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."

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

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

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

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

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

Poole party for Curry's return

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

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

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

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

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

Maxey makes light work of Raptors

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

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

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

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

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

Jazz take home-court against the Mavs

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

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

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

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

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

Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry said he does not need to be at 100 per cent to return from injury in Game 1 of his side's opening round series against the Denver Nuggets.

Curry has been out of action with a sprained foot since mid-March, and the Warriors have sputtered in his absence, going 8-10 in the 18 games the two-time MVP has missed this season.

While they did finish with a five-game winning streak to end the regular season, the Dubs will need a fit and in-rhythm Curry to go deep into the post-season.

It is being reported that the Warriors feel Curry's injury is simply going to be a matter of pain tolerance, with no fear that playing may exacerbate the problem.

Speaking with media after the Warriors' scrimmage on Thursday, Curry said if he is allowed to play, he will be there in Game 1.

"You get cleared to play, at that point there's no time to really worry about that," he said. 

"Are you going to help the team win? Are you going to make an impact and do what you do? If I feel like the answer is yes, I'm going to play.

"I'm not worried about it being a limiting factor in terms of how I will approach the game – hopefully there's a little wiggle room to see how I feel out there."

When discussing his chances, Curry said he has "high confidence".

"Everything has been positive in terms of getting back out there and understanding I'll be ready to play whenever that time is," he said "I'm hoping it's Saturday.

"I'll try to be the best version I can be, having missed a little bit of time... I have high confidence I can go out there and help our team win."

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."

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry could return to full practice this week as he recovers from a sprained ligament and a bone bruise in his left foot.

Curry has not played since March 16 when he suffered a sprained ligament and a bone bruise in his left foot against the Boston Celtics, missing the side's past 12 games.

The Warriors will face the Denver Nuggets in the first-round playoffs, with Game 1 scheduled for Saturday in San Francisco.

Curry remains "day-to-day" but Kerr said he would need to join in scrimmage, scheduled for Thursday, ahead of Saturday's game, having been restricted to individual work.

"It's essential, we're not going to play him without giving him a scrimmage," Kerr told reporters on Tuesday.

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

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

He added: "Each day will determine where he is and what he can do the following day. At the end of the week, we'll determine if he's ready or not. It's hard to predict much."

The Warriors went 6-6 without Curry in the side across the final dozen regular-season games, winning their final five to see off the Dallas Mavericks for third seed in the Western Conference.

Kerr had previously said: "We'll see how everything goes with Steph next week. There's a chance he could be ready for game one, there's a chance he might not.

"It's literally going to be a day-to-day thing as it all unfolds this week. We'll know a lot more after the next few days when he's ramping up his work. but there's a chance we could get everybody on the same age and healthy.

"We haven't reached our potential yet. That's exciting to me. We have some room for growth."

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry could return to full practice this week as he recovers from a sprained ligament and a bone bruise in his left foot.

Curry has not played since March 16 when he suffered a sprained ligament and a bone bruise in his left foot against the Boston Celtics, missing the side's past 12 games.

The Warriors will face the Denver Nuggets in the first-round playoffs, with game one scheduled for Saturday in San Francisco.

Curry remains "day-to-day" but Kerr said he would need to join in scrimmage, scheduled for Thursday, ahead of Saturday's game, having been restricted to individual work.

"It's essential, we're not going to play him without giving him a scrimmage," Kerr told reporters on Tuesday.

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

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

He added: "Each day will determine where he is and what he can do the following day. At the end of the week, we'll determine if he's ready or not. It's hard to predict much."

The Warriors went 6-6 without Curry in the side across the final dozen regular-season games, winning their final five to see off the Dallas Mavericks for third seed in the Western Conference.

Kerr had previously said: "We'll see how everything goes with Steph next week. There's a chance he could be ready for game one, there's a chance he might not.

"It's literally going to be a day-to-day thing as it all unfolds this week. We'll know a lot more after the next few days when he's ramping up his work. but there's a chance we could get everybody on the same age and healthy.

"We haven't reached our potential yet. That's exciting to me. We have some room for growth."

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

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

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

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

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

Dubs find their groove to clinch third seed

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

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

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

Doncic strains calf in Mavs win

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morant makes timely return for Grizzlies

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

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

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

Warriors continue winning run

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

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

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

The Miami Heat clinched the first seed in the Eastern Conference, as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Boston Celtics 127-121 on Thursday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday each scored 29 points in the win, while the former also added 11 rebounds and five assists. Khris Middleton was close to a triple-double with 22 points on nine-of-18 shooting, along with eight rebounds and nine assists.

On the second night of a back-to-back after their win in Chicago, the Celtics rested Jayson Tatum and Al Horford, and only just lost on the road against a fellow contender in the East.

Marcus Smart shot seven-of-12 from beyond the arc and was the Celtics' leading scorer with a season-high 29 points. Meanwhile, Jaylen Brown came up with a triple-double of 22 points, a career-high 11 assists, along with 10 rebounds.

With the win, however, the Bucks moved past the Celtics into second spot in the East, effectively clinching home court for Miami in the playoffs.

Raps edge past short-handed Sixers

Pascal Siakam put up a triple-double in the Toronto Raptors' 119-114 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Matisse Thybulle missed the game, raising speculation over whether he is vaccinated against coronavirus, with unvaccinated foreign nationals prohibited from entering Canada.

Siakam's consequent ability to get into the paint counteracted his one-of-seven from the perimeter, putting up 37 points on 14-of-28 shooting, along with 12 assists and 11 rebounds.

Warriors win builds pre-playoff confidence

The Golden State Warriors continued to build momentum without the injured Stephen Curry, securing a 128-112 victory at home to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Having already been eliminated from play-in contention, the Lakers were without LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook. Talen Horton-Tucker scored a career-high 40 points on 15-of-28 shooting.

It was the Dubs' third consecutive win and their last game in the Bay Area before the playoffs, heading on the road to San Antonio and New Orleans to close out the regular season.

The Philadelphia 76ers tied a franchise record of 21 three-pointers in their 144-114 rout of the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.

Tobias Harris scored 23 points and had a season high of five triples, with the Sixers getting seven players in double figures and able to play their bench for the majority of the fourth quarter.

MVP candidate Joel Embiid was as dependable as ever with 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting, 14 rebounds and six assists. Despite an off-shooting night, James Harden was still able to fill up the stats sheet with 12 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds.

The Sixers moved the ball exceptionally throughout to generate clean looks, coming up with 38 assists for the night and shooting 49 per cent from the perimeter.

Philadelphia are still yet to clinch a playoff berth in a tight Eastern Conference, but moved a step closer at 47-30, 4.5 games ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers in seventh.

The Hornets had already wrapped up the final play-in spot in the East but were dominated on the boards, coming up with 15 less rebounds.

Durant and Irving light up but Nets go cold

Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving combined for 86 points, but the Brooklyn Nets still came up short against the Atlanta Hawks in a 122-115 defeat.

Durant put up a season-high 55 points at an efficient 19-of-28 shooting, including eight-of-10 from beyond the arc. Aside from Irving though, not a single Nets player went into double figures, with Patty Mills and Cam Thomas particularly going a combined one-of-14 from the floor.

In what could be a potential play-in matchup in the Eastern Conference, Trae Young notched up 36 points, 10 assists and six rebounds.

Dubs down Jazz with second-half fightback

The Golden State Warriors overturned a double-digit deficit at the main interval to claim a big 111-107 win at home over the Utah Jazz.

Still without the injured Stephen Curry and down by 13 at the half, the Dubs put the defensive clamps on and kept the Jazz to just 20 points in the fourth quarter.

Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson eventually combined for 67 points, but Golden State forcing four misses out of Utah's final five field goal attempts was definitive. 

There are just days remaining in the 2021-22 NBA regular season, but plenty is still on the line.

While the red-hot Phoenix Suns have long since secured the top seed in the Western Conference, four teams retain realistic hopes of leading the East.

Which of their superstar players are in the best shape heading into April, though?

Stats Perform's NBA Heat Check highlights the standout performers of the past month...

RUNNING HOT...

Jayson Tatum

Only the Suns (.867) had a better winning percentage in March than the Boston Celtics (.786, tied with the Memphis Grizzlies and Milwaukee Bucks) – and much of that was due to an outstanding month from three-time All-Star Tatum.

His 32.8 points per game in March ranked third behind LeBron James (34.3) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (33.3) but significantly appeared to represent a major leap, having averaged 25.7 to that point. It was the fourth-largest increase in scoring across the NBA last month.

It figures that Tatum's three-point shooting should also be up, as he made 4.2 threes per game in March, compared to 2.8 previously.

Tatum actually saw the fourth-largest decrease in rebounding, from 8.3 per game to 6.6, but the Celtics were down in this regard across the board and it did not seem to hamper them.

Jordan Poole

As the Celtics climbed in the East, the Golden State Warriors fell in the West – but Poole did more than most to keep them competitive.

Stephen Curry's absence for the second half of the month was the chief factor in the Warriors' fading form, yet Poole is increasingly proving he can be the man to fill the void when the team's superstar guard is out.

Poole was the sole player to see a greater increase in threes made than Tatum in March (2.3 per game to 4.2), while his scoring improved from 16.1 points per game to 25.4 – second only to Drew Eubanks in this regard (4.8 to 15.0).

Those are stunning statistics but remain in line with how Poole has played all season long when Curry has been out. He has started all 12 games he has played without Curry, averaging 35.7 minutes (up from 28.6), 10.7 three-point attempts (up from 6.8), 4.3 three-point makes (up from 2.4), 5.2 assists (up from 3.5) and, admittedly, 3.3 turnovers (up from 2.2).

While taking more shots, Poole's field-goal percentage decreases slightly without Curry, yet his three-point shooting and free-throw percentage are both up, perhaps showing Golden State a future beyond the two-time MVP.

Cade Cunningham

The Detroit Pistons are nowhere near the playoff picture, but March did wonders for Cunningham's Rookie of the Year hopes.

While Evan Mobley suffered an ankle sprain that makes another appearance before the end of the regular season far from certain, Cunningham averaged 22.9 points, up on 16.0. The number one overall pick is up to 17.6 for the year, leading all rookies.

GOING COLD...

D'Angelo Russell

Russell is merely the third man on the Minnesota Timberwolves, but that looked to be evidence of the team's depth of scoring options at the start of March.

Although the T-Wolves remain one of only five teams to have had three different players average 18 or more points while playing in at least 60 games, Russell's scoring has dipped significantly from 19.4 at the end of February to 18.0 now.

Having scored just 13.1 points per game in March, Russell saw the largest decrease in the league, while his fall in three-point shots made (3.0 to 1.7) was also the greatest.

The former Warrior has too often struggled for consistency this season, but his four-point performance in the face of intense Celtics defense last weekend was especially alarming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grizz secure second in the West

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

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

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

Heat fire up in Boston

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Harden scored 29 points with a season-high 15 rebounds as the Philadelphia 76ers improved to 46-27 with a 122-97 road victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.

Harden had four three-pointers in his 29 points, while he also dished off seven assists, with Joel Embiid adding 27 points with 10 rebounds as the 76ers flexed their muscle.

The 76ers set the tone with a 35-19 first quarter with Tobias Harris (12 points, two rebounds and two assists) hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer.

Harden's 15 rebounds are the most the 2018 MVP has had in a game since December 2020 with the Houston Rockets.

The win helps the 76ers close on the Miami Heat (47-27) and Milwaukee Bucks (46-27) at the top of the Eastern Conference in the jostle for top seed ahead of the playoffs.

 

Curry-less Warriors beaten again

The Golden State Warriors lost for the fourth time in their past five games since Stephen Curry's foot injury, going down 121-110 to the Atlanta Hawks despite Klay Thompson's 37 points including nine triples. Hawks guard Trae Young starred with 33 points and 15 assists.

The Minnesota Timberwolves clinched their 11th win from their past 14 games as they got the Dallas Mavericks 116-95 led by Karl-Anthony Towns' 20 points and nine rebounds. Luka Doncic had 24 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the Mavs.

The Charlotte Hornets responded after their shock defeat to the New York Knicks with an impressive 107-101 win over the Utah Jazz, with Miles Bridges scoring 26 points and 11 rebounds, while Terry Rozier added 25 points.

 

Knicks' remarkable run downs Heat

The Miami Heat looked set to gain some breathing space on top of the Eastern Conference before the New York Knicks closed on a remarkable 38-13 run to claim a stunning 111-103 victory. Immanuel Quickley scored 20 of his 23 points in the last quarter.

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