MVP candidate Joel Embiid says the Philadelphia 76ers put in a much better effort as they defeated the Toronto Raptors 132-97 and advanced to second round of the playoffs on Thursday.

Despite playing with an injured thumb, Embiid was dominant as the Sixers took out Game 6, putting up 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting from the floor and nine-of-10 from the free-throw line, as well as adding 10 rebounds and three blocks.

The Sixers looked vulnerable after dropping two opportunities to clinch the series in Games 4 and 5, and with one possession in it on Toronto's home floor on Thursday, that feeling intensified.

Doc Rivers' side took over in the third quarter however, outscoring the Raps 37-17, with Embiid providing particular energy and coming up with two timely steals.

“We had a great practice yesterday and we needed that,” Embiid said post-game. “It was a blessing in disguise to lose those two games, because that wasn’t us.

"We didn’t play the way we wanted to. We were extremely sloppy. Tonight we wanted to come in here and play with more intensity.

"Especially me. I was really bad last game, defensively. I wanted to play with a lot of energy and be physical.”

Tyrese Maxey was dominant on the scoring end as the Sixers blew out the game and secured the series, putting up 15 of his 25 points in that third quarter.

The 21-year-old guard said post-game that Embiid provided inspiration.

“Whether we get hit in the mouth we get back up and keep fighting, and that’s what we did tonight,” Maxey said.

“Joel [Embiid] told me on the plane on the way up here, ‘We lose if we don’t be aggressive’, and that’s what I tried to do.”

Philadelphia will now face the Miami Heat for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Phoenix Suns booked their spot in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs, securing the series with a 115-109 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Devin Booker's return from injury gave Chris Paul more room to attack, and Paul obliged with the best shooting night in NBA playoff history.

He went a perfect 14-of-14 from the floor on the way to a game-high 33 points, making the most field goals without a miss in a single playoff game.

The Suns did not have it easy though, with Booker's three-pointer putting the Suns ahead at 106-104 with 1:42 remaining. A CJ McCollum turnover on the next possession effectively secured the Suns the series.

The Pels were up 10 at the half, but foul trouble for McCollum, Herbert Jones and Jose Alvarado made lineups and finding consequent balance complicated for first-year head coach Willie Green.

Sixers snap up Raptors

The Philadelphia 76ers will face the Miami Heat in the second round after they defeated the Toronto Raptors 132-97 in Game 6 of their series.

Joel Embiid and James Harden ultimately stepped up when required, combining for 55 points off 19-of-30 shooting. Embiid added 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals while Harden masterfully distributed the ball with 15 assists and committed just three turnovers.

The Raptors had a brutal third quarter with their season on the line, going five-of-19 from the floor for 17 points, before Pascal Siakam eventually fouled out with 24 points.

Jazz miss chance to extend season

The Utah Jazz were eliminated from the playoffs, with the Dallas Mavericks winning Game 6 98-96 and progressing to the second round.

With 4.3 seconds remaining on the clock, Bojan Bogdanovic got the ideal look to win the game from a drawn-up play off an inbound. Spencer Dinwiddie scrambled and bought the initial pump-fake, but Bogdanovic could not convert the open look, ending the Jazz's season.

Luka Doncic was everywhere for the Mavs however, coming up with 24 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, as well as two steals and blocks.

Reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic is set to commit to the Denver Nuggets with a supermax extension, "if the offer is on the table".

Jokic, who could be named the league's best player for a second season running, saw his season ended on Wednesday with the Nuggets' 4-1 first-round playoff exit to the Golden State Warriors.

The center only has a single year remaining on his existing deal but appears open to extending his stay in Denver.

According to ESPN, Jokic is eligible for a five-year, $254million deal.

"I would like it, of course," he said after Game 5 against the Warriors. "But it's not something that I'm deciding.

"I think if the offer is on the table, of course I'm going to accept it, because I really like the organisation, I really like the people who work here.

"I'm in a really good relationship with everybody from owner to equipment manager."

Jokic described a second potential MVP win as "a great thing, of course" but added: "If I don't get it, I'm not going to die."

Individual recognition has not been the issue for the Serbian on the Nuggets, with the team instead falling short in the playoffs – albeit this year chiefly due to injury issues.

Jamal Murray missed the entire season following an ACL tear prior to the 2020-21 postseason, while Michael Porter Jr. was limited to nine games.

"We don't know what we can do because we were not healthy," Jokic said. "Do we have some talent? Yes. Can we do something? Probably."

Steph Curry has gone all the way to an NBA championship three times, but merely to clear the first hurdle in the playoffs this time came as a huge relief to the Golden State Warriors superstar.

After two years of failing to reach the postseason, Golden State are back and in the hunt, through to the second round after a 4-1 series win over the Denver Nuggets, sealed by a 102-98 win in Game 5 on Wednesday.

Curry's 30 points, five rebounds and five assists helped the Warriors counter the monumental threat posed by Denver's Nikola Jokic, who also scored 30 points and managed 19 rebounds and eight assists.

It was a first start for Curry since he was eased back from a foot injury, and the Warriors now await the winner of the first-round tussle between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Minnesota Timberwolves, with the Grizzlies leading 3-2.

After championships in 2015, 2017 and 2018, the Warriors were beaten in the NBA Finals in 2019 and then endured two taxing seasons.

To be winning again in the playoffs gave Curry obvious satisfaction.

"It means a lot. I never take it for granted," he said. "We understand we hopefully have a lot left to do, but getting to the playoffs and getting through a series and winning four games against a good team, it's hard.

"Every team wants to be in this position at the end of the year. For me, Draymond [Green], Klay [Thompson], [Kevon] Looney, we've all been there before and love the competition and the environment.

"Tonight was just a weird feeling, because we hadn't been there in a while and wanted it so bad and kind of made it a lot more difficult for ourselves, but we still remembered how to do it which was a good feeling."

The Warriors had to reel in a Nuggets side who threatened to take the series to a sixth game.

Curry said: "They had a lot of life in that third quarter, and it was a good reminder of how hard it is to win a playoff game, and how hard it is to close a team out, and just dealing with the nerves of it all because it matters so much. We wanted it so much, it kind of got in our own way a little bit.

"The fourth quarter was just about trying to find a way to get it done, get enough stops to speed up the game, put some pressure on them, and we were able to do that.

"Everyone contributed, so it was a fun way to finish the game. It was not exactly how you would draw it up, but a playoff type of environment where can you get the win and get out of here."

Mike Budenholzer says the Milwaukee Bucks showed their strength in depth by reaching the Eastern Conference playoff semi-finals without Khris Middleton.

The defending champions beat the injury-hit Chicago Bulls 116-100 in Game 5 at Fiserv Forum on Wednesday to advance from the first round of the postseason.

Middleton sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during the fourth quarter of Game 2, but the Bucks proved they could cope without the All-Star.

Budenholzer confirmed Middleton will miss the start of the playoff semi-final series against the Boston Celtics.

But the Milwaukee head coach is confident other players can continue to step up in his absence.

"We've been talking about the depth of the roster, the quality of the roster, a lot this season," Budenholzer said.

"Other guys have gotten opportunities and played well. Our defense has tightened up, and we've leaned hard on that these three games. We've got depth. We've got a good group.

"We miss Khris; I don't think anybody underestimates how important and how effective he is for us. While we don't have him, we've got to be our best all up and down the roster."

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo played a big hand as the Bucks ended the Bulls' season, putting up 33 points and nine rebounds in Game 5.

The two-time MVP said being "desperate" to get the job done in the absence of Middleton was vital.

"After Game 2, the team knew what the deal was," Antetokounmpo said. "We knew what we had to do, we had to be desperate.

"We had to go out there and compete at a high level. Pay attention to detail as much as possible. Help one another defensively. We've got to do it as a team. It's not a one-man show or two-man show.

"Now we're going to a different series, playing a different team, a very, very good team, and hopefully we can do it again."

Denver Nuggets head coach Mike Malone says Nikola Jokic deserves to win the Most Valuable Player award this season, despite the team's playoff elimination at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

The Nuggets' season ended following a 102-98 loss at Chase Center on Wednesday, handing the Warriors a 4-1 series victory.

Without the injured Jamal Murray, Jokic has had to take on a much heavier burden, and he finished Wednesday with 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting, 19 rebounds, eight assists and two blocks.

After the loss, Malone stood up for his All-Star big man and stated his case to retain the MVP award.

"Going into the game, his hamstring was a little tight," Malone said. "I'm sure he was fatigued mentally, physically and emotionally, but he fights through it.

"That guy is a warrior. I just don't understand the people that find a way to criticise Nikola Jokic. Is he perfect? No, I'm not saying he is.

"But the guy is the definition of a warrior. He's competitive, consistent, and he impacts the game in so many ways. Hell of a season, and hopefully he'll win the MVP again, because I think rightfully he deserves it."

It was always going to be a tough series against a Warriors side finding form heading into the playoffs, but the undermanned Nuggets managed to make it difficult.

Extending their season and taking out Game 4 when faced with a sweep, Malone's side held an eight-point lead after the third quarter in Wednesday night's game, but the Warriors simply found another gear.

How the Nuggets stayed competitive with the odds stacked against them provided some kind of solace for the 50-year-old coach.

"Incredibly proud, I really am," Malone said. "When you lose a series 4-1, it's hard to find that silver lining. We didn't win and that's what we came here for.

"As a head coach, I couldn't be more proud of a group that could have rolled over after the third game, fought at home to extend the series and put ourselves in a great position.

"No one gave us a chance to win the series, and there were a lot of people saying tonight was going to be a rout, that we were going to get blown out. That's not who we are."

It was a dominant showing by the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, closing out their series with a 116-100 win against the Chicago Bulls, taking the series 4-1.

The Bulls had their backs up against the wall, and their plight was made even tougher when star Zach LaVine and defensive ace Alex Caruso were ruled out due to health and safety protocols.

By the end of the first quarter, Milwaukee led 34-18, and they went on to also win the second and third quarters to hold a lead of at least 20 points throughou

Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way for the Bucks, scoring 33 points on 11-of-15 shooting, also going 11-of-14 from the free throw line.

Jrue Holiday was solid in his point guard duties, dishing nine assists to go with his 10 points and five rebounds, while Bobby Portis was a force inside, scoring 14 points and snatching down 17 rebounds.

For the Bulls, DeMar DeRozan was disappointing in a must-win clash, finishing with just 10 points and seven assists, while only attempting 10 field goal attempts in 42 minutes.

Intriguing second-year forward Patrick Williams led Chicago in scoring with 23 points on nine-of-13 shooting, going four-of-seven from long range, while Nikola Vucevic had 19 points, 16 rebounds and six assists.

The Bucks will now take on the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, with Game 1 set to take place this weekend.

Warriors roll past Nuggets with new starting-five

The Golden State Warriors had to fight back against the Denver Nuggets, closing out the series 4-1 with a 102-98 win while sporting a new-look starting five.

Stephen Curry made his first start since he was eased back from a foot injury, joined by both Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson.

The Dubs left it late though, cutting away at an eight-point deficit from the last change, before a Gary Payton II triple gave them the eventual lead with seven minutes remaining

Golden State will now take on the winner between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Minnesota Timberwolves, where the Grizzlies lead 3-2.

 

Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker is nearing his return from a hamstring injury, and could reportedly play in Game 6 against the New Orleans Pelicans, or Game 7 if it is required.

Booker, 25, will likely be named to the All-NBA First Team after averaging 26 points, five rebounds and five assists per game, with the Suns going 56-12 in the 68 games he suited up for in the regular season.

He played 41 minutes in Phoenix's Game 1 win against the Pelicans, but hurt his hamstring in the third quarter of Game 2 after scoring 31 points in the first half.

In his absence, the Suns lost Game 2 and Game 4, before recovering to win at home in Game 5, taking a 3-2 lead.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski said Booker is "progressing toward a return soon, including the possibility as soon as Game 6 or Game 7".

Despite being a true game-time decision, it is reported that Booker will initially be listed as out of Game 6 until he proves his fitness.

Donovan Mitchell said there is no danger of him missing the Utah Jazz's critical Game 6 playoff clash against the Dallas Mavericks despite his hamstring complaint.

Mitchell had to leave Game 5, a match in which he scored a playoff career-low nine points and the Jazz's total of 77 points was their lowest score since November 2018.

Trailing 3-2 in the series, with Game 6 headed back to Utah, the Jazz now face two win-or-go-home fixtures to keep their season alive.

Speaking to the Salt Lake Tribune after his MRI came back negative, Donovan Mitchell left no doubt about his status for the contest.

"I'm good to go," he said. "I'll be ready."

He later spoke to the Dallas Morning News and said "everybody knows and feels" the significance of their next game.

"We don't want this to be the end," he said.

"We've got to go out there and give energy. We have one of the best home court advantages for a reason – I'm pretty sure it will be rocking tomorrow night."

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers hit back at reporters on Wednesday, defending his playoff resume from the insinuation that he is responsible for some memorable collapses.

The 76ers are a team under pressure against the Toronto Raptors in their first round series, as they strive to avoid the dubious honour of becoming the first team to ever blow a 3-0 series lead.

After controlling the first three fixtures, the 76ers fell by eight points in Game 4, and 15 points in Game 5 as star Joel Embiid battles a thumb injury that will likely require surgery once Philadelphia's season is over.

Rivers, who won the 2008 NBA Championship with the Boston Celtics, pushed back when questioned about his reputation in the playoffs.

"Well, it's easy to use me as an example," he said "But I wish y'all would tell the whole story with me. All right?

"My Orlando team [in 2003] was the eighth seed. No one gives me credit for getting up against the [Detroit] Pistons, who won the title. 

"That was an eighth seed. I want you to go back and look at that roster. I dare you to go back and look at that roster. And you would say, 'What a hell of a coaching job.' Really.

"I mean, the Clipper team [in 2015] that we lost 3-1, Chris Paul didn't play the first two games, and was playing on one leg, and we didn't have home court. 

"And then the last one [when the Clippers lost to the Denver Nuggets in 2020], to me, is the one we blew. That's the one I took. We blew that. 

"And that was in the bubble. And anything can happen in the bubble. There's no home court. Game 7 would have been in LA."

After highlighting his most famous playoff shortcomings, Rivers insisted it is not a theme, and sometimes it is just the way the cookie crumbles.

"But, it just happens," he said. "So I would say with me... some of it is, I gotta do better, always.

"I always take my own responsibility. And then some of it is, circumstances happen. This one, let's win it, and we don't have to talk about it.

"Being up 3-0, especially 3-0, I would say that [teams feel differently].

"A lot of teams don't win those games. The Celtics are the only one that won that game [in the first round of this year's playoffs]. Everyone else lost that game.

"From a coaching standpoint, you hate that, because you feel like, 'Let's just take care of it.' Then you get to Game 5 the other night, and [Toronto] played better. 

"We didn't play well. We didn't play with a sense of urgency. So clearly now, I think both teams have kind of served notice and both teams have the other team's attention.

"If you don't have that, then we're all in trouble."

The Chicago Bulls will have to make do without Zach LaVine and Alex Caruso in their do-or-die Eastern Conference playoffs Game 5 showdown with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Needing a victory to keep the series alive, the Bulls confirmed LaVine and Caruso will play no part at Fiserv Forum on Wednesday.

All-Star LaVine misses out a day after he entered the NBA's health and safety protocol, having revealed he was feeling unwell before a practice session.

Fellow guard Caruso took a blow to his face in the second quarter of an emphatic 119-95 Game 4 defeat on Sunday and is going through concussion protocols.

LaVine had led the Bulls with 24 points, 13 assists and five rebounds in a loss that left them trailing the series 3-1.

A depleted Chicago were already missing Lonzo Ball (knee) and Matt Thomas (leg).

Chris Paul was perplexed by a "ridiculous" technical foul he received in the Phoenix Suns' Game 5 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Paul described the officiating as "out of control" after he was hit with an eight-second violation when the Suns were leading 100-92 in the fourth quarter.

Phoenix went on to win 112-97 at Footprint Center on Tuesday, taking a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference playoffs first-round series.

Paul, who scored 22 points and contributed 11 assists, made his feelings clear when asked about his technical foul, revealing he merely said "C'mon'' at the scorer's table as he wanted a review.

He said: '"It's out of control, that's ridiculous. It is what it is. We try not to get fourth-quarter techs on our team. That's a big deal."

 

Mikal Bridges starred with 31 points as the Suns gave themselves the opportunity to wrap up the series in Game 6 in New Orleans on Thursday.

The 25-year-old small forward said: "I'm ready to play tomorrow. I'm energised, my team-mates keep me going. I'm itching my knee right now, talking about it.

"I'm ready, I love being out there with my team-mates. They're my best friends, it makes it way easier."

Paul said of Bridges' exploits: "He doesn't miss games, he guards the best players every night and then he has 31."

Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram had fingers taped up following the game, but says he will play in Game 6.

"It's fine," Ingram said. "It got a little banged up during the game, but I'll be all right."

Victor Oladipo reflected on the difference a year can make as the injury-plagued star inspired the Miami Heat to the victory they needed to close out their first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks.

It has been a luckless period for Oladipo, who has appeared in just 96 of a possible 309 regular-season NBA games over the past four years due to a combination of knee and quadriceps issues.

This season alone Oladipo has featured in only eight regular-season matches for the Heat but with Kyle Lowry (hamstring) and Jimmy Butler (inflammation in the right knee) both absent for Game 5, he stepped up to help the Heat to a 97-94 triumph and 4-1 series victory.

Oladipo had a game-high 23 points along with three assists and three steals. It was the first time he had contributed 20 points in a playoff game since playing against the Heat back in the NBA bubble in 2020 when featuring for the Indiana Pacers.

Speaking after the game, Oladipo reflected on his journey saying in quotes reported by ESPN: "A year ago today I was expecting and waiting for my next surgery. 

"I remember a year ago today, around this time last year, I was sitting in a dark room by myself and just broke down. 

"Not because I quit, but because I was at the lowest point I could be at. And now, God has put me in this position today so I just made the most of it.

"I could have done two things. I could have stopped. Or I could have ran right through it and I'm still running through it."

Speaking to NBA TV, Oladipo added his belief this is just the beginning for him.

"There's nothing I can't handle," he said. "At the end of the day, I feel like I can come back and get through anything. 

"So, when they told me I needed to start tonight, I just stepped up to the plate and did everything I could to help my team win.

"I credit my coaching staff and my teammates for believing in me, my family, my God in heaven for getting me through. It's only the beginning."

It was a real team effort for the Heat with Max Strus putting up 15 points, including a special personal 10-0 streak from 2:29 in the second quarter to 1:22.

Bam Adebayo also had 20 points on the back of 7-for-11 shooting and pitched in with 11 rebounds.

"Everybody that played had their fingerprints on this. We clearly had some adversity in this game not having Kyle or Jimmy, and our group doesn't even blink," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

"That's not even something we have to address. We just pivot and put in the game plan and everybody gets ready and tapes their ankles and gets out there and competes."

The Heat can now look forward to an Eastern Conference semi-final match up against either the Philadelphia 76ers or the Toronto Raptors – the former leading the latter 3-2 in that series.

Ja Morant produced a dazzling fourth-quarter display and game-winning lay-up to earn the Memphis Grizzlies a 3-2 series lead in their first round playoffs against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.

The Grizzlies triumphed 111-109 over the Timberwolves, led by Morant with 30 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.

Morant made the decisive contribution with a play with 3.7 seconds left with scores at 109-109, bucketing a left-handed lay-up from Dillon Brooks' inbound.

Memphis had trailed by 11 points in the last quarter before their rally, with recently crowned NBA Most Improved Player Morant scoring 18 points in the fourth. Morant had sparked after a massive third-quarter dunk.

Desmond Bane added 25 points for the Grizzlies, while Karl-Anthony Towns was excellent with 28 points including five three-pointers and 12 rebounds.

Heat seal series win over Hawks

The Miami Heat completed a 4-1 series victory over the Atlanta Hawks with a 97-94 win, despite the absences of Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry.

The Hawks failed to get a shot away in the final play in the dying seconds to force over-time as the Heat triumphed led by Victor Oladipo (23 points) and Bam Adebayo (20 points and 11 rebounds).

Trae Young struggled again with 11 points on two-of-12 shooting from the field, finishing the five-game series with 30 turnovers.

Bridges guides Suns into 3-2 lead

Mikal Bridges produced a 24-point second half as the Phoenix Suns won 112-97 over the New Orleans Pelicans to move ahead 3-2 in their first round series.

Bridges finished with 31 points for the game while Chris Paul had 22 points, 11 assists and three steals for the Suns who were without Devin Booker (hamstring).

The Suns, who came into the playoffs with the best record in the NBA, led from start to finish. Brandon Ingram top scored for the Pelicans - who had six turnovers in the first quarter - with 22 points.

The instructions for Ja Morant for his game-winning lay-up were as simple as "go get a bucket, Ja" in the Memphis Grizzlies' 111-109 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.

Morant landed the decisive bucket from the final play with scores locked at 109-109 with 3.7 seconds to play, putting Memphis 3-2 up in their first round NBA playoffs series.

The NBA's Most Improved Player received Dillon Brooks' inbound, losing Anthony Edwards who went for the steal, before driving and putting in an under-handed lay-up past Jarred Vanderbilt.

"Go get a bucket, Ja," Morant told reporters when asked about the instructions for the final play.

Morant scored 18 fourth-quarter points after struggling with 12 until three-quarter time, appearing to be sparked after a dunk in the third quarter.

"I wasn’t that excited about the dunk," he said. "It was over a guard, that's pretty easy.

"Definitely ignited the crowd, gave us some energy, from then on being very aggressive."

The Grizzlies had trailed by 11 points in the last quarter before their rally led by Morant, but the All-Star said he was "tired" of being forced to fight back. Memphis had clawed their way back from 26 points down in Game 3 to win 104-95.

"It feels good when you win," Morant said. "Me personally, I'm tired of it. I'm tired of playing from behind.

"Game 2 you see what happened when we come out and play from the jump. We've got to have that mindset like we had in Game 2 in Game 6 [on Friday] not give them too much life to go ahead.

"We need to start early. The last three games we haven't played our basketball, not knocking down our shots but we battle."

Meanwhile, Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 28 points with 12 rebounds, bemoaned letting another lead slip.

"It's a tough pill to swallow," Towns said. "You feel like you got it after all the mistakes made and everything like that.

"We hit a big three to tie the game up with four seconds (left). You feel good. You feel good about going into overtime and having a chance to win the game. Just a learning experience."

Page 7 of 141
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.