Golden State Warriors wing Klay Thompson emphasised that it all starts on the defensive end, while highlighting the performance of Andrew Wiggins after his side's 112-87 Game 1 blowout of the Dallas Mavericks.

The Warriors had seven players score in double-figures, led by Stephen Curry with a game-high 21 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, along with tying for the game-high with four assists.

While the Warriors' offense was strong, shooting 56.1 per cent from the field, it was their defense that won them the game, holding the Mavericks to 18 points in the first quarter and igniting a 15-4 run to start the third.

A main talking point from the series opener was the impressive performance of Andrew Wiggins, scoring 19 points while being the primary defender on Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic, holding him to 20 points on six-of-18 shooting with seven turnovers.

Speaking after the game, Thompson discussed the narrative that he is not the defender he once was and what he thinks makes the Warriors defense so good.

"I think our length, starting with Andrew [Wiggins] – he was moving them puppies tonight," he said.

"I still take pride in my defense, no matter what people say about if I've 'lost it' or not, I still think I'm a very good defender. Steph is in the [passing] lanes, obviously Draymond [Green], we can count on him every night on that side of the ball.

"I don't really pay attention to the noise [about criticism of his defense] – I know what I'm capable of, and I know what my team-mates are capable of. I knew we were able to do what we did tonight – it was just going to take a lot of focus and trusting each other.

"I'm trying. It's hard. Marking the best player every night for 40 minutes is not easy, and going to get buckets on the other end, but it's something I love to do. 

"All the best two-guards to ever play the game played both sides of the ball – whether it was Mike [Jordan], Kobe [Bryant], [Dwyane Wade], guys I really idolised as a kid – they all competed on that side, so I just try to follow the same mould."

Thompson went on to touch on the mediocre performance from Doncic, before showering Wiggins with further praise, saying he is happy people are finally seeing "who he really is".

"Luka is obviously one of the best players in the world," he said. "It didn't help that they played two days ago, off that emotional high of winning a Game 7, so we expect them to come back with a much better effort on Friday. 

"That's why [Wiggins] was the number one pick [of the 2014 NBA Draft]. You can't teach that athleticism, you can't teach that length or his timing. 

"I'm just happy the world is getting to see who he really is – an incredible wing player – and he will be like this for the next 10 years.

"I think him being here, he's allowed to be himself. We have so many great, talented players that it can be somebody's night and the ball will find them. 

"Andrew was incredible tonight, I can't say enough good things about him. 

"He makes my job so much easier, I don't have to check the best player every night – after what I've been through, that's a nice change of pace. He doesn't seem to get tired, his outside shot has greatly improved, and he's just coming into his own.

"It's just one game, and we can feel good now, but [the Mavericks] were down 2-0 and won their series last round."

Warriors coach Steve Kerr echoed Thompson's sentiments about Wiggins.

"I thought [Wiggins] was fantastic," he said. "Doncic is as difficult a cover as there is in this league, and we just asked Wiggs to try to hound him and guard him as best as he could. 

"He did a fantastic job – Wiggs is just a huge part of our defense and our team. I thought he was great offensively as well, so great night for Andrew."

When asked about the job the Warriors defense did on him, Doncic was respectful but had little to add.

"They did a great job – that's it, that's all I have to say. They did a great job," he said. 

"It's one game, that's what the playoffs is about. Whether you lose by one or you lose by 40, it's a loss, so we just have to get ready for Game 2 now."

The Golden State Warriors were spectacular in the opening game of their Western Conference Finals series against the Dallas Mavericks, leading throughout for a 112-87 win.

Defensive stops were the theme for the Warriors, holding the Mavericks to just 18 points in the opening quarter to open up a 10-point lead after the first frame.

The Mavericks trimmed the margin to 35-33 halfway through the second quarter, but from that point on it was all Warriors, led by Andrew Wiggins' highest-scoring playoff half of his career as he had 15 to lead his side to a 54-45 half-time advantage.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson took over in the third period, combining for 20 of the Warriors' 34 points to help their side jump ahead by 20 points, allowing the hosts to coast home unchallenged in the last.

Curry finished with game-highs in points and rebounds, with 21 on seven-of-16 shooting and 12 respectively, while Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins chipped in 19 points each on a combined 16-of-29 shooting.

Six Warriors players finished with at least three assists, and as a team they had 24 assists on 46 field goals, while the Mavericks had 14 assists from their 31 field goals.

Luka Doncic looked primed for a big game early on, but struggled to score the ball efficiently, finishing with a team-high 20 points on six-of-18 shooting to go with seven turnovers and four assists. The Mavericks had their worst shooting performance of these playoffs at 36 per cent (31-of-86), and 22 per cent from long-range (11-of-48).

Golden State will host Game 2 on Friday, before Game 3 heads to Dallas on Sunday.

Klay Thompson said it felt "so special" to lead the Golden State Warriors into the Western Conference Finals after the Dubs got the better of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Playing close to his best, Thompson shot 11-of-22 from the field for a 30-point game, nailing eight of 14 attempts from long range in a 110-96 win in Game 6 of the semi-finals.

After clinching the 4-2 series success, the 32-year-old Thompson said it was a joy to be contributing on a high level again.

Major knee and Achilles injuries have seriously disrupted the career of one of the NBA's finest shooting guards, who won championships with the Warriors in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Thompson finished the regular season with four 30-point-plus games in his last six outings, but he had managed just one such high-scoring performance in 10 of the team's postseason games until coming good on Friday night.

Speaking in an on-court ESPN interview, Thompson said: "I just tried to focus on the present, and I was thinking about the last couple of years and what the team has been through and what I personally have been through, and to have another closeout game at Chase Center it gave me butterflies.

"I was nervous all day, but I just had so much fun tonight, and I'm proud of this team for being so resilient."

The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to make 20-plus three-pointers and grab 70-plus rebounds in a single game, regular season or postseason.

Now they wait for the winner of Sunday's Game 7 between the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns.

The Western Conference Finals await, and the Warriors have not reached that stage since 2019, when they went one step further by sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers to reach the NBA Finals.

Thompson suffered an ACL injury in the Game 6 championship series-ending loss to the Toronto Raptors, forcing him to miss the entire next campaign.

His perspective on reaching the latter stages of the playoffs has changed with experience.

"I know that became routine in the 2010s for the Dubs, but that's a special, special opportunity," Thompson said. "We do not take that lightly. We're going to kick our feet up the next couple of days, watch this Suns-Mavs Game 7 and get the popcorn ready, but it's so special.

"I'm going to enjoy tonight, and I'm going to be hungry when that time comes because you can't take it for granted, nothing's guaranteed in sports."

The Boston Celtics survived a historic performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo as Jayson Tatum scored 46 points to carry his side to a 108-95 win, tying the series at 3-3 and forcing a Game 7 in Boston.

Antetokounmpo became the first player since Shaquille O'Neal over 20 years ago to eclipse a playoff stat-line of 40 points and 20 rebounds, finishing with 44 points on 14-of-30 shooting, going 14-of-15 from the free throw line and an even 20 boards. He also added six assists, two blocks and one steal.

But Tatum was matching him every step of the way on the offensive end, shooting 17-of-32 from the field and seven-of-15 from long range, with nine rebounds and four assists to go with his 46.

It was a game that the Celtics controlled from the second quarter, restricting the Bucks to 17 points in the frame to grab a 10-point half-time lead, and although the home side made runs, Boston had all the answers.

The Bucks were a one-man show, but the Celtics had a number of solid contributors as Jaylen Brown shot seven-of-16 from the field and four-of-seven from deep for his 22 points, while Marcus Smart shot eight-of-16 and five-of-nine from beyond the arc for his 21.

Al Horford finished with just two points, but had a game-high four blocks and a team-high 10 rebounds as he made Antetokounmpo battle all day inside, while Derrick White also chipped in with 30 important minutes off the bench, complimenting the stars perfectly.

Jrue Holiday and Pat Connaughton were the only other Bucks to score more than six points as Milwaukee shot 40 per cent from the field and 24 per cent from three (seven-of-29).


'Game 6 Klay' returns to clinch series 

The Golden State Warriors booked their trip to the Western Conference Finals with a 110-96 win in Game 6 of their series against the Memphis Grizzlies, advancing with a 4-2 margin.

To the Grizzlies' credit, without Ja Morant, they stayed competitive through three quarters, before a 32-19 final frame for the Warriors put the game to bed.

While most Warriors players rose to the occasion, none played better than Klay Thompson, who lived up to his glittering reputation in Game 6s with 30 points, shooting 11-of-22 from the field and eight-of-14 from long range.

Stephen Curry added 29 points on 10-of-27 shooting, adding seven rebounds and five assists, while Andrew Wiggins was strong on both ends, scoring 18 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking three shots.

After being bullied on the interior in Game 5, the Warriors re-injected Kevon Looney into the rotation, and he collected a game-high 22 rebounds in 35 minutes, while Draymond Green had 14 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists.

The Warriors will play the winner of the Game 7 showdown between the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks.

Stephen Curry says he is proud of his team's response to Draymond Green's rejection, after the Golden State Warriors took Game 1 on the road against Memphis Grizzlies with a 117-116 win.

Green was ejected in the first half of Sunday's series opener at the FedEx Forum for a flagrant foul on Brandon Clarke, and the Warriors rallied to take a double-digit lead in the third quarter before holding on with defensive stops on the Grizzlies' final two possessions.

Curry snatched the ball from Ja Morant to set up free-throws for the Warriors, but Klay Thompson shockingly missed both, before he responded by stopping Morant on the final possession of the game.

The former unanimous MVP praised his side's mental toughness in not imploding after the contentious ejection, noting it even galvanised them in front of the Memphis crowd.

"It was a tough call obviously, on the road and you're trying to start a series, and you get a guy like Draymond headed to the locker room," Curry said. "Nobody wants to see that. It's not good for the game, I didn't think it [Green's jersey pull] deserved that.

"We got a little emotional rise out of it, trying to stay locked in and deal with the circumstances and give ourselves a chance to win.

"Whatever emotion you rely on to turn the page from one series to the next, and especially when you're starting on the road, you've got to have an edge about you, for sure."

Along with the defensive stops, the Dubs' win on Sunday was also notable for the fact Curry and Thompson shot a combined 14-of-39, including eight-of-22 from beyond the arc.

Jordan Poole compensated and nearly notched his first triple-double with 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting, nine assists and eight rebounds.

With Curry starting in Poole's place this time, after he was eased back off the bench in the series win over the Denver Nuggets, the 34-year-old cited his team's resilience as critical.

"Whatever way you explain it, whatever emotion you tie into it, you just bring it," Curry said. "When Draymond went out, there's your moment like 'What are we gonna do? How are we gonna figure this out?'

"To go into half-time, regroup, come out and play the way that we did, I'm really proud of everybody and their approach to the game. It was a good vibe out there."

The Boston Celtics failed to take Game 1 at home despite locking up Giannis Antetokounmpo, with the Milwaukee Bucks managing a 101-89 win on Sunday.

Antetokoumpo shot nine-of-25 from the floor and coughed up five turnovers as the Celtics went at him defensively - trapping upon receiving the ball in the post, along with crowding the paint and staying physical as he drove to the basket.

Boston did not capitalise on the other end however, shooting a playoff low 33 per cent (23-of-84) from the floor in the loss.

While it was evident in the Brooklyn series, Jaylen Brown as one of the Celtics' ball-handlers hurt the team, giving up a game-high seven turnovers as he scored 12 points off four-of-13 shooting.

The assist count was naturally low for both teams - 22 for Milwaukee, 21 for Boston - in what became a defensive stoush, setting the tone for this series.

Warriors take home court from Memphis

Later on Sunday, the Golden State Warriors dramatically took home court from the Memphis Grizzlies, claiming a 117-116 win in Game 1 on the road.

The win was all the more impressive given Draymond Green was ejected early for a Flagrant 2 foul, after he pulled Brandon Clarke down by the jersey.

It also came with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson only converting on a combined 14-of-39 from the floor, even walking into open looks down the stretch after offensive rebounds.

Notably, the Warriors almost dared Ja Morant to shoot, taking 11 three-point attempts in Game 1, which is a contrast to the 20 he attempted for the series against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Morant still had the final possession, but after rimming both free-throws to make it a three-point game, Thompson forced the 22-year-old into a miss as he attacked the basket.

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr says his side is still in an ideal situation despite the Denver Nuggets claiming a 126-121 win on Sunday and avoiding a sweep.

Careless play put the Warriors down 17 points down at one stage, but they managed to eventually draw level through the shooting of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry.

Turning the ball over 11 times in the first half, the Dubs started in a sloppy manner against a Denver side fighting to keep their season alive.

The 56-year-old Kerr believes Golden State are still in a good spot and that the nature of the loss can nevertheless act as a good reference point looking ahead in the post-season.

"We needed that," Kerr said post-match. "We took ourselves out of the game because we were too excited, and part of winning playoff basketball games on the road is executing being poised, understanding what's happening and sticking to the game plan. We didn't deserve to win.

"But now, you take that and put it in your back pocket, and you've got it in the memory bank for the next time we're in that situation.

"But the focus now goes to heading home and getting back in front of our fans. This is the situation you want in any playoff series when you're hosting – sweep the first two, get one out of two on the road and go home with a chance to clinch. We're right where we need to be."

Kerr's play-calling down the stretch also came under scrutiny after the loss.

Following a Monte Morris floater to put the Nuggets up 123-121 with 33 seconds remaining, Kerr called a lob for Andrew Wiggins off the inbound from the consequent timeout.

Austin Rivers' steal of Otto Porter Jr's inbound pass effectively sealed the win for Denver, but it came in the face of Curry and Thompson in good shooting rhythm.

"Yeah, I would like that play back," Kerr said. "There's 33 seconds so we're thinking a two-for-one. If we get a two-for-one, then we can tie the game and have a chance to win it at the end.

"So it's a good two-for-one situation, but the lob wasn't there, and if I could do it do it again I'd probably draw up something different. But they made a great defensive play, give them credit."

The Denver Nuggets narrowly avoided a series sweep on Sunday, coming up big on both ends in the final seconds to beat the Golden State Warriors 126-121.

Down 17 points at one stage and nine to start the fourth quarter, the Warriors were able to claw their way level through Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who combined for 55 points for the game and on 22-of-43 shooting from the floor.

The Warriors could not seize the opportunity to lead with scores tied at 121 however, when Andrew Wiggins missed a tip-dunk off a Thompson miss, an open catch-and-shoot three in the corner.

A Monte Morris floater gave the Nuggets the lead with 33.5 seconds remaining, and Austin Rivers' steal from the consequent Otto Porter Jr. inbound effectively settled the result. Will Barton's corner three from a Nikola Jokic feed was punctuation mark.

Jokic was exceptional with Denver's season on the line, coming up with 37 points on 14-of-21 shooting, eight rebounds and six assists.

Pels level series against Suns

The New Orleans Pelicans have managed to level the series with the first-seeded Phoenix Suns, comfortably winning Game 4 118-103.

The combination of the Pels' defensive flexibility and length combined with the Suns' continued struggles in injured star Devin Booker's absence has made this a series.

While Deandre Ayton was able to provide a presence under the basket with 23 points and eight rebounds, Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges shot a combined six-of-19 from the floor.

Jonas Valanciunas came up with important buckets down the stretch on his way to 26 points and 15 rebounds.

Heat and Bucks take commanding leads in East

The Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks now have the chance to advance in the playoffs on their home floors, defeating the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls respectively. 

The Heat defeated the Hawks 110-86 to take a 3-1 series lead, with the latter held to just 15 points in the second quarter.

It was a particularly tough night for Trae Young after his game-winner in Game 3, taking only four shots in the second half and committing as many turnovers.

The Milwaukee Bucks also took a 3-1 series lead on Sunday, claiming a big 119-95 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Grayson Allen provided crucial minutes off the bench with 27 points off 10-of-12 shooting, including six-of-seven from beyond the arc, as well as three steals.

Klay Thompson was full of praise for Jordan Poole as the Golden State Warriors claimed a 3-0 series lead, defeating the Denver Nuggets 118-113 on Thursday.

Stephen Curry notably played over 30 minutes in the Warriors' road victory, with the recent three-guard lineup of Curry, Thompson and Poole just proving too much.

After only three playoff games in his career, the 22-year-old Poole is leading the Dubs in scoring over the series with 28.7 points per game.

It is not just volume Poole is scoring at but the efficiency, scoring 27 points on nine-of-13 shooting in Thursday's win, with Thompson asserting he is vital to Golden State's NBA title aspirations.

"These three games, I mean, I don't remember a better start for a playoff debut for a guard," Thompson said post-game. "It's incredible what Jordan is doing.

"We need him to go where we want to go, and we need him to keep doing what he's doing.

Opposition defensive schemes effectively have to pick their poison with two the NBA's best three-point shooters ever and Poole, who shot at an astounding 58.8 per cent from the perimeter in the opening two games against Denver.

Thompson is well aware of the spacing Golden State's three-guard lineup provides, but believes it is complemented by Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins.

"At times, yeah [I feel the space]," Thompson said. "I mean, I had a really good look with like a minute left that I missed – I wish I could get that one back, but that's okay.

"What a fun night at the office. The ball's just flying around, and we played great down the stretch on both sides of the ball. When we move the ball and we trust each other, we'll get open looks.

"We're all great shooters, and Draymond's play-making, and Andrew [Wiggins] is a great shooter as well."

Steph Curry was hailed as the "greatest sixth man ever in the playoffs" after a 34-point performance from the bench that made that case.

Two-time NBA MVP Curry is working his way back from a foot injury and has been kept out of the Golden State Warriors' lineup for their first two games against the Denver Nuggets in the first round.

The Warriors have won both, though, and Curry had a huge role to play in Game 2, scoring 34 points in just 23 minutes on 12-of-17 shooting to earn a plus/minus of 32.

"Jesus," said Draymond Green when he looked at the stat sheet. "Steph plus-32... that's incredible. Wow."

It was only Curry's fourth playoff appearance from the bench, and his 34 points still fell short of the 40 he scored against the Portland Trail Blazers in his first such appearance in 2016 – the most by any player coming off the bench in the postseason since at least 1985-86.

He has averaged 29.5 points across those four games, another record over that period.

The performance against the Blazers came in 37 minutes, however, with this latest display against the Nuggets the best performance by a bench player in 25 minutes or fewer. Only Paul George – 35 against the Dallas Mavericks in 2020 – has scored more in 25 playoff minutes as a starter.

"I'm back," Curry bellowed at one stage, later explaining: "In the first game, I didn't really feel normal, like I had the real flow. Then the first half [of Game 2] I had a little pep in my step and my body felt good.

"I was able to get to some spots, and when you make certain shots, it feels a little different. It feels a little bit more normal and more emotion comes out. It was a nice feeling."

Meanwhile, Jordan Poole, starting in Curry's place, followed up his 30 points in Game 1 with 29 in Game 2. Klay Thompson added 21.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone said: "You have three guys that are capable of putting up 30, 40 points.

"Jordan Poole had 30 points in Game 1, he had 29 tonight. Steph Curry is the greatest sixth man ever in the playoffs. They bring a guy off the bench like that, 34 points, five threes... and then Klay Thompson."

The Warriors have an issue now, Green acknowledges, working out how to get all three guards into the same lineup.

"We're not going to keep Steph in the sixth man role, forget that," he said. "But saying that, ultimately, Jordan is probably going to have to start, too.

"Ultimately, we've got to figure a bunch of stuff out. It's a good problem to have, a great problem to have."

Green was happy to let Steve Kerr "figure that one out", but the coach is very pleased with Curry's attitude to returning to action on the bench.

"Steph is Steph," Kerr said. "You don't need to sell him on anything.

"He's very unique. He's incredibly humble and incredibly arrogant on the floor – humble off the floor, arrogant on the floor. It's a great combination. Anything that is going to help the team he's all for."

Klay Thompson was glowing in his praise of Jordan Poole, whose 30 points on his playoff debut propelled the Golden State Warriors to a 123-107 Game 1 win over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

Poole's performance even overshadowed the return of the previously injured Stephen Curry to a degree, with the two-time MVP starting off the bench.

Thompson – the third-year player's starting teammate in the backcourt on Saturday with Curry's return being managed – was full of compliments after the game, claiming Poole should be guaranteed the NBA's Most Improved Player award this season.

"Jordan Poole, wow, what a playoff debut. I mean, all his hard work is paying off," Thompson said post-game. "If he doesn't get Most Improved Player, it doesn't make sense. Without him, we would not be where we're at.

"So, Dub Nation, we should be very grateful for Jordan's development and the type of player he's become, he's just incredible. What a star in the making."

Poole and Thompson have been able to develop handy chemistry for the Dubs in the run-in to the playoffs with Curry still out, combining for 49 points off 16-of-28 shooting from the floor, including 10-of-17 from beyond the arc.

Curry and Poole's quick releases and accuracy in shooting, as well as their ability to operate off the dribble out of the pick-and-roll, means three-guard lineups for Golden State will likely be prominent this post-season.

All the same, according to Thompson, for both Curry and Poole can provide him clean looks.

"I play off Jordan very well," Thompson said. "He's so good in the ball screen, that allows me to play off the ball and fly off screens. Allows me to be that catch-and-shoot sniper that I always was.

"He's like Steph with the ball in his hands, as far as his ability to shoot off the pick-and-roll, and we just developed a great chemistry over the last month or two just playing ball."

Steph Curry is likely to return for Game 1 of the Golden State Warriors' first-round series against the Denver Nuggets, after missing the home stretch of the regular season with a foot sprain.

The two-time MVP and three-time NBA Champion is averaging 25 points, six assists and five rebounds this season in 64 games – his most games played since the 2018-19 season.

Curry is essential to the Warriors' success, as illustrated by their 8-10 record in games he has missed this season, compared to 45-19 when he has played.

Golden State head coach Steve Kerr spoke about how everyone is desperate to get the star guard back on the court, but the organisation will not rush him back before he has proven his readiness.

"We're not going to play him without getting a scrimmage," he said.

"The whole team will need a scrimmage, given that we generally play every other day and now we have six days between games, that's pretty unique. 

"But it would be irresponsible to put Steph out there in a playoff game without having scrimmage time before."

Kerr also suggested that if Curry is to suit up in Game 1, he will be on a minutes restriction, saying he won't play "30, 35 minutes", and may come off the bench.

Curry's 'Splash Brother', Klay Thompson, also weighed in on the status of his team-mate.

"It felt good to play, and Stephen Curry looked like himself," he said. "He just gives everybody a lift with just his presence on the court. 

"It was great to have him out there."

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.

Klay Thompson knew this would be a season of "ups and downs" so was delighted he could save one of his best performances for a big game on Saturday.

The Golden State Warriors beat the Utah Jazz 111-107 to secure their place in the playoffs for the first time since 2019 – the last in their run of five straight NBA Finals appearances.

Breakout star Jordan Poole was vital again with 31 points, but the night belonged to Thompson, who had 36.

Thompson sustained the first of two serious long-term injuries in the 2019 Finals against the Toronto Raptors and so missed the entirety of the next two campaigns, in which the Warriors fell short of the postseason.

He returned this year but has not always looked like one of the greatest shooters in NBA history.

Thompson is shooting career lows both from the field (41.8 per cent) and from three-point range (37.1 per cent), while his 19.3 points per game are his fewest since 2013-14, before the Warriors' dynasty began.

But this has been a difficult season for Golden State as a whole, their strong early start fading in the face of further injury problems.

Thompson, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green have only appeared together in three games and started together just once.

With the finish line nearing, though, it was Thompson who ensured they should get the opportunity to line up in the playoffs, when it is hoped that Curry will return.

"I know I can flip a switch just like that," Thompson said. "I knew this year would have its ups and downs, and I just told myself yesterday that it's one game and I will move on.

"I told Kenny Atkinson that I felt like I was going to have a big night tonight, and it came to fruition. I'm happy it did."

Coach Steve Kerr added: "We've seen it a million times. If Klay just sees the ball go through the hoop a couple of times, he can make the bad ones, too.

"I didn't think this was a dramatic improvement in terms of shot selection, but I think the fact that that midrange shot was there, that allowed him to get into a rhythm, and then he started making the impossible ones."

The Warriors were 21 points behind at one stage in the second quarter, making this their biggest comeback win of the season. They finally claimed the lead with 3:33 left in the game.

"What a performance," Kerr said. "I was amazed by the skill of Klay and Jordan, the emotion and passion from Draymond, and the methodical defense and energy from Andrew [Wiggins] and Otto [Porter Jr.].

"It was an unbelievable performance down the stretch by our guys."

In what may be a preview of this year's Western Conference Finals, the top-seeded Phoenix Suns make the trip to San Francisco to take on the three seed Golden State Warriors on Wednesday.

While these are undoubtedly two of the premier teams in the West, the real story is about how the Suns have been in a class of their own this season, eight games clear of the second-best record in the league.

In the 21st century, only two teams have finished the regular season with a top-two ranking in both offensive efficiency and defensive efficiency: the 2014-15 Golden State Warriors, and the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors.

Both of those Warriors juggernauts went on to win the NBA Championship, and if the season were to end today, Phoenix would become the third team to achieve those marks.

Phoenix's net-rating – which illustrates how many more points a team is scoring than their opposition per 100 possessions – is plus 8.5, which is nearly two points clear of the second-placed Boston Celtics at plus 6.8.

The Suns have not just been the best team in basketball this season, they have been historically good in a way that compares the peak of the Warriors' run, and ranks better than any of LeBron James' Miami Heat teams, or the three-peat Los Angeles Lakers from 2000-02.

The Warriors, on the other hand, have been sputtering since Stephen Curry was sidelined with an injury that is expected to keep him out of action until the playoffs.

After three consecutive losses, can the Warriors pose any real threat to such a great Suns team? Stylistically, they may have some factors working in their favour, and as the saying goes, styles make fights.

These are two teams that play in similar ways. Both teams are bottom-five in percentage of their total points coming from the free throw line, both teams are top-five in percentage of two-point baskets coming from assists, and both are top-three in fewest blocked shots.

What this means is when these teams go inside to score, they are playing a finesse game focused around passing, movement, and creating open shots, as opposed to a bully-ball style which focuses on creating contact and forcing a way to the free throw line.

For a team like the Warriors that gives up free throws at the fifth-highest rate in the league, having a team that is willing to match their style and be a willing dance partner will hide some deficiencies and allow the home side to lean into what it does well.

Golden State also attempts the second-highest percentage of three-pointers – nearly 46 per cent of all of their shots come from long range – while Phoenix is way down at 27th in the league, taking 65 per cent of their shots from two-point range.

Despite that stat implying Phoenix is dominant in the paint, they actually are 16th in paint scoring, but third in mid-range scoring thanks to the efforts of Devin Booker and Chris Paul.

It is well-established at this point that mid-range jump shots are the least efficient shots in all of basketball, while an open three-pointer is the best shot a team can take other than a dunk, layup or free throw.

Phoenix has been great on a diet of difficult shots this season, but if the Warriors can get hot from three-point range at the volume they get them up, the Suns may simply lose the math equation.

 

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Phoenix Suns – Chris Paul

Of every player in the NBA this season averaging at least 20 minutes per appearance, only two – LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar Derozan – score a higher percentage of their points from the mid-range than Paul.

As discussed, Phoenix will need to score consistently and efficiently from the mid-range to counter how many three-pointers the Warriors will get up, and Paul is at the center of that.

Add into the equation that Paul leads the league in assists per game, while coming in at second in steals per game, and it's clear why he is so important at both ends of the floor.

 

Golden State Warriors – Klay Thompson

Simply put, the Warriors need to get hot from long range to win this game, and few players in the history of basketball can get hotter than Klay Thompson.

Thompson holds the NBA record for most threes in a single game, hitting 14 of them against the Chicago Bulls in 2018, and has made at least nine in a game on 10 different occasions.

While he is still working himself back into full form after returning from a two-year absence this season, over his past 10 games Thompson is averaging 24 points per game and is hitting a strong 40 per cent of his long range attempts.

 

KEY BATTLES – Can the Warriors compete with the Suns' size?

Golden State have only one player on their roster taller than six-foot-nine Kevon Looney, and it is James Wiseman, who will not play a single game this season due to lingering injuries.

Suns center Deandre Ayton measures in at seven-foot-one, and less than a week ago he physically dominated All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns en route to 35 points and 14 rebounds.

Towns is bigger than anyone Golden State can throw at Ayton, and while Looney is an above-average defender, basketball is a game where size matters, and the Warriors are small.

 

HEAD-TO-HEAD

These two sides met on three separate occasions in December, with Golden State winning twice.

Curry top-scored for the Warriors in both wins, while Ayton out-scored his season average in all three meetings.

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