The NBA All-Rookie teams were unveiled on Wednesday, headlined by Rookie of the Year finalists Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley and winner Scottie Barnes in the All-Rookie First Team.

Joining the trio – who were all unanimous selections – on the First Team were Orlando Magic forward Franz Wagner and Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green.

Cunningham, Green, Mobley and Barnes were the first four picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, while Wagner was the eighth selection.

They were also the only five rookies to average at least 15 points per game this season, putting a gap between themselves and sixth-highest scorer Chris Duarte at 13.1 points per game. It is the first time since at least 1985 that all five members of the All-Rookie First Team have each averaged at least 15 points per game.

The All-Rookie Second Team was made up of first-rounders Josh Giddey (sixth selection), Duarte (13th selection) and Bones Hyland (26th), as well as a pair of second-round picks in Herb Jones (35th) and Ayo Dosunmu (38th).

Orlando will have the number one pick of the 2022 NBA Draft, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder and then the Rockets.

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has said he is "extremely grateful" to work with Nikola Jokic after the Serbian was confirmed as the winner of the NBA's MVP award for the second successive season.

Malone, along with other representatives from the Nuggets, flew out to Sombor in Serbia to surprise Jokic at his stables with the award on Wednesday.

During the 2021-22 regular season, the center led the league in points/assists/rebounds per game with 48.7, which marked an improvement on his 2020-21 numbers, which saw him rack up 45.5 PAR per game.

Jokic becomes the 13th player in NBA history to win the MVP award in back-to-back years, following the likes of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and LeBron James.

Unfortunately for Denver, Jokic's regular-season form did not translate to success in the postseason for the Nuggets, who lost 4-1 to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.

However, the Nuggets wanted to celebrate the 27-year-old's achievement, and presented him with the MVP award in his home city, with Malone saying: “I don’t know what else you can say about Nikola at this point.

"He's consistently improved his game, he's consistently proven people wrong when they doubt him and he's consistently the best player on the floor night in and night out.

"I've said it many times before, I'm extremely grateful to coach Nikola Jokic and just as grateful for the bond that we've built off the court in our seven years together."

Jokic was originally drafted to the Nuggets with the 41st pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, famously doing so during a commercial break.

His MVP win last season made him the player with the lowest draft position to win the award, and the first center to do so since Shaquille O'Neal in 2000.

Joel Embiid insists he is "not mad" after missing out on the NBA's MVP award again to Nikola Jokic but continues to show contempt at the award's voting process.

The Philadelphia 76ers center was runner-up to Jokic last year and according to ESPN the Denver Nuggets' big man will edge him again for this season's gong.

Embiid enjoyed arguably a career-best season, with a league-high 30.6 points per game with 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists.

"I'm not mad," Embiid told reporters, when speaking after the 76ers' 120-85 loss to the Miami Heat on Tuesday.

"That's two years in a row I put myself in that position. It didn't happen. It is almost like, at this point, it is whatever. Whatever happens, happens.

"Last year, I campaigned about it. This year, I answered questions when I was asked, and in the next few years until I retire, it's almost like ... like I said, I wonder what else I have to do to win it, and to me, at this point, it's whatever.

"It's all about focusing, not that I wasn't focused on the bigger picture. It's really time to really put all my energy into the bigger picture, which is to win the whole thing."

Embiid's comments come with the 76ers on the brink of elimination after Tuesday's loss which leaves them 3-2 down in the Conference semi-finals to the Heat.

The 28-year-old Cameroonian added that there was no "right or wrong" answer for the MVP but continued to show derision towards the voting process, insisting he knew weeks ago he would not win.

"This is something that I knew weeks ago, even probably two weeks before the season ended, after those games against whether it was Denver and Milwaukee, and when [ESPN did its] straw poll or whatever. I just knew it wasn't gonna happen," Embiid said.

"Obviously, congrats to Nikola. He deserved it. He had an amazing season. There's no right or wrong. There was a lot of candidates.

"It could have gone either way. Giannis [Antetokounmpo], Devin Booker, being on the best team in the league, by far. I guess, every year is all about whatever you guys decide, whatever fits the narrative as far as who's gonna win."

Nikola Jokic has won the NBA MVP award for the second successive season, according to reports.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday reported Jokic will be officially announced as MVP later this week.

It follows a 2021-22 season in which the Denver Nuggets center led the league in points/assists/rebounds per game with 48.7.

That average marked an improvement on his 2020-21 numbers, which saw him rack up 45.5 PAR per game.

His reward for that increased production is to become the 13th player in NBA history to win the MVP award in back-to-back years.

Giannis Antetokounmpo achieved the feat in 2019-20, with Stephen Curry and LeBron James the two other active NBA players to go back-to-back.

Bill Russell was the first to win successive MVPs, heading a list that also features Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.

Tim Duncan won in 2001-02 and 2002-03 and Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash was named MVP for the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.

Jokic's regular-season form did not translate to success in the postseason for the Nuggets, who lost 4-1 to Curry and the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warriors roll past Nuggets with new starting-five

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

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

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

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

 

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."

A remarkable fourth quarter from the Memphis Grizzlies was the catalyst in their 104-95 win on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves, going up 2-1 in the series.

In the first quarter, in front of their home fans, it appeared that it was going to be all Timberwolves early as they got off to a scorching start, with Patrick Beverley scoring eight of the game's first 12 points as the hosts went up 12-0.

Both Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr collected two personal fouls each in the opening period as the Grizzlies went into the second quarter trailing 39-21. A much-improved defensive effort held the Wolves to 12 points in the second term, though, cutting the margin back to 51-44 at the half.

Memphis were unable to keep that momentum coming out of the break as Minnesota started the third frame on a 28-10 run, pulling away to a 79-54 lead.

But trailing 83-62 with 1:05 to play in the third quarter, the Grizzlies started their run. They would score 21 consecutive points to tie the game at 83-83 as Desmond Bane, Brandon Clarke and Tyus Jones lifted the visitors.

As Karl-Anthony Towns struggled down the stretch – finishing with just eight points and five blocks with five fouls – the Grizzlies were firing on all cylinders, winning the last quarter 37-12 to open their lead up to 10 points for a relatively comfortable final few minutes.

Morant was a disappointing five-of-18 from the field for his 16 points and seven turnovers, but he added 10 rebounds and 10 assists as he stayed involved in other areas of the game. 

He was supported beautifully by Bane who top-scored with 26 points, hitting seven-of-15 from long range, while Clarke had 20 points and eight rebounds on just nine field goal attempts. Jones posted a line of 11 points, five rebounds and four assists off the bench, hitting all three of his threes.

Game 4 will remain in Minnesota before heading back to Memphis for Game 5.

Brunson and the bench boys

Dallas Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson carried his side to a 126-118 win against the Utah Jazz, with superstar teammate Luka Doncic watching from the sidelines.

Brunson scored a career-high 41 points in his last outing, before dropping 31 on 12-of-22 shooting in hostile territory on Thursday.

He was supported by a terrific shooting performance by the Mavericks reserves, as Maxi Kleber, Davis Bertans and Josh Green combined to shoot 11-of-17 from three-point range. As a team, Dallas shot 42.9 per cent from beyond the arc (18-of-42).

The Jazz shot 56 per cent from the field in the loss, but were minus 12 in the nine minutes with Donovan Mitchell sitting on the bench. Mitchell finished with 32 points (10-of-21 shooting) with six assists.

Rudy Gobert did not miss a field goal or free throw for 15 points and seven rebounds, but the Jazz struggled to get stops while he and Mike Conley were on the floor, as both players finished with a plus/minus of minus 16.

The win is the Mavericks' first in Utah since 2016.

Warriors shoot their way to 3-0 lead

In a game where both teams shot the lights out, the Golden State Warriors showed once again that it is not wise to get into a shoot-out with the team from the Bay Area, beating the Denver Nuggets 118-113.

The Warriors shot 55 per cent from the field and 45 per cent from long range (18-40) as their offense was clicking for most of the night. 

Denver shot the ball well in their own right, finishing 50 per cent from the field and 44 per cent from deep (11-of-26), and even looked to take control in the third quarter, winning the term 30-18 and taking a 89-87 lead into the final period.

But that third quarter would be the Warriors' only slip-up, scoring at least 31 points in the other three as the Splash Brothers – now with a third member – were unstoppable.

Stephen Curry came off the bench once again to score 27 points (nine-of-17 shooting, three-of-nine from deep), Klay Thompson looked back to his best with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting, hitting six of his 13 threes, while Jordan Poole continues to show he is no flash in the pan, scoring 27 points on nine-of-13 shooting.

For Denver, MVP favourite Nikola Jokic tried his heart out, finishing with 37 points (14-of-22 shooting) with 18 rebounds, five assists and three steals, and he was plus three in his 38 minutes, meaning the Nuggets were outscored by eight in his 10 minutes on the bench.

The win moves the Warriors to a 3-0 lead, with Game 4 to be played in Denver, before returning home for Game 5.

Steph Curry is happy to have "healthy competition" from Jordan Poole, who has stepped into his shoes and produced an "incredible" impression of the two-time NBA MVP.

Long-time Golden State Warriors point guard Curry has started the postseason on the bench as he recovers from a foot injury, allowing Poole to make his first playoff starts.

The third-year guard scored 30 points in Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets, then 29 in Game 2, two wins to put the Warriors in control of the first-round series.

Poole is the first Warrior to score more than 25 points in each of his first two career playoff games; Curry, who also debuted against the Nuggets in 2013, had 19 and then 30.

The 22-year-old is merely picking up where he left off in the regular season, though, having averaged 18.5 points per game, up on 12.0 in 2020-21.

That ranked as the fifth-largest year-on-year improvement among those to play 58 games or more this season but was not enough to make Poole a finalist for Most Improved Player.

Shooting 65.5 per cent from the floor and 58.8 per cent from three so far in the postseason, however, Poole can have loftier ambitions moving forward, having drawn comparisons to one of basketball's greatest ever shooters.

"Jordan's doing some of the same stuff Steph does," Draymond Green said. "That's tough.

"You're going to game plan for Steph, you're going to game plan for Klay [Thompson], but now you've got to game plan for Jordan. That's a different beast.

"You're trapping Steph, okay, but if you're trapping Steph and you've got Jordan on the floor, too, it's hard to trap two guys."

Green added: "He's been watching Steph a lot. He's doing his best impression, and it is incredible."

Poole got plenty of shooting practice this year while Curry was limited to 64 games, and he edged his older team-mate in averaging 92.5 per cent from the foul line; Curry finished with 92.3 per cent free-throw shooting in the regular season.

Asked if Poole would now be taking technical free throws, however, Curry replied with a grin: "Never."

"I like that healthy competition, because I know he edged me out in the season-long race," he added. "We set high standards for shooting free throws, so it's going to take a lot more than one free-throw champ to get me off that line for techs."

But Curry has been amazed by Poole's progress, explaining: "The maturation of his game in these three years has been unbelievable. Just his confidence in his self to be able to take it up another notch at this stage, it's extremely impressive.

"You can give direction and the Xs and Os, but the player has to be able to go out there and do it.

"That's what JP's doing, night after night. That can't be taught. That's something you either have or you don't. I'm happy he has it."

Jalen Brunson scored a career-high 41 points to carry the Dallas Mavericks to a 110-104 home victory, tying their series against the Utah Jazz at 1-1.

With the Mavs missing Luka Doncic for the second straight game due to injury, Brunson scored 15 of their first 18 points as the two sides went into quarter-time tied at 24. It stayed neck-and-neck until a 7-0 run late in the second quarter gave Utah a seven-point lead at the long break.

Dallas' Maxi Kleber hit one three-pointer in each of the first two quarters, but caught fire in the second half, going three-for-four from long range in the third term and repeating that effort in the fourth quarter to finish with 25 points off the bench.

Kleber's biggest shots were back-to-back bombs to turn a 98-96 deficit into a 102-98 lead, which Dallas never relinquished, on the way to finishing eight-of-11 from three, while not attempting a single a two-point field goal.

Brunson finished an incredible 15-of-25 from the field and six-of-10 from three, and added eight rebounds, five assists and two turnovers.

For Utah, Donovan Mitchell top-scored with 34 points on 13-of-30 shooting, while Rudy Gobert grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked two shots.

The series heads to Utah next for Game 3 and Game 4.

 

76ers too much for Toronto

Despite strong first and fourth quarters for the Toronto Raptors, they went down 112-97 against the Philadelphia 76ers to fall down 2-0 in the series.

In an up-tempo first quarter where both sides were making shots, Fred VanVleet was the early standout, hitting four of his seven three-point attempts to head into quarter time with 14 points and his Raptors leading 33-32.

For the next two quarters, it would be all Philadelphia, out-scoring the Raptors 63-38 over the second and third frames to take full command of the contest, peaking at a 95-66 lead with 30 seconds remaining in the third.

The 76ers' intensity dropped in the last as the game was essentially won, which allowed Toronto to pull the margin back to 11 points with 6:30 to play, but that would be as close as things got as a Tyrese Maxey three and a string of free throws kept Philly's lead in the teens as the clock winded down.

Joel Embiid was the best player on the floor, scoring 31 points on nine-of-16 shooting (12-of-14 free throws) with 11 rebounds, while Maxey was unstoppable for the second game in a row, scoring an efficient 23 points on eight-of-11 shooting and adding nine rebounds with eight assists.

Tobias Harris also earned a mention with his 20 points and 10 rebounds, while O.G. Anunoby was the lone bright spot for the Raptors, scoring 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting and flashing some intriguing ability as a primary scoring option.

Toronto will host Game 3 and Game 4 of the series, with unvaccinated players unable to enter Canada, which means Matisse Thybulle will not travel with the 76ers.

 

Poole party for the Splash Brothers

After scoring a team-high 30 points in Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets, Jordan Poole was at it again in the Golden State Warriors' 126-106 win in Game 2.

While he did not top-score this time around, Poole was arguably the Warriors' best player through the first three quarters, racking up 27 of his 29 points up to three-quarter time as his side led 101-81 heading into the last.

Poole has emerged as the third 'Splash Brother' this postseason, with the original two also enjoying big games on Monday, as Stephen Curry scored a game-high 34 points in 23 minutes off the bench, while Klay Thompson chipped in with 21.

For Denver, MVP favourite Nikola Jokic was ejected in the fourth quarter for his second technical foul after accumulating 26 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in 28 minutes.

Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo have been announced as the finalists for the 2021-22 NBA MVP award, as was widely expected.

Denver Nuggets center Jokic is the favourite to win the award for a second consecutive year, again beating out Philadelphia 76ers big man Embiid.

Antetokounmpo took the two awards before that and was the NBA Finals MVP last season as he led the Milwaukee Bucks to the title.

Embiid led the league in scoring this year with 30.6 points per game, ahead of Antetokounmpo (29.9), who was second among players to play 58 games or more.

Jokic (27.1) was sixth in those standings and eighth for assists (7.9) but second in rebounds (13.8).

Although neither Devin Booker nor Chris Paul did enough to be considered for the MVP, the league-leading Phoenix Suns got plenty of love in other NBA Awards categories.

Monty Williams is up for Coach of the Year, against the Memphis Grizzlies' Taylor Jenkins and the Miami Heat's Erik Spoelstra.

Mikal Bridges is a Defensive Player of the Year finalist, facing the Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart along with three-time winner Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.

For Sixth Man of the Year, Cam Johnson faces competition from the Heat's Tyler Herro and the Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love.

Herro is the favourite, though, having scored 20.7 points despite making only 10 starts. Ricky Pierce in 1989-90 (23.0) was the last player to average more points while playing at least 50 games but starting no more than 10.

There is also recognition for the much-improved Cavaliers, with two of Love's team-mates up for awards.

Darius Garland averaged 21.7 points, up from 17.4 a year earlier, and is under consideration for Most Improved Player. His year-on-year improvement ranks 16th among players with 58 or more games.

Dejounte Murray (15.7 to 21.1) of the San Antonio Spurs ranks ninth, while the Grizzlies' Ja Morant only played in 57 games but improved from 19.1 to 27.4, which would have put him third.

Garland's Cavaliers team-mate Evan Mobley is a Rookie of the Year finalist, in competition the Detroit Pistons' first overall pick Cade Cunningham and the Toronto Raptors' Scottie Barnes.

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."

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