Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James was a full participant in practice on Monday as he steps up his recovery from an ankle injury.

James returned from a six-week absence due to a right ankle sprain only to re-aggravate the injury after just two appearances for injury-hit NBA champions the Lakers.

The four-time MVP has since missed four straight games as the Lakers – seventh in the Western Conference – sit in the play-in positions in their playoff pursuit.

But James could reportedly return on Tuesday or Wednesday after Lakers head coach Frank Vogel provided an update following practice.

"He did participate in full practice. No update to his status tomorrow," Vogel told reporters on Monday. "General plan is to take it one day at a time. Nothing more than that."

Vogel added: "We did some drill work. We did some contrived scrimmages and we did a short, full scrimmage. And he did all of it."

James has been averaging 25.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game for the Lakers this season.

Through 43 games in 2020-21, James boasts a field-goal percentage of 51.3 – his best since 2017-18 and it is the same story regarding his three-point percentage of 36.6, which is his highest since that season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"What I've seen from LeBron today, he'll be fine. Trust me. He'll be fine," Lakers team-mate Anthony Davis said on Sunday, after inspiring a 123-110 win over the Phoenix Suns via 42 points and 12 rebounds.

"He's been in this game long enough. Obviously, he hasn't missed a ton of games, but he's been in this league long enough to be able to come back and lock in and do what he got to do to help the team.

"But I don't know what other teams are thinking. We know that we're confident against anybody we match up against, especially when we're fully healthy. That's our mindset.

"…We're going to come out and fight and I think teams know that just because we’re a lower seed we're not going to back down from anybody. We're going to come out and play Lakers basketball and I think teams know that and fear that as well."

Bradley Beal's hamstring injury will keep the Washington Wizards All-Star guard out for at least two matches.

Beal did the damage during a 133-132 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

The 27-year-old left the court in the third quarter with a hurt ankle but was able to return and complete a game he finished with 50 points.

Coach Scott Brooks revealed after the victory that Beal had strained his left hamstring and the Wizards confirmed ahead of Monday's clash with the Atlanta Hawks that he will be sidelined for a minimum of a couple of games.

Washington tweeted: "Bradley Beal has been diagnosed with a left hamstring strain following MRI testing conducted yesterday.

"He will miss the team's next two games before being re-evaluated on Friday."

The Wizards, number nine seed in the NBA Eastern Conference, will hope for positive news on Beal's fitness later this week as they battle for a play-in place.

Only Stephen Curry (31.9) has a better average that Beal's 31.1 points per game this season. Beal averages 4.7 rebounds in each match and 4.5 assists.

He has racked up at least 25 points in 71 of his past 82 games and has scored 40 or more on eight occasions this season.

The NBA is nearing the end of its regular season.

Soon the fight for playoff positioning will give way to the drama of the play-in round and the subsequent seven-game series that will decide the destination of the title.

In other words, it is time for the league's elite to find their best.

While several of those stars are hitting form at exactly the right time, there are others enduring worrying declines ahead of the postseason.

Here we examine the performances of those excelling going into the playoffs, and those who need to turn it around in this week's edition of Heat Check.

RUNNING HOT

Kyrie Irving - Brooklyn Nets

Irving went into last week having failed to score 30 points in three straight appearances, but he was back to his best over the past seven days.

Having previously averaged 26.7 points for the season, Irving put up 38 points per game across three outings last week, with a 45-point display against the Dallas Mavericks sandwiched by a 38-point effort in defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks and a 31-point showing versus the Denver Nuggets.

Only the game with the Nuggets ended in victory, but the Nets will be encouraged by Irving's form with the playoffs approaching. He was excellent from beyond the arc, hitting 5.67 threes per game having entered the week averaging 2.63.

Irving converted 17 of his 32 three-point attempts last week, a percentage of 53.1 that ranks 10th among players to have attempted at least 20 last week.

Russell Westbrook - Washington Wizards

Westbrook made history on Saturday as he tied Oscar Robertson's record for triple-doubles with the 181st of his career against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

The way in which his athleticism has translated to success on the boards has been key to Westbrook's successful pursuit of Hall of Famer Robertson.

And his rebounding was nothing short of incredible over the past seven days. Having entered the week averaging 11.16 rebounds, Westbrook racked up 17.25 per game across his last three games, culminating with 19 in his record-equalling display in an overtime win over Indiana.

He'll hope for more success on the glass against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday to take him past Robertson.

Stephen Curry - Golden State Warriors

The best shooter in the game had another stunning week from beyond the arc as he continues to fuel the Warriors' push towards the playoffs.

Curry's 5.2 made threes per game was already the gold standard in the NBA this season but he was even more devastating from deep in four games last week.

Indeed, Curry averaged 8.25 threes per game, with that jump fuelled largely by him hitting 11 on Saturday as he scored 49 points in 29 minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

As long as he continues his excellent form, the Warriors should have a great chance of coming through the play-in round and making it to the postseason.

GOING COLD...

Andre Drummond - Los Angeles Lakers

It was a rough week for Lakers big Drummond, who endured the largest drop-off in the NBA in both points and rebounds per game.

Drummond entered last week putting up 15.89 points per game but saw his average over four games dip to 5.75.

He failed to score double-digit points in any of those outings and was similarly ineffective on the boards.

His rebounds per game dipped from 12.37 to 6.25, Drummond having started the week by failing to record a single rebound in a game for only the third time in his career in a win over the Nuggets.

Luka Doncic - Dallas Mavericks

It is pleasing for the Mavs that they can win without Doncic delivering his best every night, as they did not get it last week.

Doncic was far from terrible, as he topped 20 points in three of his four outings, but he saw his points per game average drop from 28.64 entering the week to 21.50 in those appearances.

The Mavs won each of those contests, with Doncic contributing double-doubles in two, though he had an underwhelming 15-point game to end the week against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

So, while he may be 'going cold' relative to his usual standard in scoring, Doncic is finding ways to help Dallas build momentum ahead of the playoffs.

Kawhi Leonard - Los Angeles Clippers

Leonard has been bothered by injury issues in recent weeks, with his best form eluding the two-time NBA Finals MVP.

For the season, Leonard was averaging 25.51 points per game going into the last week, but could only manage to put up 19 over the course of three games in the past seven days.

And that average was inflated by a 29-point effort in the Clippers' loss to the New York Knicks on Sunday.

Prior to that return to something like normal service, Leonard had failed to score 20 points in each of his last four games.

Even his effort against the Knicks came on an inefficient shooting performance where he went nine for 26, indicating Leonard is some way off the standard he will need for the Clippers to contend in the playoffs.

Anthony Davis joked he is feeling "20 per cent" his old self after posting a season-high points tally to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to victory over the high-flying Phoenix Suns.

Davis was playing his 10th game since recovering from a strained Achilles and calf injury that kept him out for more than two months.

He posted 42 points and 12 rebounds, as well as five assists, three steals and three blocks as the Lakers beat their Western Conference rivals 123-110 in Los Angeles on Sunday.

It is the seventh time in Davis' career that he has managed 40 points, three blocks and three steals in a game. The only player to have more such games over the past 35 years is the great Michael Jordan (14).

The Lakers are now within a game of the sixth seed in the west, which guarantees a postseason berth, and Davis feels he is slowly getting back to his best.

"I'm at 20 per cent my old self!" the 28-year-old said. "I'm kidding. I'm feeling good. I'm getting my legs and my rhythm back, getting my steps back on both ends of the floor.

"I feel good. I'm getting better each game, getting my wind back each game.

"My legs are not as heavy during games. All the shots I'm taking, I'm not using all of my legs. My legs are feeling good again – that's important."

The Lakers were without LeBron James against the Suns for a fourth straight game due to a troublesome ankle injury.

Head coach Frank Vogel will not rush the four-time NBA champion back for the remainder of the regular season, with a decision to be made ahead of each remaining game. 

"Our position doesn't affect LeBron's timeline," Vogel said. "Bron's going to try to get in there as much as he can to get a rhythm without agitating the ankle. 

"I don't think how Anthony's playing or how our seeding situation looks like is going to change LeBron's timeline."

However, Davis expects James to be fit and ready for the postseason whether he plays before then or not.

"What I've seen from LeBron today, he'll be fine," Davis said. "Trust me. He'll be fine."

Anthony Davis went off for a dominant double-double as embattled NBA champions the Los Angeles Lakers upstaged the high-flying Phoenix Suns 123-110.

Eyeing back-to-back titles this season, the Lakers have instead been left battling to reach the playoffs due to injuries, which have derailed their campaign – superstar LeBron James (ankle) is sidelined while Davis already missed a large portion of the campaign.

But the Lakers issued a reminder of their quality as Davis posted 42 points and 12 rebounds to stun Western Conference rivals the Suns in Los Angeles on Sunday.

Davis also had five assists, three steals and three blocks to help the Lakers – currently seventh and in the play-in position – move back within a game of the sixth seed in the west, which guarantees a postseason berth.

It marked the seventh time in Davis' career that he had 40 points, three blocks and three steals in a game. According to Stats Perform, in the last 35 years, the only player to have more such games is Hall of Famer Michael Jordan (14).

Cameron Payne (24 points), Devin Booker (21 points) and Chris Paul (13 points and 10 assists) led the beaten Suns.

 

Rozier not enough as Lonzo wins Ball battle, Knicks snap Staples skid

A career-high 43 points from Terry Rozier was not enough as the Charlotte Hornets went down 112-110 to the New Orleans Pelicans. Eric Bledsoe's 24 points and 11 assists fuelled the shorthanded Pelicans, who kept their play-in hopes alive in the absence of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram. In a battle between the Ball brothers, Hornets rookie sensation LaMelo had 22 points and five assists, while New Orleans' Lonzo finished with 12 points and six assists.

The New York Knicks ended a run of eight consecutive losses at Staples Center, where they upstaged the Los Angeles Clippers 106-100. Derrick Rose scored 25 points off the bench for the Knicks.

Jimmy Butler's 26 points and 11 assists inspired the Miami Heat's 130-124 victory at the Boston Celtics. Fellow starters Duncan Robinson (22 points), Bam Adebayo (20 points), Trevor Ariza (19 points) and Kendrick Nunn (12 points) also contributed. Evan Fournier (30 points) and Jayson Tatum (29 points) starred for the Celtics.

 

Doncic ejected in Mavs win

Luka Doncic's outing did not go according to plan. While the Dallas Mavericks went on to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 124-97, Doncic (15 points) was ejected early in the third period. The Mavericks star received a flagrant-two foul for striking Collin Sexton in the groin area. Mavericks team-mate Dorian Finney-Smith, meanwhile, was two-for-10 shooting – missing all six of his three-point attempts – for four points in 22 minutes.

The Orlando Magic were humbled 128-96 by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Orlando struggled from three-point range, making just nine of their 36 attempts (25 per cent).

Paul George put up 18 points for the Clippers but he was far from efficient. In 41 minutes of action, the Clippers star was eight-for-20 shooting, while he nailed just two of his nine efforts from beyond the arc. Team-mate Marcus Morris Sr. (seven points) was two-for-nine shooting, having missed all three of his three-pointers.

 

Green with authority!

Javonte Green went flying against the Detroit Pistons. In the second quarter of the Chicago Bulls' 108-96 victory, Green knocked down a thunderous slam.

 

 

Sunday's results

Miami Heat 130-124 Boston Celtics
New York Knicks 106-100 Los Angeles Clippers
New Orleans Pelicans 112-110 Charlotte Hornets
Dallas Mavericks 124-97 Cleveland Cavaliers
Minnesota Timberwolves 128-96 Orlando Magic
Chicago Bulls 108-96 Detroit Pistons
Sacramento Kings 126-98 Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Lakers 123-110 Phoenix Suns

 

Jazz at Warriors

The NBA-leading Utah Jazz (50-18) – riding a five-game winning streak – face Stephen Curry's Golden State Warriors (35-33) on the road on Monday. The Jazz top the west, while the Warriors are eighth and set to feature in the play-in tournament ahead of the playoffs.

Perhaps the most incredible aspect of Stephen Curry's enduring brilliance is that nobody is surprised by it, not least Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr.

Kerr had the best seat in the house at Chase Center as Curry produced another remarkable showcase of his unparalleled shooting ability in the Warriors' 136-97 rout of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.

It was a deluge of points from Curry, who scored 49 points in just 29 minutes, responding magnificently to the 50 points scored by Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal, with whom he is engaged in battle for the NBA scoring title. 

Twenty-four of those points came in the first quarter and he tallied 22 in the third, marking the eighth time this season he has scored at least 20 in a quarter.

Curry went 14 of 26 from the field and 11 of 21 from the three-point line. It was the seventh game of the season in which Curry has made double-digit three-pointers. He has achieved that feat 22 times in his career and five times in his last 15 games.

He is averaging a league-high 31.9 points per game and has racked up at least 30 in 19 of the last 21 games.

"It seems like he's just always spectacular these days," Kerr said. "And tonight, he topped it. Really spectacular.

"When he got going in the third, we had about 4,000 fans in the stands and you could just hear every one of them in anticipation of the ball going in the hoop.

"It's just amazing. The skill level is matched by his confidence level, and magical things happen."

For all his incredible feats this season, Curry is not the favourite to win what would be a third MVP, with Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets still seen as the frontrunner.

Asked if he believes Curry is the MVP, Kerr left no room for doubt.

"Of course, I do," Kerr replied. "I get to watch this show every single night and I have just so much admiration for what Steph does every single night not only on the floor but the way he carries himself and the way he is an example for all of his team-mates."

Curry was a touch more reserved about his stunning run of form.

"It's been a great run, obviously, trying to continue it," he said.

"Nights like tonight when you want to get off to a good start knowing we should win this game, and they were going to come out and try to give themselves some life early, we wanted to take that away.

"Offensively, just trying to create any type of space. When you see the first two [three-pointers] go down, you start to find another level of confidence even to start the game and try to create an avalanche from there."

The Warriors will likely need a few more of those avalanches to secure the eighth seed in the play-in tournament for the playoffs. They are a game ahead of the ninth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, but face the top two seeds in the Western Conference, the Utah Jazz and the Phoenix Suns, on Monday and Tuesday.

They then take on the New Orleans Pelicans before rounding out the regular season against the Grizzlies on May 16.

Russell Westbrook thanked Oscar Robertson for setting the stage after he tied the NBA legend's record for career triple-doubles on Saturday.

Westbrook recorded his 181st triple-double to help the Wizards to a 133-132 win over the Indiana Pacers, tallying 33 points, 19 rebounds and 15 assists.

He hit two clutch free throws to give the Wizards the lead with a second left in overtime and then clinched the win with a stunning block of Caris LeVert's last-ditch three-point attempt.

In his first season with the Wizards, Westbrook has racked up 35 triple-doubles, 14 of which came last month. The record holder for most in a season with 42 in 2016-17, Westbrook (22 pts, 11.6 rebounds and 11.5 assists) will average a triple-double in a season for the fourth time in his career.

Westbrook will look to claim the outright record for triple-doubles, which Robertson has owned since 1961-62 when he became the first to average a triple-double across a single campaign, as the Wizards visit the Atlanta Hawks on Monday.

"I'm so grateful, thankful and blessed," Westbrook said. "I take a lot of pride in doing everything to impact winning as much as I can and leave it on the floor.

"To be in the conversation with Oscar, for one, I want to thank him because he set the stage and sacrificed a lot of things for us to be able to go out and play.

"The times he played in and the things he was able to do back in the day has allowed me to be able to do the things I want to do today.

"I am just grateful for him, his words and appreciative of his support as well."

"You got to want it more than the other player," Westbrook added of the approach he takes to rebounding. "You can kind of go through the motions and kind of let the game take control of you or you can take control of the game.

"I always try to find ways to impact and help us and do anything I can to help us win.

"I want to make sure I leave everything I have on the floor. And when I am all said and done, I can look back and nobody can ever say that I didn't compete at the highest level or cheated the game. I can go out and compete every night and that is all I can do each and every day."

Team-mate Bradley Beal scored 50 points for the Wizards before leaving the game with a hamstring issue.

"We were part of Russ' historical night tonight," Beal said. "That kind of takes the cake on everything. From the history of the game to the evolution of the game to where we are now, Russ is one of the best players to ever pick up a basketball.

"To do that on a nightly basis, it is very tough to do. I think people kind of [give him] side-eye... or whatever the case may be. But you try going out there doing it every single night... And this is Russ' fourth time [averaging a triple-double]? That just speaks volumes."

The red-hot Philadelphia 76ers extended their winning streak to eight games after topping the Detroit Pistons 118-104, while Eastern Conference rivals the Brooklyn Nets snapped their skid.

MVP hopeful Joel Embiid posted 29 points for the 76ers, who took another step towards clinching the Eastern Conference and top seed ahead of the NBA playoffs on Saturday.

In the absence of Ben Simmons and Seth Curry, rookie Tyrese Maxey added 22 points and Dwight Howard (19 points and 14 rebounds) moved up to 10th on the all-time double-doubles list with his 743rd.

The 76ers improved to 47-21 for the season and moved three games clear of the Nets (44-24), who returned to winning ways by upstaging the Denver Nuggets 125-119.

Kevin Durant was nine-for-14 shooting for 33 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks as the rallying Nets ended their four-game losing streak to reclaim second spot ahead of the idle Milwaukee Bucks.

Nets team-mate Kyrie Irving added 31 points of his own, while MVP candidate and Nuggets star Nikola Jokic put up 29 points, seven rebounds and six assists at home.

 

Westbrook matches Hall of Famer

Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook equalled Oscar Robertson's record after posting his 181st career triple-double. Westbrook moved level with the Hall of Famer thanks to his 33 points, 19 rebounds and 15 assists in a 133-132 overtime win against the Indiana Pacers. The former MVP became the first player in NBA history to record back-to-back games with 15-plus rebounds and 15-plus assists. Team-mate Bradley Beal had 50 points before a hamstring injury forced him to sit out OT. A Domantas Sabonis triple-double (30 points, 13 rebounds and 13 assists) and Caris LeVert's double-double of 35 points and 14 rebounds were not enough for the Pacers.

The NBA-leading Utah Jazz reached 50 victories for the season behind Georges Niang's joint-career high 24 points in a 124-116 win at home to the lowly Houston Rockets.

Damian Lillard's game-high 30 points fuelled the Portland Trail Blazers' 124-102 victory against the San Antonio Spurs.

Jonas Valanciunas dominated with his 47th double-double of the season – 18 points and 21 rebounds – in the Memphis Grizzlies' 109-99 triumph over the Toronto Raptors.

 

Ellington struggles in Philly

Pistons veteran Wayne Ellington was one-for-seven shooting, while making just one of his six three-pointers for three points in 24 minutes.

 

The three-point king!

Stephen Curry put on a show in three quarters of action as the Golden State Warriors crushed the Oklahoma City Thunder 136-97. Curry posted 49 points in 29 minutes, matching his season best with 11 three-pointers, including a deep attempt from beyond the arc in the third period. Curry had his 10th 40-point game of the season and 48th of his career. His performance also marked the fourth time he has posted multiple 20-point quarters in the same game, and the first time since 2018.

 

 

Saturday's results

Washington Wizards 133-132 Indiana Pacers (OT)
Philadelphia 76ers 118-104 Detroit Pistons
Memphis Grizzlies 109-99 Toronto Raptors
Utah Jazz 124-116 Houston Rockets
Golden State Warriors 136-97 Oklahoma City Thunder
Portland Trail Blazers 124-102 San Antonio Spurs
Brooklyn Nets 125-119 Denver Nuggets

 

Suns at Lakers

The high-flying Phoenix Suns (48-19) will be looking to sizzle against struggling defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers (37-30) on Sunday. The Suns are second in the west, while the Lakers are seventh and on track to feature in the play-in tournament.

Russell Westbrook equalled Oscar Robertson's NBA record after posting his 181st career triple-double.

Westbrook moved level with Hall of Famer Robertson thanks to his latest triple-double for the Washington Wizards on Saturday.

Former MVP Westbrook tied Robertson with an assist to star team-mate Bradley Beal in the third quarter of the matchup against the Indiana Pacers.

Westbrook has been averaging 21.8 points, a career-best 11.4 rebounds and career-best 11.4 assists per game in 2020-21 – the fourth season in his career that he has averaged a triple-double.

Entering Saturday's game, Westbrook has been leading the league in assists per game, total assists (685) and assist rate (48.0).

The Milwaukee Bucks drew even with the Brooklyn Nets for second place in the NBA's Eastern Conference on Friday, but Giannis Antetokounmpo said the team is not focused on its potential playoff seeding. 

Milwaukee's 141-133 win over the Houston Rockets moved them into second for the first time since March 24-25, the only time in nearly three months that the Nets and Philadelphia 76ers have not held the top two spots in the east. 

The Greek superstar was not aware of Milwaukee's position until informed by a reporter after the win but insisted the move up was not important to the team. 

"I don't care about second -- it does not matter," Antetokounmpo said. 

"All that matters right now is building good habits and playing good basketball. 

"And guys are playing great. Brook [Lopez] was unbelieveable today." 

Lopez had a nearly flawless shooting night in the win, going seven of eight from the field and nine of 10 from the free-throw line for 24 points in 24 minutes. The veteran center's one miss from the field was a three-point attempt. 

Khris Middleton had 23 points, Jrue Holiday added 20 and Antetokounmpo put up 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists against Houston.

While seeding could play a factor, the Bucks know it isn't everything. They finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference the past two seasons but have not reached the NBA Finals since 1974. 

Antetokounmpo is most excited that several team-mates seem to be in a groove as the playoffs near. 

"That's all I care about, is seeing my team-mates playing the right way, enjoying the game, being in the right place, playing confident," he said. 

"Everything else will take care of itself. If we finish the season first, great, that was meant to be. If we don't, it wasn't meant to be."

 

Bojan Bogdanovic had a career night, scoring 48 points to help the Utah Jazz maintain their hold on the top spot in the Western Conference with a 127-120 win over the Denver Nuggets. 

In making 16 of 23 shots from the field, including eight of 11 three-point tries, Bogdanovic became the first player in Jazz history with at least 45 points and eight three-pointers in a game. His previous career high of 44 points came five years ago when he was with the Brooklyn Nets. 

The Jazz needed all the offense they could get from Bogdanovic, who was averaging 16.3 points per game, on a day when they learned top scorer Donovan Mitchell will miss at least one more week with an ankle injury. 

Jordan Clarkson added 21 points and eight assists off the bench for Utah, who improved to 49-18 with five games to play, while Nicola Jokic had 24 points, 13 assists and nine rebounds for Denver. 

Utah's rivals for the top spot in the west, the Phoenix Suns, kept pace at one game back with a 128-105 comeback win over the New York Knicks. Phoenix trailed by 10 early in the third quarter before outscoring the visitors 72-39 the rest of the way. 

Deandre Ayton had 26 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Suns (48-19), who also got 17 points and 11 assists from Chris Paul, while Julius Randle led the Knicks (37-30) with 24 points and 11 rebounds. 

 

Doncic crosses 5,000 points in Mavericks win

Luka Doncic became the fourth-youngest player in NBA history to reach 5,000 points, scoring 24 to lead the Dallas Mavericks past the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-90. Doncic hit the milestone at 22 years, 68 days old. Only LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony were younger when they reached 5,000 points. The win was the 833rd of Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle's career, moving him into 15th place all-time. 

Joel Embiid had his way inside against the New Orleans Pelicans, scoring 37 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a 109-107 Philadelphia 76ers win as Zion Williamson missed the game through injury. Ben Simmons added 10 assists for Philadelphia (46-21), the 10th time in 54 appearances this season he has reached double-digit assists. 

The Milwaukee Bucks (43-24) used a balanced attack to put away the Houston Rockets 141-133, as Brook Lopez scored 24, Khris Middleton had 23, Jrue Holiday added 20 and Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. 

Nikola Vucevic posted a triple-double with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists as the Chicago Bulls defeated the Boston Celtics 121-99 to keep alive their slim hopes of reaching the play-in tournament. Zach LaVine and Coby White had 25 points each to lead the scoring for Chicago (28-39), while Kemba Walker had 33 for the Celtics (35-32). 

 

Davis one-man show in Lakers loss

Anthony Davis showed no ill effects from the back spasms that forced him to leave Thursday's game in the first quarter, scoring 36 points and grabbing 12 rebounds Friday, but he did not get much help as the Los Angeles Lakers fell 106-101 to the Portland Trail Blazers. Besides Davis, only Alex Caruso (18) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (17) reached double digits on the scoresheet. 

A night after scoring 25, Kyle Kuzma had just four points for Los Angeles on two of 11 shooting, missing all six of his three-point attempts.

 

Martin leaves Brook Lopez shook

KJ Martin led the Houston Rockets with 26 points as they hung with the heavily favored Milwaukee Bucks in a 141-133 loss, highlighted by this aerial duel against Brook Lopez. 

 

Friday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 109-107 New Orleans Pelicans
Chicago Bulls 121-99 Boston Celtics
Charlotte Hornets 122-112 Orlando Magic
Miami Heat 121-112 Minnesota Timberwolves
Milwaukee Bucks 141-133 Houston Rockets
Dallas Mavericks 110-90 Cleveland Cavaliers
Utah Jazz 127-120 Denver Nuggets
Phoenix Suns 128-105 New York Knicks
Portland Trail Blazers 106-101 Los Angeles Lakers
San Antonio Spurs 113-104 Sacramento Kings

 

Spurs at Trail Blazers

In a key game for both teams, the San Antonio Spurs (32-34) are trying to hold on to a play-in tournament spot while the Portland Trail Blazers (38-29) are hoping to avoid it altogether by finishing in the top six. 

Donovan Mitchell will miss at least another week as he recovers from an ankle injury, making it unlikely he will return before the NBA playoffs. 

The Utah Jazz guard has been sidelined since spraining his ankle on April 16 against the Indiana Pacers. 

The Jazz said he was examined by the team's medical staff Friday and "continues to make progress toward a return" but will be re-evaluated in another week. 

Utah finish their regular season May 16, so a return for the playoffs appears the likely scenario for Mitchell. 

In the meantime, the Jazz (48-18) will attempt to hold off the Phoenix Suns (47-19) for the top seed in the Western Conference. 

A two-time All-Star, Mitchell is Utah's leading scorer by a wide margin at a career-best 26.4 points per game. 

Entering Friday's game against the Denver Nuggets, the Jazz had gone 6-4 in his absence. 

Their focus will be on ensuring Mitchell is healthy for the playoffs. He was spectacular in last season's seven-game first-round defeat to the Nuggets, averaging 36.3 points per game. 

 

Zion Williamson has been ruled out indefinitely with a fractured finger, further denting the New Orleans Pelicans' slim playoff hopes.

The 2019 first overall draft pick was limited to just 24 games in his debut season with a meniscus tear but has been outstanding this year.

Williamson's 27.0 points per game on 61.1 per cent shooting from the field – the best mark of any player averaging 15 points or more – have kept the Pelicans in the postseason mix.

New Orleans are 11th in the Western Conference but sit just 1.5 games behind the slumping San Antonio Spurs, who occupy the final play-in place in 10th.

However, they now look set to be without their talisman for the final six games of the season.

A Pelicans statement on Friday read: "The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that forward Zion Williamson underwent a series of diagnostic testing at Ochsner Health yesterday prior to the team's departure to Philadelphia.

"A CT scan revealed a fractured left ring finger. He will be sidelined indefinitely.

"A treatment plan and timetable for his return to play will be determined upon further evaluation."

Brandon Ingram, the team's second star scoring 23.8 points, had already been ruled out of Friday's game against the Philadelphia 76ers with a low ankle sprain.

The forward was injured in New Orleans' win over the Golden State Warriors in which Lonzo Ball led the team with 33 points.

However, that was a career high and Ball is averaging a more modest 14.6 for the year.

Russell Westbrook insisted he does not take basketball for granted after he edged closer to setting a new NBA benchmark in the Washington Wizards' overtime win against the Toronto Raptors.

With 13 points, 17 rebounds and 17 assists in the 131-129 triumph, Westbrook posted his 180th career triple-double in the NBA.

That is just one shy of tying the all-time record set by Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson, while he became the first player with three consecutive 17-plus assist games since Steve Nash in 2007.

"It's a blessing, I don't take this game for granted, I don't take this opportunity to go out and compete for granted," Westbrook said.

"I want to be the best at what I do. That's basically it."

The Wizards are now 31-36 for the season and sit 10th in the Eastern Conference, with a four-game buffer to the Chicago Bulls making them near certainties to feature in the play-in tournament and fight for the right for a playoff spot.

Over the past 10 matches, Washington have gone 7-3 and Westbrook praised the team for upping their game.

"It's good man," he added.

"That's why collectively in the past month or so we've been playing better because everybody on the team has been doing a great job of locking in and stepping up when we need it the most."

Westbrook, though, did note his concern at the scheduling this season with Thursday's game – which took place in Florida – coming just 24 hours after the Wizards played the Milwaukee Bucks in Wisconsin.

The coronavirus pandemic means teams are playing a 72-game regular season but in a shorter period, with this occasion marking the 17th time in 2020-21 the Wizards have gone back-to-back.

"It's just very unfortunate that the way the schedule is – we got to get up in the morning for tests at 8am, we get in at 4am, 4.30am, don't get a chance to sleep, we've got to eat, get ready to get back on the bus and get ready to come back to play the game," he added.

"As much as we love to play, it's good to play, our health and our body is important, too. 

"I'm not too happy about the way we made this back-to-back. But we got through it and we move on. 

"Hopefully, in seasons to come they do a better job of scheduling and taking those things into consideration. Especially flying from Milwaukee all the way to Tampa."

Anthony Davis left the Los Angeles Lakers' defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers with back spasms but expects to return to the lineup Friday. 

Davis played only nine minutes before departing in the 118-94 loss to the Clippers in the first quarter on Thursday. 

While he appeared to have twisted his ankle before heading to the locker room, Davis told reporters afterward the ankle was fine and his back improved quickly after getting treatment. 

"It feels better now that I got some work done and I should be able to go tomorrow," he said. 

The Lakers will need him in Friday's showdown with the Portland Trail Blazers as the two teams share identical 37-29 records with the sixth seed in the Western Conference in the balance. 

"Tomorrow's probably the biggest game left of these games," Davis told reporters.

Head coach Frank Vogel already has ruled LeBron James out for the Blazers match-up as he continues to recover from a high ankle sprain. 

Davis missed more than two months with a calf strain and Achilles tendinosis in his right leg and has made eight appearances since returning. 

He scored four points on two-for-nine shooting in his limited action Thursday. 

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