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. 

Russell Westbrook took another giant step towards an NBA record after teaming up with Bradley Beal to help the Washington Wizards push the Toronto Raptors to the verge of elimination from a spot the NBA play-in tournament with a 131-129 win in overtime. 

Westbrook posted 13 points, 17 rebounds and 17 assists for his 180th career triple-double, leaving him one shy of equalling Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson's all-time record on Thursday.

Former MVP Westbrook because the first player with three consecutive 17-plus assist games since Steve Nash in 2007.

Wizards star Beal scored half of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and overtime as Washington outlasted Toronto.

Raul Neto added a career-high 25 points and Robin Lopez had a season-best 24 for the Wizards (31-36), who hold a four-game lead over the Raptors (27-40) for the final play-in spot with five games remaining for both teams. 

Pascal Siakam matched his career best with 44 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists but missed a three-point attempt at the buzzer in overtime that would have won it for Toronto. 

Siakam joined Kawhi Leonard and Vince Carter as the only players with a 40-point, 10-rebound and five-assist game in franchise history.

Fred VanVleet sent the game to OT by hitting a shot from beyond the arc with 1.3 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. He finished with 22 and Gary Trent Jr. contributed 25 for Toronto.

 

Mavs withstand big night from Kyrie

Luka Doncic finished with 24 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. had 23 of his own as the Dallas Mavericks downed the slumping Brooklyn Nets 113-109, despite 45 points from Kyrie Irving. 

The Indiana Pacers inched closer to securing a spot in the play-in tournament with a 133-126 win over the Atlanta Hawks as Caris LeVert led the way with 31 points and Domantas Sabonis added 30 on 12-for-14 shooting from the field. Trae Young's double-double of 30 points and 10 assists was not enough for the Hawks. 

Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors rolled to a 118-87 victory at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder (21-46). Curry scored 34 points. The two-time MVP has now scored at least 30 points 18 times in his last 20 games (35th time this season).

Paul George had 24 points as the Los Angeles Clippers (45-22) beat cross-town rivals and defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers 118-94. 

 

LaMelo off target against Bulls

A day after his primary competitor for NBA Rookie of the Year, Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves, dropped 42 points, LaMelo Ball made only one of 10 shots from the field and scored just four points in the Charlotte Hornets' 120-99 loss to the Chicago Bulls. Ball had reached double digits in his previous three games after returning from a wrist injury. 

 

Caldwell-Pope strong to the hoop

Lakers fans did not have much to celebrate in Thursday's blowout loss to the Clippers, but Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did provide one highlight with this slam in Ivica Zubac's face.

 

Thursday's results

Chicago Bulls 120-99 Charlotte Hornets
Dallas Mavericks 113-109 Brooklyn Nets
Washington Wizards 131-129 Toronto Raptors (OT)
Detroit Pistons 111-97 Memphis Grizzlies 
Indiana Pacers 133-126 Atlanta Hawks
Golden State Warriors 118-97 Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Clippers 118-94 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Pelicans at 76ers

Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans (30-36) are just outside the cut for the play-in tournament and will face imposing opposition on Friday as they attempt to gain ground in the form of the Philadelphia 76ers (45-21), winners of six in a row. 

Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash said the return of superstar James Harden will "change everything" after the NBA championship hopefuls slumped to a fourth consecutive defeat.

The star-studded Nets – playing without former MVP Harden again due to a hamstring injury – fell to the Dallas Mavericks 113-109 on Thursday.

A game-high 45 points from Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant's 20 points were not enough for the Nets, who are two and a half games behind the Philadelphia 76ers in the race of the Eastern Conference top seed ahead of the playoffs.

Harden has not played since April 5 but is "very confident" he will return to action before the postseason gets underway.

Reflecting on the result, Nash – whose Nets are eyeing their maiden title – told reporters: "We're just trying to get better every day. We can't really control the injuries. We're getting healthy bodies back, we've got the most guys I think we've had all year right now that are available; so that's positive. Trying to figure out some rotations and combinations.

"Obviously, James comes back at some point and changes everything again. But we're trying to just get better. We're trying to get more familiar with what we're trying to do, trying to get better at our principles and get a better understanding between one another.

"As I said, a lot of these teams have been in the last two, three, four years in a row. We're just getting to know each other; a lot of our guys have missed a lot of season. So trying to gain that understanding, that continuity is what we're after right now. We're going through a tough stretch, we're not playing really well, we're not playing really sharp. We were right in it today, we had our chances for sure; we've had our chances in the last three games.

"So what is it that can get us over the hump? I think the first thing is for us to continue to stay strong mentally, to pick each other up, to realise we got a lot of work to do. We keep working, we don't let this take the wind out of our sails and we'll improve and get better."

While Irving starred, Durant was below his best against the Mavericks as he finished seven-for-21 shooting, having missed all four of his three-point attempts on the road.

"Kevin didn't have a great rhythm tonight, especially in the second half. He normally can get to his spots and convert. He just wasn't in a great rhythm. Some nights it's just going to happen," said Nash.

"We're all going to have poor shooting performances or nights where we don't quite have a rhythm. And then the defense, we made some mistakes. I thought the third-quarter defense was really good. In the fourth quarter, we made a few mistakes and they made a few plays, but I think there's a lot to build on. We can look at the tape, continue to build, continue to grow."

Durant added: "It's trust my work and most of the times a mentality switch on what I need to do to be more effective and more efficient. Tonight I tried shots that I shouldn't have tried. I shot over a double-team in the fourth quarter. I shot a runner going to the left, just trying to get into the game scoring-wise, and sometimes that pushes me out of the game when I try those tough ones, but it's all a learning experience.

"I'm glad it's happening now for us instead of in a couple weeks, and hopefully we build off of this and keep growing, and I hope we feel this pain, I guess, from losing, feeling like we're not where we want to be. I like this position for us, and I think it's gonna make us better as we continue to keep watching film, going through practice, going through shootarounds and then playing in games."

Brooklyn Nets superstar James Harden is "very, very confident" he will return from injury before the NBA playoffs.

Harden has not played since leaving the matchup against the New York Knicks on April 5, with the star-studded Nets slipping two games behind the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference.

Former MVP Harden – who arrived from the Houston Rockets in a blockbuster trade in January – is averaging 25.2 points, 10.9 assists and 8.0 rebounds per game this season.

Harden's assists per game – second only to Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook (11.3) in 2020-21 – is his best mark since averaging 11.2 in 2015-16, while he only averaged more rebounds in 2016-17 (8.1).

"Very, very confident," Harden told reporters when asked about being ready for the playoffs. "I guess I have to hit the marks in the work I did today. Have a couple of those without any feeling. That's pretty much the mark. I'm very confident I'll be back before the postseason.

"The plan is to hopefully get an opportunity to play a couple games before the postseason. We're just taking one day at a time.

"So far, so good. Today was really good, and we've just got to keep building on that."

"We wanted to be patient," Harden said. "As much as I love to hoop, I want to be out there, but you've got to be smart. And for me, it was just, 'Let's knock this thing out, let's get this thing healthy so we can make a push.'"

Harden added: "At this point in my career, going to postseasons basically since I've been in Houston, I've been playing heavy minutes, just carrying the load.

"And this was an opportunity for me to keep my body right going into the postseason with a clear mind and a clear body. You've got 16 games to win. That's the ultimate goal. That's the reason why I came to Brooklyn."

The Nets boast Harden, former MVP Kevin Durant and fellow superstar Kyrie Irving but Brooklyn's big three have only played together seven times this season due to injuries and absences.

Brooklyn (43-23) have lost three consecutive games, while they own a 5-5 record in their last 10 games as Steve Nash's Nets eye their maiden championship.

Harden does not believe injuries have damaged the Nets' title charge, saying: "No, no. No. I just... no. We're sitting right now at this point [in the] second spot and we've had so many different line-ups; that right there tells you how great, good, or whatever-you-wanna-call-it this team is.

"The most important thing for us going into the postseason is health. This season has been so condensed — you see a lot of guys are going down because of the amount of games. So I think for us our mindset is, alright, if we can come to the postseason healthy, we are right there and we got a chance.

"Finish these last six games out strong, focus on the things that we need to focus on, the things we can control, and go out there and have fun and we live with the results."

A 103-101 loss to the Toronto Raptors on a buzzer-beating three-pointer just over a month ago on April 5 seemed to encompass the Washington Wizards' season perfectly.

Washington blew a 19-point, third-quarter lead en route to dropping to 0-11 when failing to score more than 102 points. It was a fourth straight loss for a team playing their fifth game in a row without 2020 scoring leader Bradley Beal, and the defeat dropped the Wizards to 17-32 – the third-worst record in the Eastern Conference and 3.5 games out of 10th place for the final spot in the play-in tournament.

The Russell Westbrook experiment was looking like a disaster and very little suggested a playoff push was possible over the season's final five and a half weeks given the team's struggles over the season's first three months when Beal was healthy.

Surprisingly, however, the Wizards didn't fold.

They showed some reserve two nights later with Beal back in the lineup, finishing strong in a 131-116 victory over the Orlando Magic after nearly blowing all of a 21-point, third-quarter lead, then escaped with a 110-107 road win over the Golden State Warriors on April 9 with Beal scoring six points in the final 6.1 seconds.

The win streak ended the next night but that was no big surprise as they were on the road against a Phoenix Suns team that is currently battling for the best record in the league, not to mention Beal sat out the second half of a back-to-back.

Since then, though, Washington has compiled the league's second-best record at 11-3, racking up 115 points or more in all 14 of those games. The only other team in the past 30 years to have a streak like this was a 20-game run by the 2018-19 Oklahoma City Thunder – a team also quarterbacked by Westbrook.

Since April 12, the Wizards are averaging an eye-popping 126.0 points per game to lead the NBA, and while Westbrook and Beal have played a big role in the scoring explosion, the offense is getting a boost from some unlikely sources thanks to a somewhat unconventional approach.

In this age of players regularly hoisting up three-point shots, the Wizards are instead focusing on pushing the ball inside.

Washington are attempting 7.1 fewer three-point attempts in their most recent 14 games compared to their first 52 contests, with their 23.4 three-point attempts since April 12 ranking fewest in the league – 3.7 attempts fewer than the next-closest team (San Antonio Spurs) and 20.1(!) fewer than the club with the most tries (Utah Jazz).

The results? An offense that ranks fourth in efficiency since April 12 at 115.4 points per 100 possessions after ranking 23rd at 106.7 through games played on April 11.

The backcourt tandem of Westbrook and Beal, the league's No. 2 scoring duo with 3,068 points – 29 behind the New Orleans Pelicans' Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram – have been the driving force of Washington's recent surge, which should obviously come as no surprise.

Prior to April 12, the Wizards averaged 99.8 points per 100 possessions when neither Westbrook nor Beal were on the court, and 109.9 points when they were playing together. Since April 12, Washington's efficiency without Westbrook and Beal dipped a smidge – 98.9 points per 100 possessions – while its production with both of them on the court has jumped significantly – 117.9 points per 100 possessions.

The offense is running smoother in part because Westbrook is taking smarter shots.

For all the great things the nine-time All-Star and 2016-17 MVP does on the court, shooting three-pointers isn't one of them. Of the 125 players with at least 225 3-point attempts, Westbrook's 31.2 per cent shooting ranks 121st.

Attempting fewer shots from beyond the perimeter would seem to behove Westbrook and the Wizards, and he's complying. After averaging 4.3 three-point attempts in his first 45 games, he's attempting an average of 2.8 three-pointers in the previous 14.

He's done some of his most damage recently from the elbow, where he's shooting 47.9 per cent and has made 35 field goals – second only to Ingram's 41 since April 12.

He made six shots from the elbow in Wednesday's 135-134 road loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, when he finished with 29 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds for his 19th triple-double in his past 23 games. With 179 triple-doubles in his career, he is now within two of Oscar Robertson's all-time record.

Beal has also cut down a bit on his three-point tries in the past 14 games – 6.4 to 5.5 – but the biggest change to his game in the last three and a half weeks has been he's driving even more to the basket.

Since April 12, his 10.0 field goal attempts on dunks and layups trails only Williamson's 15.1 per game for the league lead. The six-foot-three Beal is making 6.0 of these attempts after making 4.3 and attempting an average of 7.0 dunk and layups through April 11.

While Westbrook and Beal are considered two of the league's top guards, Robin Lopez's name usually isn't mentioned when discussing the NBA's top big men. Heck, he isn't even considered to be the best seven-footer in his own family, but he's been automatic from close range recently.

Among the 173 players with at least 30 shots from within five feet of the basket since April 12, Lopez's 78.4 per cent shooting (29 of 37) ranks sixth in the league. Prior to this stretch, Lopez was shooting 66.5 per cent on all shots within five feet of the hoop – just a tick behind brother Brook at 67.5 per cent.

Lopez isn't the only big man that has stepped up off the bench recently for Washington.

The three-team trade that sent Daniel Gafford from the Chicago Bulls to the Wizards didn't really move the needle on the day of the trade deadline, but it's one that has helped Washington turn their season around.

Of the 199 players with at least 75 field goal attempts since April 12, Gafford ranks fourth in the NBA in eFG per cent at 69.2, just behind Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant, whose third on the list at 69.7 per cent.

Gafford has also become one of Westbrook's favourite targets, as Westbrook has fed him on 31 made baskets since April 12. That's the most by any guard to a centre and third by any player to a team-mate behind Westbrook to Beal at 39 and the Warriors' Draymond Green to Stephen Curry at 46.

The recent surge in the standings has Washington on the verge of making the playoffs for the first time since 2018, as they sit in 10th place in the East, one-half game back of the ninth-place Indiana Pacers and a comfortable three games ahead of the Toronto Raptors.

Not only are the playoffs within their grasp, with the way Westbrook, Beal and company are playing, the high-octane Wizards have a look of a team nobody would like to face in the postseason.

Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson is excited for Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook to break his triple-double record in the NBA.

Westbrook is only three triple-doubles away from surpassing Robertson for the all-time record after posting 29 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds in Wednesday's 135-134 defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Former MVP Westbrook now has 179 career triple-doubles, just two away from matching 12-time All-Star Robertson – who won an NBA championship and MVP during his storied career.

"There's no doubt about it. I hope he gets it," Robertson told The New York Times midweek.

Westbrook has been averaging 21.8 points, 11.3 rebounds and 11.2 assists per game – the fourth season in his career that he has averaged a triple-double.

The 2017 MVP and nine-time All-Star leads the NBA in assists per game and total assists (651) in 2020-21.

Robertson added: "I totally enjoy the way Westbrook plays. He's a dynamic individual. They've moved him around to different teams and I don't know why, because I think he's one of the star guards in basketball.

"I guess they thought that when he went to Washington that he would not be that effective, but, man, he's done a tremendous job."

Westbrook – who has also played for the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets – is yet to win an NBA title, but Robertson said: "I think it's ridiculous that some sportswriters criticise him because he has not won a championship.

"Players don't win championships by themselves. You've got to have good management. You need to get with the right group of players.

"Look at Brooklyn: Who could have done this years ago? How things have changed. It seems now that what's happening in basketball, and I haven't seen it happen in football yet, is players will get together and say, 'Let's go and play for this team so we can win'. Years ago, you wouldn't have thought of doing that."

The Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers extended their winning streak to six games thanks to another dominant performance from MVP hopeful Joel Embiid.

Embiid posted 34 points and 12 rebounds in 25 minutes as the streaking 76ers (45-21) eased past the lowly Houston Rockets 135-115 in NBA action on Wednesday.

The All-Star became the first 76ers player in franchise history with a 30/10 game in 25 minutes or less, while Embiid earned his 15th 30-point, 10-rebound game of the season – only two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo has more such games (16).

Kelly Olynyk scored 27 points and Rockets rookie KJ Martin had a career-high 23 points with 10 rebounds and six assists for Houston (16-50), who own the worst record in the league.

 

History beckons for Westbrook

Washington Wizards star Russell Westbrook posted another triple-double of 29 points, 17 assists and 12 rebounds in an agonising 135-134 defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks. Westbrook (179) is now within three triple-doubles of surpassing Oscar Robertson (181) for the all-time record. With 42 points against the Bucks, Wizards team-mate Bradley Beal tallied his 29th career 40-point game, passing Gilbert Arenas for the most in Washington franchise history. Antetokounmpo fell just short of a triple-double – 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

The Utah Jazz reclaimed the number one seed in the west behind Jordan Clarkson, who was 12-for-16 shooting for 30 points in a 126-94 defeat of the San Antonio Spurs.

The Boston Celtics routed the Orlando Magic 132-96 and the Portland Trail Blazers crushed the Cleveland Cavaliers 141-105. According to Stats Perform, it is the second day in NBA history with two road teams winning by 35-plus points after November 10, 1971.

MVP frontrunner Nikola Jokic's 32 points and 12 rebounds inspired the Denver Nuggets to a 113-97 victory at home to the New York Knicks.

The Memphis Grizzlies held on to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 139-135 after Ja Morant had 37 points and 10 assists. It was Morant's fifth 30-point, 10-assist game – the most in Grizzlies history. No other player has more than two. Timberwolves rookie Anthony Edwards tied a career high with 42 points.

 

CP3 struggles as sun sets on Phoenix

The Phoenix Suns were upstaged 135-103 by the Atlanta Hawks. Second in the west, the Suns slipped a game off the pace after star Chris Paul finished just three-for-11 shooting for nine points in 24 minutes. Phoenix team-mate Cameron Johnson was only one-of-nine shooting, missing all six of his three-point attempts for a measly two points in 19 minutes off the bench.

Amid uncertainty over head coach Nate Bjorkgren, the Indiana Pacers lost 104-93 to the Sacramento Kings. Aaron Holiday was two-for-nine shooting, including one-for-three from beyond the arc in a five-point display in the starting five.

The Trail Blazers made light work of the Cavaliers thanks to Damian Lillard's 32 points, but C.J. McCollum was far from his best. In 31 minutes, McCollum was three-for-14 shooting, making one of five attempts from three-point range for 10 points.

Rockets veteran Avery Bradley made just one of his six field goals, missing all three of his three-point attempts for two points.

 

The 'Greek freak'

Antetokounmpo was doing Antetokounmpo things for the Bucks, who won their fourth straight game. The Bucks superstar showcased his physicality with a powerful dunk against the Wizards.

 

Wednesday's results

Boston Celtics 132-96 Orlando Magic
Portland Trail Blazers 141-105 Cleveland Cavaliers
Atlanta Hawks 135-103 Phoenix Suns
Sacramento Kings 104-93 Indiana Pacers
Philadelphia 76ers 135-115 Houston Rockets
Milwaukee Bucks 135-134 Washington Wizards
Memphis Grizzlies 139-135 Minnesota Timberwolves
Utah Jazz 126-94 San Antonio Spurs
Denver Nuggets 113-97 New York Knicks

 

Lakers at Clippers

Bragging rights and playoff positioning will be on the line when the Los Angeles Lakers (37-28) face the Los Angeles Clippers (44-22) on Thursday. Defending champions the Lakers are sixth in the Western Conference, just a half-game above the play-in spot, while the Clippers are third and already assured a postseason berth.

Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets have each been fined $35,000 for violating league rules governing media interview access.

The NBA announced the sanction on Wednesday following Irving's repeated refusal to participate in post-game media availability.

It is not the first time Nets star and 2016 NBA champion Irving has been fined this season.

Irving and the Nets were fined $25,000 each by the NBA in December for violating the league's media access rules.

Brooklyn's Irving paid a high price for attending what reportedly was a family birthday in January.

The NBA imposed a $50,000 fine on Irving, who according to TMZ and widespread reports attended a large family birthday celebration while not wearing a mask – in contravention of the league's coronavirus protocols.

Irving was also forced to sacrifice his salary for the games he missed while quarantining, which reportedly amounted to $816,898.

In 2020-21, Irving has averaged 27.0 points, 6.3 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game, boasting a career-best field-goal percentage of 50.0.

The Nets (43-23) are second in the Eastern Conference, one-and-a-half games behind the Philadelphia 76ers (44-21).

Stephen Curry is used to shooting the lights out, but the NBA superstar was left in the dark as to why the Golden State Warriors suffered defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.

Curry made history as he reached 300 successful three-point attempts for the season in his just 58th game, a new record.

The seven-time NBA All-Star had previously achieved the feat twice in 59 outings, while he also joined Ray Allen as the only players to make 2,800 career threes during the clash with the Pelicans.

However, New Orleans finally found a way to slow down Curry's scoring in the third quarter as a lighting failure hit the Smoothie King Center.

The Warriors had a 77-71 lead at the time but the delay, albeit brief as power was quickly restored, led a reversal in the teams' fortunes, New Orleans rallying to record a 108-103 victory.

"I hadn't seen that one before. They tried to get me, saying I shot the ball before the lights went out," Curry, who had 35 points at the time of the delay but managed just two more in the remainder of the contest, told the media.

"It was a weird situation. We were flowing a little bit and I guess after that it was a rough offensive situation, but tough game all the way round."

The Pelicans scored 33 points in the final quarter to overhaul their opponents and claim a pivotal win in their push to make the play-offs.

Golden State head coach Steve Kerr felt tiredness was a factor in his team fading down the stretch, having played – and beaten – the same opponents the previous day.

"I thought we were tired," Kerr said. "I thought both teams were tired on a back-to-back, obviously. 

"I'm really proud of the guys. They battled the entire way. Clearly we were tired in the fourth. Give New Orleans credit - they made plays that they had to."

Lonzo Ball had 33 points for the Pelicans a night after missing 15 of his 18 attempts in a heavy defeat to the Warriors.

"For me, to have the type of performance I had, it's unacceptable, especially at this time of the year. And I wanted to fix it," he said.

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer praised his star trio Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday after their 124-118 win over the star-studded Brooklyn Nets.

Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Holiday all made key contributions in Milwaukee's second victory against Brooklyn in three days – a result which clinched an NBA playoff spot and kept the Bucks in the hunt for a position among the Eastern Conference's top two.

Two-time reigning MVP and Bucks superstar Antetokounmpo led the way with 36 points and 12 rebounds but Middleton and Holiday played important roles in the 32-24 final quarter as Milwaukee rallied from six points down to prevail.

Middleton starred in the fourth quarter both offensively, to finish with 23 points and seven rebounds for the game, and defensively to limit Kevin Durant's impact.

Holiday, who joined the Bucks from the New Orleans Pelicans in November, had 23 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists, along with a key stop at the end.

"We're still trying to catch the right rhythm and find where all three of those guys are playing," Budenholzer said post-game.

"Maybe it's a stretch of one of them. The familiarity and comfort with each other is growing. It's a good thing for us."

Budenholzer was happy to have an NBA playoff spot secured, but more delighted that his side are playing well down the stretch, having now claimed back-to-back wins over a Nets team widely regarded as title favourites.

He also had special praise for Middleton's job on Durant, who still finished with 32 points.

"I thought he was good," Budenholzer said as the Bucks eye their first championship since 1971. "You've got to just keep coming.

"Great, great scorer, so you've got to make everything hard for him. we threw a lot of bodies at Durant tonight.

"Khris being able to finish a lot of those minutes in the fourth quarter was great work by him.

"What you need in the fourth quarter, is great defense and he stepped up down the other end too.

"But the team around him, it always takes the whole group."

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 36 points with 12 rebounds to lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a 124-118 win over the Brooklyn Nets and secure their NBA playoff spot on Tuesday.

Milwaukee's victory moved the Bucks to 41-24, narrowing in on the Nets (43-23), who are second behind the Philadelphia 76ers (44-21) in the Eastern Conference, with the postseason fast approaching.

The triumph was also a tie-breaker win for the Bucks, who also beat the star-studded Nets 117-114 on Sunday too, in a boost in the race for seedings.

Two-time reigning MVP Antetokounmpo was crucial but Khris Middleton came up big in the final quarter, finishing with 23 points and Jrue Holiday (23 points and 10 assists) made a key stop late in the contest.

Nets star Kyrie Irving had a game-high 38 points, while Kevin Durant added 32 along with nine rebounds and six assists.

 

Clippers finish fast, Suns rise in overtime

The Los Angeles Clippers stormed home after a sluggish start to secure a 105-100 overtime win against the Toronto Raptors. Paul George finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

The high-flying Phoenix Suns produced a 20-4 overtime run to outlast the Cleveland Cavaliers 134-118, helping them return to the top spot in the Western Conference. Devin Booker (31 points), Chris Paul (23 points and 16 assists) and Mikal Bridges (22 points) led the Suns in Cleveland.

Lonzo Ball equalled his career high with 33 points, including a crucial late jumper to keep the New Orleans Pelicans and their postseason hopes alive via a 108-103 win over the Golden State Warriors.

Hamidou Diallo had 35 points but the Detroit Pistons still lost 102-99 to the Charlotte Hornets, who were led by rookie LaMelo Ball and his 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.

Stephen Curry scored 37 points, including eight from beyond the arc to create history, joining Ray Allen as the only players in NBA history to make 2,800 career three-pointers. The two-time MVP also became the fastest player to reach 300 three-pointers in one season, needing only 58 games.

 

Landry's radar off

Nets shooting guard Landry Shamet normally makes an impact off the bench with his three-point shooting but he struggled against the Bucks. Shamet made one-of-six beyond the arc and one-of-eight overall in his 23 minutes on court, finishing with only three points.

 

Hardaway finds his range

Tim Hardaway Jr. was feeling it in the Dallas Mavericks' 127-113 win over the Chicago Bulls, shooting down an incredible 10 three-pointers in his 36-point display. Luka Doncic contributed 23 points and 12 rebounds in a double-double performance to help the Mavs move back above defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers into fifth in the west.

 

Tuesday's results

Charlotte Hornets 102-99 Detroit Pistons
Phoenix Suns 134-118 Cleveland Cavaliers (OT)
Milwaukee Bucks 124-118 Brooklyn Nets 
New Orleans Pelicans 108-103 Golden State Warriors
Dallas Mavericks 127-113 Miami Heat 
Sacramento Kings 103-99 Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Clippers 105-100 Toronto Raptors

 

Knicks at Nuggets

The in-form New York Knicks (37-28) make the trip to face Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets (43-22) with both sides jostling for playoffs seedings.

Kevin Durant acknowledged a lack of continuity within the Brooklyn Nets after they suffered consecutive defeats to Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks.

The Nets lost to the Bucks for the second time in three days after tasting a 124-118 defeat in Milwaukee on Tuesday.

Two-time reigning NBA MVP Antetokounmpo fuelled the win with 36 points as the Bucks clinched a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

Durant put up 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the slumping Nets.

Despite boasting three superstars in Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, the Nets were once again without the latter due to a hamstring injury. Brooklyn's trio have only played seven games together since Harden's blockbuster trade from the Houston Rockets in January.

"That is a huge factor. Continuity is a big thing in this league," former MVP Durant said post-game when asked about Brooklyn not having the Bucks' history together and continuity.

"We got veterans on this team that played in different situations that know pretty much every terminology that goes on in this league and every kind of set that we run on both sides.

"That's in our advantage as well, having that veteran leadership but we still are a connected group. I feel like we've been together for years, too, so we gotta continue to keep building on that."

The Nets have lost three straight games to slip one-and-a-half games behind Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers ahead of the postseason.

Brooklyn – eyeing their maiden championship – have not progressed beyond the Conference semi-finals since reaching the 2003 NBA Finals, though they have suffered back-to-back first-round exits in 2019 and 2020.

The Bucks, meanwhile, made it through to the 2018-19 Conference Finals before falling to eventual champions the Toronto Raptors, while they went down to the Miami Heat in last season's Conference semi-finals.

"I think it's a great experience for us to recognise where we are. We've got a gap to make up here," Nets head coach Steve Nash said about the two games against the Bucks.

"We understand that's a team that's been running the same offense, been playing together, same schemes on defense for years now.

"Gone deep into the playoffs, and that's something that we don't have, so how can we make up that gap. That's kind of our life in a nutshell heading home here. We're trying to get everyone back to full health and we're gonna try to overcome a lack of common experiences.

"That is our challenge as much as anything. While we do that, can we be more physical, can we be more connected, can we handle and control some of the controllables that can help us hang in some of these games and win some of these games while we’re trying to put the pieces together."

Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry joined Ray Allen as the only players in NBA history to make 2,800 career three-pointers.

Curry – an elite three-point shooter and widely considered the best of all-time – followed in the footsteps of two-time NBA champion Allen (2,973) during Tuesday's clash against the New Orleans Pelicans.

A three-time champion and two-time league MVP, Curry also broke a record by reaching 300 threes in 58 games this season.

Curry became the fastest player to hit 300 three-pointers in an NBA season.

Entering the Pelicans showdown, the 33-year-old had been shooting 42.7 per cent from beyond the arc.

He has been leading the league for three-pointers made per game (5.2) and three-pointers attempted per game (12.3), while no player has made more three-pointers than Curry this season.

Prior to the Pelicans meeting, Curry has also been averaging a career-high 31.4 points, career-best 5.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game for the Warriors.

Washington Wizards coach Scott Brooks says Russell Westbrook must go down as one of the game's greats after another incredible triple-double in their 154-141 win over the Indiana Pacers on Monday.

Westbrook had 24 assists along with 21 rebounds and 14 points for the Wizards, meaning he will have a triple-double average for the fourth season in his career.

The point guard's 24 assists was an equal career-high, while the Wizards' 50 for the game was a franchise record and the best in NBA history since 1990.

It was also Westbrook's 32nd triple-double of the season, taking him to 178 for his career, only three short of Oscar Robertson's all-time record.

"I've been fortunate to see him for eight years," said Brooks, who coached Westbrook at the Oklahoma City Thunder. "He does a lot of things that are pretty much superhuman at times.

"Point guards don’t do what he does. They're not built that way.

"I used to always say, he's going to go down as the third best point guard ever. I think he's passed one, he's going to go down as the second best. One is obviously Magic [Johnson].

"He's doing MVP-type things every game. He's as high a level as a player this league has ever seen."

Westbrook is averaging 21.8 points per game, 11.3 rebounds per game and 11.2 assists per game this season.

"Personally I feel like I'm the best playmaker in this league because I'm able to do things that nobody else can do," Westbrook said.

"I take pride in playmaking and passing it and making my teammates better. I'm grateful to have a bunch of teammates that make my job so much easier."

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