said. ”This should have been a 20-point win. We just took our foot off the gas.”

“As long as we win,” Jokic said, “that's the most important thing.”

Maxey said the 76ers are looking at the bright side: they're burnishing their bench for the playoffs.

“The first half we were in the game big time and in the end, but one thing I think we can take from this is how deep we are,” Maxey said. “Guys like (Danuel) House, who hasn’t played in a couple of games because he was hurt, comes in and contributes. The list goes on and on.”

Embiid bolstered his MVP credentials in January when he scored 47 points and pulled down 18 rebounds in leading Philadelphia past the Nuggets 126-119.

ESPN analyist Kendrick Perkins, a former NBA center who sparked an MVP debate earlier this month by calling Jokic a stat padder, said Embiid owed it to Jokic and basketball fans alike to play in the rematch Monday night.

“Joel Embiid is ducking that smoke today and you all know how I feel about Joel Embiid,” Perkins said. "We know how much it means to him to win this award. And here it is. You gave Jokic a spanking when they were down there in Philly. You have to give him an opportunity to get his lick back.

“You cannot sit out this game,” Perkins added. "I have a vote (for the MVP award) and I'm going to remember this moment.”

TIP-INS

76ers: Philadelphia has lost four of five for the first time all season. ... Embiid has missed 14 games this season. He hasn't played in Denver since November 2019.

Nuggets: Jokic has five triple-doubles this month and 111 for his career, including the playoffs.

UP NEXT

76ers: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.

Nuggets: Host the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday night.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Booker, bench lead Suns past skidding Jazz as Ayton returns

3.7d ago 3/27/2023 11:55 PM ET By MATTHEW COLES, Associated Press SALT LAKE CITY

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Devin Booker scored 24 points and Phoenix reserves sparked the decisive run for the Suns in a 117-103 win over the fading Utah Jazz on Monday night.

“Our bench came in and changed the dynamic of the game from a physicality standpoint, getting stops. That allowed us to get out in transition,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said.

Deandre Ayton had 14 points after missing four games with a bruised hip. But a trio off the bench was pivotal for Phoenix: Terrence Ross had 13 points, Cameron Payne added 12 and Bismack Biyombo scored 11. They helped the Suns to a 57-25 advantage in bench points.

“The bench is starting to come together. We are getting a better rhythm and groove, and when we come into the game we’re bringing a different level of energy,” Ross said.

The Suns (40-35) had lost four in a row on the road. But with this victory they sit more securely in the fourth spot in the Western Conference playoff race — which would give them home-court advantage in the first round.

Lauri Markkanen scored 25 points for Utah but shot 6 of 22.

“Rough shooting night. I thought I was getting good looks. Didn’t fall tonight,” Markkanen said.

Walker Kessler had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Jazz (35-40), who have lost four straight. Kessler also matched a career high with seven blocks.

“We could not throw the ball in the ocean for long stretches of time,” Utah coach Will Hardy said. “That can wear on you as a team.”

To get injured star Kevin Durant in a midseason trade, the Suns sacrificed some of their depth and have struggled at times — especially on defense — when their starters sit. But this game was different against the undermanned Jazz.

“If we’re going to get to where we want, it’s going to be different people every night,” star guard Chris Paul said. “We need that confidence going into the playoffs.”

Phoenix went on a 17-2 run bridging the third and fourth quarters, primarily with its backups on the court. The Jazz led 81-78 before Payne and Ross combined for 11 points, and Payne capped the surge with a driving layup with 8:59 remaining to make it 95-83.

“When we are getting stops and pushing the pace, it is really hard to guard us. We just didn’t want to let them get their defense set,” Payne said.

By the time Booker, Ayton and Paul returned with 4:58 to play, Phoenix still had a double-digit lead and coasted home.

“It’s big for our confidence when we leave a game and it’s near even and then (the reserves) go up 10-15 points while we’re out,” Booker said. “It’s nice.”

ON THE MEND

Williams said Durant, who has missed 10 games with a sprained ankle, might be ready to return on Wednesday — but it’s up to the training staff.

“He has been working his tail off. He’s done everything possible to get himself back as close as he can to game shape,” said Williams, who added it all depends on Durant’s evaluation when the team gets back to Phoenix.

TIP-INS

Suns: Made 20 of 22 free throws. … Booker scored 18 points in the first quarter and then went 0 for 5 with no points in the second. ... Phoenix had a 57-52 lead at halftime after outscoring the Jazz 13-0 in points off turnovers.

Jazz: Talen Horton-Tucker had 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists along a with a bevy of forced shots and turnovers. … Simone Fontecchio, who has started the last three games, was out with a sore toe. … Jordan Clarkson (thumb) and Collin Sexton (hamstring), two of Utah’s top three scorers, have missed the past 10 games.

UP NEXT

Suns: Host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.

Jazz: At the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Quickley scores 40 in place of Brunson; Knicks beat Rockets

3.7d ago 3/27/2023 10:25 PM ET By JEFFREY BERNSTEIN, Associated Press NEW YORK

NEW YORK (AP) — Immanuel Quickley scored a career-high 40 points and Julius Randle had 26 as the New York Knicks snapped a three-game losing streak with a 137-115 victory over the Houston Rockets on Monday night.

RJ Barrett added 19 points, Obi Toppin had 15 and Quinten Grimes scored 14 for the Knicks.

Quickley connected on 14 of 18 shots from the field and added nine assists as the Knicks recorded a season-high 35 assists. He started in place of Jalen Brunson, who missed his second straight game with a bruised right hand.

“When I know I’m starting, I try to get everyone involved early and make sure everyone has a feel for the game offensively,” Quickley said. “Everyone has to pick it up when one of your best players is out.”

Kevin Porter Jr. led the Rockets with 26 points. Jalen Green had 19 and Kenyon Martin Jr. added 18 as Houston dropped its sixth straight game.

Randle scored 15 points as the Knicks led 36-33 after the first quarter. His slam gave New York a 23-22 lead and they never trailed again.

New York took its first double-digit lead, 49-39, on Josh Hart’s drive with 7:37 remaining in the second quarter.

Houston went on a 10-0 run to tie the game, but a Quickley 3-pointer ignited a 12-5 run by the Knicks and New York went on to lead 66-61 at halftime.

“I don’t know what he (Quickley) is, other than a good basketball player,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “If you need scoring, he can score. If you need playmaking, he had nine assists. He’s effective starting. He’s effective coming off the bench. You can play him at the point, at the two, at the three. You can plug-and-play with him.”

Quickley, who had 22 points at intermission, gave the Knicks a 97-83 lead on a 3-pointer with 1:42 left in the third quarter, and Randle’s buzzer-beating 3 put New York ahead 102-90.

The Knicks opened the fourth quarter on a 10-0 run before Green finally broke the streak with a pair of free throws with 9:26 remaining.

“Our energy fell off in the second half,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “I could see guys were getting tired. I could see it in their body language. But, that is the NBA. We were hyped up at the beginning of the game, flying around, doing some really good stuff. Then I think the back-to-back did catch up to us.”

The Rockets, who lost in Cleveland on Sunday, never got any closer as the New York lead ballooned to as many as 33 points on Quickley’s last points of the game, two free throws with 4:11 remaining.

“My teammates were pushing me to get 40 and also try to get that 10th assist,” Quickley said. “Those were the most nervous free throws I ever took.”

Jabari Smith Jr. (14), Tari Eason (13), Josh Christopher (12), and Alperen Sengun (11) also scored in double figures for the Rockets.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Houston last won at Madison Square Garden 114-110 on Jan. 23, 2019, when James Harden scored a career high with 61 points. … The Rockets have lost seven straight games to the Knicks. … No Rocket player has played in every game this season. Jabari Smith leads with 73 appearances.

Knicks: New York played its first home game since the death of its former captain and Hall of Famer Willis Reed. The Knicks players wore #19 shirts during warm-ups and introductions. The acknowledgement also included a moment of silence and video tributes. … Randle and Isaiah Hartenstein are the only Knicks to play in all of the team’s games this season.

JUNIOR PROM

The Rockets don’t have many wins this season, posting the second-worst record in the NBA. However, they may lead the league in juniors: TyTy Washington Jr., Jabari Smith Jr., Kevin Porter Jr., and Kenyon Martin Jr. are all on the roster.

UP NEXT

Rockets: Houston visits Brooklyn on Wednesday.

Knicks: New York hosts Miami on Wednesday.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Luka Doncic powers Mavericks to 127-104 win over Pacers

3.7d ago 3/27/2023 10:05 PM ET By The Associated Press INDIANAPOLIS

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Luka Doncic finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists just hours after his most recent technical foul and one-game suspension were rescinded Monday by the NBA and led the Dallas Mavericks past the Indiana Pacers 127-104.

The Mavericks snapped a four-game losing streak and remained in contention in the race for one of the final two play-in spots in the Western Conference. Kyrie Irving added 16 points and six assists for Dallas.

Indiana was led by Bennedict Mathurin, who scored 22 points, and Andrew Nembhard, who had 17 points, five rebounds and five assists on a night the Pacers were missing three starters and a key backup. The Pacers have lost three straight and six of eight as they move closer to locking up a lottery pick.

Doncic had picked up his 16th technical that was rescinded on Sunday in the team’s second loss to Charlotte. The technical came with 7:51 remaining in the third quarter of a 110-104 loss when Doncic argued a no-call after missing a shot on a drive to the basket. Crew chief Kevin Scott said in a pool report after the game that Doncic used “a profanity directed at the officials in protest to a no-call that was correctly judged in postgame video review.”

TIMBERWOLVES 119, KINGS 115

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Jaden McDaniels scored 20 points and Minnesota spoiled Sacramento’s bid to clinch a playoff berth for the first time since 2006, the longest playoff drought in NBA history.

The Timberwolves won their fourth straight and completed a sweep of a back-to-back set at Golden State and Sacramento to tie the Warriors for sixth place in the Western Conference playoff race.

Naz Reid scored 18 points, Anthony Edwards had 17 and Rudy Gobert had 16 points and 16 rebounds in the win.

De’Aaron Fox scored 29 points and Domantas Sabonis added 24 points and 10 rebounds for Sacramento, which shot 5 of 26 from 3-point distance.

The Kings will look to clinch a playoff berth when they travel to Portland for two games, starting Wednesday.

CLIPPERS 124, BULLS 112

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Nicolas Batum got all of his season-high 24 points on eight 3-pointers, and Eric Gordon added 22 points as Los Angeles beat Chicago.

Kawhi Leonard scored 22 points as the Clippers rebounded from an embarrassing loss to New Orleans with 20 3-pointers in an impressive outside shooting display led by Batum.

Russell Westbrook had 12 points, 10 assists and five rebounds as Los Angeles (40-36) kept hold of fifth place in the Western Conference standings and moved a half-game behind fourth-place Phoenix.

Zach LaVine scored 23 points and Nikola Vucevic had 20 points and eight rebounds for the Bulls, who followed up their impressive win over the Lakers on Sunday with a dud.

NUGGETS 116, 76ERS 111

DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic recorded his 29th triple double of the season and Denver beat short-handed Philadelphia in a game Joel Embiid sat out with a sore right calf.

That scuttled the highly anticipated showdown between MVP front-runners that many felt could have decided whether Embiid, the runner-up the last two years, denies Jokic a third consecutive award. With Embiid in the locker room, Jokic scored 25 points, pulled down 17 rebounds and dished out 12 assists.

Tyrese Maxey scored 23 of his 29 points in the first half as the Sixers dropped their third straight.

PELICANS 124, TRAIL BLAZERS 90

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Brandon Ingram scored 29 points and New Orleans routed short-handed Portland.

CJ McCollum, who played nine seasons with the Blazers before he was traded to the Pelicans last season, added 17 points. Jonas Valanciunas finished with 10 points and 21 rebounds, and New Orleans led by as many as 36.

Keon Johnson had 20 points off the bench for the Blazers, who have lost nine of 10 and will, in all likelihood, miss the playoffs for the second straight season — although they have not been mathematically eliminated. Most of their regular starters were out with injuries, including top scorer Damian Lillard (right calf), Jerami Grant (bruised left quad), Jusuf Nurkic (right knee) and Anfernee Simons (right foot).

SUNS 117, JAZZ 103

SAT LAKE CITY (AP) — Devin Booker scored 24 points and Phoenix reserves sparked the decisive run in a win over Utah.

Deandre Ayton had 14 points after missing four games with a bruised hip. But a trio off the bench was pivotal for Phoenix: Terrence Ross had 13 points, Cameron Payne added 12 and Bismack Biyombo scored 11.

The Suns (40-35) had lost four in a row on the road. But with this victory they sit more securely in the fourth spot in the Western Conference playoff race — which would give them home-court advantage in the first round.

Lauri Markkanen scored 25 points for Utah, but shot 6 for 22. Walker Kessler had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Jazz (35-40), who have lost four straight. Kessler also matched a career high with seven blocks.

KNICKS 137, ROCKETS 115

NEW YORK (AP) — Immanuel Quickley scored a career-high 40 points and Julius Randle had 26 as New York snapped a three-game losing streak with a win over Houston.

RJ Barrett added 19 points, Obi Toppin had 15 and Quinten Grimes scored 14 for the Knicks.

Quickley connected on 14 of 18 shots from the field and added nine assists. He started in place of Jalen Brunson, who missed his second straight game with a bruised right hand.

Kevin Porter Jr. led the Rockets with 26 points. Jalen Green had 19 and Kenyon Martin Jr. added 18 as Houston dropped its sixth straight game.

BUCKS 126, PISTONS 117

DETROIT (AP) — Khris Middleton scored 34 points against the team that drafted him and Milwaukee beat Detroit without Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee improved to an NBA-best 54-21 despite the absences of Antetokounmpo (knee) and Jae Crowder (calf). Goran Dragic made his Bucks debut after signing with the team on March 4, but didn’t score in nine minutes.

Brook Lopez had 24 points and 14 rebounds, Bobby Portis added 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Jevon Carter scored 22.

The Pistons got 32 points, eight rebounds and eight assists from Jaden Ivey, but lost their sixth straight game and 17th of 18. They are 1-13 against Central Division opponents.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Middleton leads short-handed Bucks past decimated Pistons

3.7d ago 3/27/2023 9:55 PM ET By DAVE HOGG, Associated Press DETROIT

DETROIT (AP) — Khris Middleton scored a season-high 34 points against the team that drafted him, and the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Detroit Pistons 126-117 without Giannis Antetokounmpo on Monday night.

“With Giannis out, I knew I had to be aggressive,” said Middleton, who added eight rebounds and five assists. “I had to get to my spots and when I got there, I've either got to shoot or find the open man.”

Milwaukee improved to an NBA-best 54-21 despite the absences of Antetokounmpo (knee), Jrue Holiday (personal) and Jae Crowder (calf). Goran Dragic made his Bucks debut after signing with the team on March 4, but didn't score in nine minutes.

“Chris has looked really good since he came back from the injury,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “He's obviously going to be shooting it, but he's doing a lot of good things defensively right now.”

Brook Lopez had 24 points and 14 rebounds, Bobby Portis added 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Jevon Carter scored 22.

“I was really out there trying to crash the boards,” Portis said. “Even when you get blocked out, and I got blocked out a lot tonight, you might help free up someone else. It's just about playing with energy.”

The Pistons got a career-high 32 points, eight rebounds and eight assists from rookie Jaden Ivey, but lost their sixth straight game and 17th of 18. They are 1-13 against Central Division opponents.

“We know Jaden is going to be able to score the ball, but I'm happy with all the other things he's doing,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “He's growing as a player, especially on the defensive end.”

Detroit continued to use a roster that would fit in the Summer League, with Bojan Bogdanovic (achilles), Cade Cunningham (leg), Hamadou Diallo (ankle), Isaiah Stewart (shoulder) and Alec Burks (foot) all sidelined.

The Pistons were within 117-110 when Middleton missed a jumper with 2:09 to play. However, Lopez tipped in the rebound, and after Ivey missed a 3-pointer, Middleton's three-point play made it a 12-point game.

Milwaukee led 55-40 with three minutes left in the second quarter, but the Pistons narrowed the gap to 57-51 at halftime. Middleton had 17 points against his former team while Ivey scored 11 for Detroit.

The Bucks led 94-90 at the end of the third, but Joe Ingles was called for a technical foul between quarters and Cory Joseph hit the free throw to make it a three-point game.

The Bucks moved back in front 106-95, but Lopez missed the free throw on a possible three-point play with 8:43 to go. Detroit had several 3-pointers go in and out, and Carter hit a 3 to make it 111-97 with 6:48 left.

“They are a great team and they know what it takes to win a game like that,” Ivey said. “They were doing all the little things and we didn't.”

TIP-INS

Bucks: Middleton was selected by the Pistons in the second round (No. 39 overall) of the 2012 draft and played 27 games as a rookie. After the season, he was traded to Milwaukee along with Brandon Knight and Viacheslav Kravtsov for Brandon Jennings.

Pistons: Detroit plays five of its final seven games on the road. The team's only remaining home games are on back-to-back nights — April 4 against Miami and April 5 against Brooklyn. ... The Pistons lost all four games to Milwaukee this season.

CLEANING THE GLASS

Despite rotating three post players — Marvin Bagley III, Jalen Duren and James Wiseman — the Pistons were only successful on 69% of their defensive rebounding chances, marking the ninth time in 10 games they have been under 75%.

“We can't keep letting teams extend possessions,” Ivey said. “We've got to find a way to grab the defensive rebounds and turn them into transition points.”

UP NEXT

Bucks: Visit the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.

Pistons: Visit the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Mavericks end 4-game skid vs. Pacers to stay in playoff hunt

3.8d ago 3/27/2023 9:45 PM ET By MICHAEL MAROT, AP Sports Writer INDIANAPOLIS

Games: DAL@IND from 3/27/2023

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Luka Doncic started Monday hopeful he would play at Indiana.

A few hours later, NBA officials announced they had rescinded the All-Star’s most recent technical foul and the subsequent one-game suspension. Doncic responded to that news with the kind of dazzling performance the Dallas Mavericks desperately needed for their final playoff push.

He finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists, helping the Mavericks snap a four-game losing streak with a dominant 127-104 victory over the short-handed Indiana Pacers.

“That's what he does,” coach Jason Kidd said. “He's one of the best players in the league at finding guys and then he's able to catch and shoot — not just once but multiple times.”

The victory keeps Dallas within striking distance of the Los Angeles Lakers and Oklahoma City Thunder in the race for the final two play-in spots in the Western Conference.

Kyrie Irving added 16 points and six assists for Dallas.

Indiana was led by Bennedict Mathurin, who scored 22 points, and Andrew Nembhard, who had 17 points, five rebounds and five assists on a night the Pacers were missing three starters and a key backup.

Indiana has lost three straight and six of eight as they move closer to locking up a lottery pick. And they had no chance with Doncic working his magic.

“It's tough,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “Luka makes a couple of passes that were unbelievable, that only one player in the world can make.”

Dallas took control after a back-and-forth first quarter by starting the second on a 14-2 run to make it 43-29. The Mavericks led 59-47 at the half, extended the advantage to 77-56 midway through the third quarter and just kept pulling away.

Doncic had picked up his 16th technical that was rescinded on Sunday in the team's second loss to Charlotte. The technical came with 7:51 remaining in the third quarter of a 110-104 loss when Doncic argued a no-call after missing a shot on a drive to the basket.

Crew chief Kevin Scott said in a pool report after the game that Doncic used “a profanity directed at the officials in protest to a no-call that was correctly judged in postgame video review.”

TIP-INS

Mavericks: Rookie Jaden Hardy had 20 points as six players scored in double figures. ... Tim Hardaway Jr. finished with 13 points and Reggie Bullock had 11 and JaVale McGee added 10. ... The Mavericks completed the season series tied at 1-1 for the fifth consecutive season. They lost 124-122 on their home court in February.

Pacers: Jordan Nwora had 13 points and nine rebounds, while Isaiah Jackson had 12 rebounds. ... T.J. McConnell finished with 15 points, five rebounds and seven assists. ... When the Cleveland Cavaliers clinched a playoff spot Sunday, the Pacers secured the Cavs' first-round pick in this year's draft courtesy of last season's deal for Caris LeVert.

TECHNICALLY SPEAKING

Carlisle, Doncic's former coach in Dallas, said he wasn't surprised by the league's decision.

In fact, Carlisle thinks the league should rescind more technical calls. Perhaps that's because he already has a league-leading 11 among coaches this season.

“I don't know how many I have, I just know I've surpassed the five the team can pay for," he said. “It's kind of, you know, they're not cheap so if you're going to get them, you better get your money's worth.”

HIELD HELD OUT

Carlisle also said Buddy Hield missed his first game of the season with a non-COVID-19 illness.

It wasn't by choice. Team doctors told Carlisle that Hield could not play earlier Monday and the Pacers' top 3-point shooter wasn't even on the bench. Hield's 271 3-pointers this season rank second in the league, two behind Klay Thompson.

Indiana also played without All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton and starting center Myles Turner, who were listed as injury management, and backup guard Chris Duarte (sore left ankle).

UP NEXT

Mavericks: Make their third stop on a five-game trip Wednesday at Philadelphia.

Pacers: Host Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee on Wednesday.

___

AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports