Ja Morant gave the Memphis Grizzlies a brief scare but declared himself "good" after returning to the floor in their Game 2 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Grizzlies are the second seed in the West but dropped the first game of their first-round series to the seventh seed T-Wolves.

They needed a response then on Tuesday and got it, predictably, through Morant, who had 23 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds in a 124-96 win to level the series.

But it was not all plain sailing for the Most Improved Player finalist, who took a knee to his thigh in the third quarter and limped off.

Morant returned to play four minutes in the fourth quarter, though, and said afterwards: "I'm good, a warrior. I played on concrete."

The former second overall pick is undoubtedly the Grizzlies' star man, but the team have at least proven they can play without him this year.

As part of their run to finish with a 56-26 record, second behind only the Phoenix Suns across the NBA, Memphis went a remarkable 20-5 in games Morant missed.

The Phoenix Suns lost Devin Booker to a hamstring injury as they were stunned 125-114 by the New Orleans Pelicans who squared up their first-round playoffs series.

Brandon Ingram scored 37 points, including 26 in the second half, with 11 rebounds and nine assists, while CJ McCollum added 23 points including six three-pointers.

But the hamstring injury to Suns All-Star guard Booker was the major talking point, leaving the Western Conference's top seed severely weakened if he is out for an extended period.

The Suns were leading 61-56 at half-time with Booker having scored 31 first-half points including shooting seven-of-11 from three-point range, before he left the game in the third quarter and did not return.

Chris Paul could not lift the Suns in Booker's absence, finishing with 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Mikal Bridges added 19 points.

 

Butler on fire as Heat win

Jimmy Butler scored 45 points with 15-of-25 shooting from the field as the Miami Heat claimed a 2-0 lead in their series against the Atlanta Hawks with a 115-105 win.

The Heat went on an 11-0 run the third quarter to open up the game-winning lead led by Butler while Tyler Herro (15 points) and Max Strus (14 points) contributed well.

Trae Young, coming off a playoff career-low display, managed 25 points for the Hawks with Bogdan Bogdanovic landing five triples in his 29-point haul.

 

Grizzlies claim franchise-best playoff win

The Memphis Grizzlies overcame a Ja Morant injury scare as they levelled their series against the Minnesota Timberwolves with a 124-96 victory.

Morant left the court in the third quarter after copping a knee to his left leg but returned, finishing with 23 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. That was Morant's third career playoffs double-double.

The victory was the Grizzlies' largest in their franchise playoff history, despite Anthony Edwards' best efforts with 20 points and six rebounds for the Timberwolves.

Anthony Edwards scored 36 points in his playoff debut, as the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 130-117 to take home-court advantage.

The second-year player went 12-of-23 from the floor while making all eight attempts from the free-throw line, along with adding six assists, two blocks and a steal. Meanwhile, Karl-Anthony Towns contributed 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting and 13 rebounds to start his second-ever playoff series.

The Wolves scored a franchise record for points in a first quarter on the way another record for points in a playoff game, shooting an even 50 per cent from the floor.

The Timberwolves, who beat the Los Angeles Clippers in the Play-In tournament to secure the seventh seed, also held a double-digit advantage in rebounding against the Grizz.  

The Grizzlies went cold from the perimeter at 25.9 per cent as a team, and Ja Morant wildly attacking the basket became a regular pattern, going 18-of-20 from the free-throw line on the way to 32 points.

Poole party for Curry's return

Jordan Poole also went off in his playoff debut, scoring 30 points in the Golden State Warriors 123-107 win over the Denver Nuggets.

The 22-year-old showed already characteristic composure, going nine-of-13 from the floor on the way to scoring 30 points, as Stephen Curry started on the bench in his return from injury, 

In his 22 minutes on the floor, Curry's return allowed the Warriors to move the ball and get great looks against the Nuggets, shooting 45.7 per cent from perimeter and creating 35 assists as a team.

Draymond Green's fingerprints were all over the game, coming up with 12 points, nine assists, six rebounds and three blocks in the series-opening win.  

Without Facundo Campazzo as well as Jamal Murray, Will Barton had to carry most of the offensive burden along with MVP candidate Nikola Jokic, with the two combining for 49 of the Nuggets' 107 points.

Maxey makes light work of Raptors

A Tyrese Maxey takeover in the third quarter handed the Philadelphia 76ers a comfortable 131-111 win at home to the Toronto Raptors to open their playoff series.

Maxey scored 21 points and connected on five three-pointers in the third term on his way.to a playoff career-high of 38 points, as fans at the Wells Fargo Center chanted his name. 

The likes of James Harden and MVP candidate Joel Embiid even deferred to him as the Sixers pulled away in the third. Harden provided a little bit of everything offensively though, shooting and distributing well as well as getting to the free-throw line, on the way to 22 points and 14 assists

The Raps simply could not keep up on the back of a poor shooting night from Gary Trent Jr. who went two-of-11 from the floor and losing Scottie Barnes to an ankle injury exacerbated matters.

In just under 32 minutes, the rookie center put up 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.    

Jazz take home-court against the Mavs

Donovan Mitchell took over for the Utah Jazz, who opened the playoffs with a 99-93 victory on the road over the Dallas Mavericks.

The 25-year-old put in a big effort playing just under 42 minutes and despite going 10-of-29 from the floor, scored 30 of his 32 points in the second half.

Also breaking the 40-minute barrier for the Jazz was Bojan Bogdanovic, who added 26 points from 11-of-20 shooting, along with five rebounds and four assists.

Luka Doncic was sorely missed for the Mavs, making their first playoff appearance since their 2011 NBA title, shooting 38.2 per cent from the floor and coming up with 17 assists as a team despite half the turnovers (7-14).

Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie shot a combined 15-of-39 from field goal attempts, while the latter contributed eight of the team's assists.

The Boston Celtics secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference following their 139-110 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night, the regular-season finale for both teams.

With the second seed in the Western Conference already secured, Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins rested a number of starters including Ja Morant, Steven Adams, Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. Desmond Bane and Brandon Clarke were listed as questionable and while not ruled out, finished with DNPs.

Although the Celtics had a full complement in a game they needed to win, the weakened opposition did not cause tunnel vision, as they shared the ball to come up with 34 assists as a team.

Jayson Tatum came up with three of his own, along with 31 points on 11-of-14 shooting and nine rebounds to lead the way for the Celtics.

In an odd statistical quirk given the situation, the Grizz's John Konchar claimed the first triple-double of his career, finishing with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

Dubs find their groove to clinch third seed

The Golden State Warriors clinched the third seed in the Western Conference with their 128-107 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Klay Thompson made seven three-pointers and scored 41 points for the Warriors, who have impressively managed to close out the season without Stephen Curry on a five-game winning streak.

While Jordan Poole's 22 points off seven-of-16 shooting lightened the load, Jonathan Kuminga again scored a critical 18 points off the bench and gave the team important balance.

Doncic strains calf in Mavs win

Luka Doncic strained his left calf in the Dallas Mavericks' 130-120 win over the San Antonio Spurs, putting the Slovenian star's status in question for the playoffs.

The two-time All-Star would not have been eligible for what was ultimately a meaningless game – following the Warriors win - if the NBA did not rescind his 16th technical foul of the season, which he earned in the previous game against the Portland Trailblazers.

Doncic led Dallas with 26 points, nine assists and eight rebounds but sat the second half, with his ability to play against the Utah Jazz in the playoffs now in doubt.

Joel Embiid made his closing statement for the MVP award and all but wrapped up the NBA scoring title in the Philadelphia 76ers' 133-120 win over the Indiana Pacers on Saturday.

Embiid put up monster numbers of 41 points, 20 rebounds and four assists, while going 14-of-17 from the floor and 11-of-15 from the free-throw line. It was the first time this NBA season that a player scored 40 points or more and had 20 or more rebounds in a game.

The 28-year-old is currently the league's scoring leader, averaging an astounding 30.6 points per game, just ahead of LeBron James' 30.3 and Kevin Durant's 30.1 points per game.

James Harden had 22 points and 14 assists for Philadelphia, who had a healthy spread of scorers with Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxey both scoring 18 points, and Danny Green adding 15.

The Sixers remain in the hunt for the Eastern Conference's third seed with the win, moving to the same record as the Boston Celtics at 50-31, while the Milwaukee Bucks are second at 51-30.

A win over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday combined with a Boston loss to the Memphis Grizzlies would move the Sixers into the third seed.

Morant makes timely return for Grizzlies

Ja Morant returned to action after a nine-game absence on Saturday night, as the Memphis Grizzlies secured a comfortable 141-114 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Morant finished with 21 points off seven-of-14 shooting, along with nine assists and four rebounds, while Jaren Jackson Jr. contributed a solid 12 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.

The Grizzlies are set to finish second in the Western Conference, to face the winner of the 7-8 matchup in the play-in between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers.

Warriors continue winning run

The Golden State Warriors claimed their fourth consecutive victory despite an off shooting night from Jordan Poole, defeating the San Antonio Spurs on the road 100-94.

With Stephen Curry yet to return from injury and Klay Thompson rested, Poole had to take on more offensive responsibility and went three-of-19 from the floor in win.

A combined 30 points at nine-of-14 shooting off the bench from Jonathan Kuminga and Nemanja Bjelica was able to counteract it, along with 12 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists from Draymond Green.

All-Star guard Ja Morant was content with his return ahead of the playoffs after missing the past three weeks with knee soreness.

Morant had not played since March 18 for the Memphis Grizzlies but returned with 21 points, four rebounds and nine assists in a 141-114 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

The 56-25 Grizzlies are locked into the second seed in the Western Conference, with Morant's return coming with the playoffs around the corner.

"[I] felt like I needed a game or two to get my legs back under me," Morant told reporters.

"Get the game-type feel, nothing compares to a game, whether its practice or whatever. Just wanted to be ready to go.

"Obviously been in and out of the line-up, my teammates were playing a lot of basketball without me. I was just going out there to adapt."

Despite his All-Star status, the Grizzlies have a remarkable 20-4 record without Morant this season.

The 22-year-old point guard said it was important he developed synergy with his teammates, likely with two games fielding their preferred starting line-up ahead of the playoffs of Morant, Dillon Brooks, Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr and Steven Adams.

Morant has only played 12 games alongside Brooks this season, while he has had limited opportunities alongside Steven Adams who moved to Memphis from the Pelicans in the off-season.

"One hundred per cent," Morant said about the significance of developing connection among the starting five. "Obviously I've played with Dillon since I've been here and most of the other guys I've played with before, so I know their game.

"Being out there at the same time as Steveo [Adams] to get that chemistry, it's basically the starting line-up I felt like we did a very good job tonight."

Morant continued: "Tonight I felt like we looked damn good. Look at that third quarter [55-33 points]. Obviously there's some stuff we've still got to correct."

The 2019 NBA Draft second pick added that he had no preference on second seed Memphis' playoffs opponents, with the side to face either the Los Angeles Clippers or Minnesota Timberwolves via the play-in tournament.

"I really don’t care who we play," he said. "I'm focused on us getting better and being ready to play. No matter who it is, we go out in the games the same way."

MVP favorite Nikola Jokic became the first player in NBA history with 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 assists in a season in the Denver Nuggets' 122-109 home win against the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday, 

He had 35 points, 16 rebounds, six assists and five steals in his game-winning performance.

For the season, Jokic is eighth in the league in points per game (27.0), second in rebounds per game (13.7) and eighth in assists (7.9).

Out of players who average at least 20 minutes per appearance, Jokic is 12th in usage (30.9), which measures the percentage of his team's possessions that end with him shooting or turning the ball over while he is on the court.

Of the league's top 100 players in usage rate, none are shooting better than Jokic's 66.1 True Shooting percentage, which weights three-point shots, two-point shots and free throws to produce a single number.

Only 12 players have a better True Shooting percentage than Jokic, and of those players, Montrezl Harrell has the highest usage, at a role-player number of 19.8.

The Denver big man is also the only non-guard in the top 15 in assist percentage, coming in at sixth (38.8) and trailing only Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Chris Paul, James Harden and Dejounte Murray.

As Nuggets teammate Bones Hyland put it: "Dude is really great at basketball."

Hyland was not the only Nuggets representative to shower Jokic with praise when talking with the media after their win, with coach Michael Malone highlighting that he believes the MVP race has been decided.

"The MVP isn't even a competition," he said.

"There's other great players. I'm not saying they're not great players. But what Nikola Jokic has done this year – with this team – everything we've had to go through, is just incredible.

"He was good last year, and he's even better this year."

Even Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins was at a loss for how to deal with the threat he poses.

"We threw a lot at him,'' he said. "He's the MVP for a reason. He's nearly impossible to guard. 

"He's going to beat you from inside, outside, playmaking. He played at a really high level tonight.''

Meanwhile, Jokic said he was content to let his play do the talking, saying "if that's enough [to win MVP], it's enough… if not, you cannot control that.''

If the season ended today, the Los Angeles Lakers would not even make the play-in tournament after a painful 114-111 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

The loss moves the Lakers' record to 31-46, and 4-16 in their past 20 games.

The Lakers built this game up as a must-win, re-inserting Anthony Davis to the line-up from a lengthy absence and LeBron James from an ankle sprain, but ultimately could not get stops down the stretch.

James was terrific, scoring 38 points on 13-23 shooting, while Davis was also strong, scoring 23 points (eight-of-17 shooting) to go with 12 rebounds and six assists. During Davis' 37 minutes on the floor, the Lakers were plus four.

But the Pelicans' duo of C.J. McCollum and Brandon Ingram would not be denied, as McCollum led the way with 32 points (12-of-23 shooting), while Ingram chipped in with an efficient 29 on 10-of-17 shooting to go with eight rebounds and seven assists.

The Lakers' five remaining games are at home against the Denver Nuggets, away at the Phoenix Suns, away at the Golden State Warriors, at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and away against the Nuggets.

The San Antonio Spurs currently lead the race for the 10 seed by one game.

 

Fill-in Grizzlies fill it up

Another game without Ja Morant, and another win for the Memphis Grizzlies as they got the better of the full-strength Phoenix Suns 122-114.

As well as Morant, Memphis was without center Steven Adams, Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jaren Jackson Jr and emerging shooting guard Desmond Bane, but in front of their home fans the replacement Grizzlies were up to the task.

Dillon Brooks top-scored for the Grizzlies with 30 points (11-of-28 shooting) and seven assists, while Devin Booker had 41 points on 17-of-28 shooting for the Suns.

Memphis are now 20-2 in games Morant has missed.

 

Celtics win a shootout, Covington goes bananas 

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both surpassed 30 points in the Boston Celtics' 128-123 win against the Indiana Pacers.

Tatum finished with 31 on 10-of-24 shooting, while Brown had 32 on 12-of-18, but the Celtics had to withstand a sharpshooting display from Tyrese Haliburton, who had 30 points on 10-of-11 shooting, including six-of-six from long range.

Meanwhile, Robert Covington played the game of his life as his Los Angeles Clippers beat an undermanned Milwaukee Bucks side 153-119.

Covington finished with 43 points, going 11-of-18 from three-point range, setting a new franchise record for threes made in a game, beating J.J. Redick and Caron Butler's previous joint-record of nine.

If the season ended today, the Los Angeles Lakers would not even make the play-in tournament after a painful 114-111 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.

The loss moves the Lakers' record to 31-46, and 4-16 in their past 20 games.

The Lakers built this game up as a must-win, re-inserting Anthony Davis to the line-up from a lengthy absence and LeBron James from an ankle sprain, but ultimately could not get stops down the stretch.

James was terrific, scoring 38 points on 13-23 shooting, while Davis was also strong, scoring 23 points (eight-of-17 shooting) to go with 12 rebounds and six assists. During Davis' 37 minutes on the floor, the Lakers were plus four.

But the Pelicans duo of C.J. McCollum and Brandon Ingram would not be denied, as McCollum led the way with 32 points (12-of-23 shooting), while Ingram chipped in with an efficient 29 on 10-of-17 shooting to go with eight rebounds and seven assists.

The Lakers' five remaining games are at home against the Denver Nuggets, away at the Phoenix Suns, away at the Golden State Warriors, at home against the Oklahoma City Thunder, and away against the Nuggets.

The San Antonio Spurs currently lead the race for the 10 seed by one game.

 

Fill-in Grizzlies fill it up

Another game without Ja Morant, and another win for the Memphis Grizzlies as they got the better of the full-strength Phoenix Suns 122-114.

As well as Morant, Memphis was without center Steven Adams, Defensive Player of the Year candidate Jaren Jackson Jr and emerging shooting guard Desmond Bane, but in front of their home fans the replacement Grizzlies were up to the task.

Dillon Brooks top-scored for the Grizzlies with 30 points (11-of-28 shooting) and seven assists, while Devin Booker had 41 points on 17-of-28 shooting for the Suns.

Memphis are now 20-2 in games Morant has missed.

 

Celtics win a shoot-out, Covington goes bananas 

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown both surpassed 30 points in the Boston Celtics' 128-123 win against the Indiana Pacers.

Tatum finished with 31 on 10-of-24 shooting, while Brown had 32 on 12-of-18, but the Celtics had to withstand a sharpshooting display from Tyrese Haliburton, who had 30 points on 10-of-11 shooting, including six-of-six from long range.

Meanwhile, Robert Covington played the game of his life as his Los Angeles Clippers beat an undermanned Milwaukee Bucks side 153-119.

Covington finished with 43 points, going 11-of-18 from three-point range, setting a new franchise record for threes made in a game, beating J.J. Redick and Caron Butler's previous joint-record of nine.

In what could be a Western Conference Finals preview, the Phoenix Suns came up big on the road with a 107-103 win over the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.

Between first and third in the West, there was a playoff atmosphere from the opening tip, and momentum swings throughout culminated with six lead changes in the final quarter.

Without the injured Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole put up 38 points on 11-of-21 shooting, but it was not enough as the Suns executed in the big moments.

Draymond Green tied the game with 2:21 remaining, converting a critical and-one after finishing through the contact from Jae Crowder.

The Warriors came up big defensively once again while in the bonus down the stretch, forcing a miss and foul from Devin Booker from the ensuing scramble for the rebound. Jordan Poole converted both from the line for a 101-100 lead with 39.8 seconds remaining.

Ultimately, Chris Paul managed to penetrate and collapse the defence in timely moments, adding eight assists to his 15 points, and all six of his field goals coming inside the arc.

Grizz secure second in the West

Meanwhile in the West, the Memphis Grizzlies secured the second seed on Wednesday, with a 112-11 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.

With Ja Morant still watching on from the sidelines due to knee injury, Tyus Jones put up 25 points, while adding six assists and five rebounds.

While the Grizz clinched the second seed, the end to a four-game winning streak saw San Antonio fall half a game behind the Los Angeles Lakers for the West's last play-in spot.

Heat fire up in Boston

The Miami Heat defeated on of their chief rivals for the Eastern Conference top seed, coming out with a big 106-98 road win over the Boston Celtics.

Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry combined for 47 points, while Bam Adebayo finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds to break a season-worst four-game losing streak.

Boston had their chance late trailing 102-98 but Jayson Tatum was called for an offensive foul and Marcus Smart was ejected in the fallout.

Dillon Brooks has again criticised Andre Iguodala for not having "the vision" to see what this Memphis Grizzlies team would become.

Iguodala and the Golden State Warriors lost 123-95 in Memphis on Monday, falling five games behind the second-placed Grizzlies in the Western Conference.

For Iguodala, it was a fourth game against the Grizzlies and second return to Memphis since he was traded to the team by the Warriors in 2019.

The former NBA Finals MVP chose not to play for the Grizzlies in a 2019-20 season in which they finished with a 34-39 record and eventually secured a trade to the Miami Heat before heading back to the Bay Area in 2021.

Iguodala's wish to sit on the sideline while a young Grizzlies team battled in the NBA was criticised by guard Brooks, then in his third season.

"I can't wait until we find a way to trade him, so we can play him and show him really what Memphis is about," Brooks said in comments shared on social media by Ja Morant, prompting a back-and-forth with Warriors superstar Stephen Curry.

Neither Morant nor Curry played on Monday due to injury, but Iguodala moved to 0-4 against the Grizzlies since leaving the team.

"[The team] has developed a lot [since then]," said Brooks, who scored 21 points on nine-of-15 shooting.

"We all had the vision and he didn't, which is perfect. Send him back to the Warriors and let him do his thing over there.

"From the beginning, we were growing a base, we had a base, then we just kept building and building and building, and more guys got on the train.

"We were able to create something like this and keep building this dynasty."

The Grizzlies are now a sensational 18-2 without Morant this year, but the Warriors are just 3-9 without Curry.

After the game, in which Golden State coach Steve Kerr was ejected, Iguodala said: "What we can't do is play the blame game when things don't turn out the way they should.

"We had such a great start, things were panning out, and injuries in professional sports you get bit by and you just keep moving forward.

"We've got a group of guys where I think we can get it done. Hopefully we can get healthy, but one thing we have to do is realise that we have to be smart about how we start to implement guys.

"Steph's out and you can't replace that – he's one of the top players ever. We don't want to rush him back or put too much pressure on him, that's how you get another injury.

"That's kind of what happened to me all year, trying to rush back, so we've got to try to be smart about it, try to hold down the fort.

"Interestingly enough, we're going to have to use the playoffs to get better, too. That's just the situation."

Memphis Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins explained how his team are sticking to their identity in the continued absence of talisman Ja Morant.

Grizzlies' top scorer Morant has not featured since playing in a defeat to the Atlanta Hawks earlier in March and is expected to miss much of the remainder of the regular season due to a knee problem.

However, the Grizzlies improved to 17-2 without their main man in the team as they claimed a mightily impressing 127-102 win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

That means they have now won their last four games since Morant was out of the team, as they sit second in the Western Conference with a 52-23 record for the season.

"We're just sticking with our identity," Jenkins told reporters after the game, as quoted by ESPN.

"It doesn't matter if you're a starter, bench, mixed lineups. Whatever we do, we do to the best of our abilities."

A player to start on the bench, De'Anthony Melton, ultimately finished as Memphis' leading scorer on 24 points, while Desmond Bane added 20.

"I'm just trying to go out there and hoop," Melton said. "Have fun with it. Play with confidence and do what the team needs me to do."

Contributions of 19 and 16 from Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. respectively helped the Grizzlies fend off Milwaukee, whose attempted fightback was led by Giannis Antetokounmpo's double-double of 30 points and 11 rebounds.

"They just do a lot of things that are about winning basketball," said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer of the Grizzlies.

"Credit to their players, to the coaching staff. They just keep playing no matter who's in.

"It felt like (Antetokounmpo) tried to will us back into the game. It felt like we had some momentum for some small stretches there in the third quarter, where I felt like we might get back in it, but we weren't able to sustain it."

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Morant, no problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Morant, no problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Memphis Grizzlies ascending superstar Ja Morant will be out for at least two more weeks as he recovers from knee soreness, according to head coach Taylor Jenkins.

Morant has missed the Grizzlies' past three games with the complaint, with the injury perhaps being more serious than first thought as he is scheduled to miss perhaps the entirety of the remaining regular season.

While the Grizzlies are notorious for playing their cards close to their chest when it comes to reporting player injuries, there is likely no hurry to rush Morant back as the team has compiled a staggering 16-2 record in his absences this season.

Speaking before Memphis' 133-103 win against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night, Jenkins said he was confident of Morant making a full recovery, even if the timeline is unclear.

"We expect him to make a full recovery before the playoffs, and we're excited about that with two and a half weeks left in the season," he told reporters.

"We'll offload him early, then he'll start reloading pretty soon here with that two weeks in mind to reevaluate."

Morant is the odds-on favourite to take home the NBA's Most Improved Player award, and will likely also receive some votes MVP further down the ballot.

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