The Phoenix Suns became the first team to secure a playoff spot with an impressive 111-90 defeat of the Miami Heat on Wednesday.

Devin Booker returned from a four-game absence to put up 23 points, nine assists and eight rebounds as the leaders of the West toppled the top side in the East.

The Suns, who are 53-13 for the season, have now beaten all other 29 teams in the same season for the first time since 2006-07.

"I told the guys it was one of the best defensive performances I've ever seen," said Suns coach Monty Williams after watching his team concede just 35 points in the second half. "I've been around for a little bit."

Duncan Robinson was top scorer for Miami with 22, who led by 11 in the early stages before falling to just their third defeat in 15 games.

"They were first to the ball a lot," said Robinson. "They were the aggressor. Unacceptable."

 

The Milwaukee Bucks are now two games behind the Heat at the top of the Eastern Conference after beating the Atlanta Hawks 124-115, with Giannis Antetokounmpo's double-double of 43 points and 12 rebounds firing them to a sixth-straight win.

Antetokounmpo finished 15-of-22 from the field to take his tally to 82 points in the space of 24 hours after his 39 in Tuesday's victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"The things he does are not normal," said team-mate Bobby Portis. "It's fun to be his team-mate and fun to play alongside him."

Rockets stun Lakers in overtime

The Los Angeles Lakers lost for the ninth time in a row on the road, going down 139-130 in overtime against the Houston Rockets.

A triple-double from LeBron James and 30 points from Russell Westbrook were not enough as rookie Jalen Green hit a career-high 32 points for the Rockets.

"We have a really small margin of error this season and teams are making us pay," said James, whose run of consecutive 25-point games ended at 23. "I missed a lot of shots that I know I'm capable of making, have made throughout the course of the season and my career."

The Los Angeles Clippers snapped their two-game losing streak, beating the Washington Wizards 115-109, while the Utah Jazz improved to 41-24 with a comfortable 123-85 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Bulls back on track, Beasley sets record

The Chicago Bulls ended a run of five consecutive losses, DeMar DeRozan scoring 36 points, including 16 in the fourth quarter, in a 114-108 win over the Detroit Pistons.

It was a day to remember for Malik Beasley, who set a franchise record for three-pointers in the Minnesota Timberwolves' win at home over the Thunder.

Beasley landed 11 of his 17 attempts from beyond the arc as Minnesota, seventh in the West, made it six wins in a row.

The Boston Celtics continued their recent good form with a 115-101 win at the Charlotte Hornets, while the New York Knicks pulled off a fifth-straight road win over the Dallas Mavericks, Julius Randle scoring 26 points in a 107-77 blowout.

Gregg Popovich will have to wait for his NBA record 1,336th regular-season win as coach, the San Antonio Spurs falling 119-104 at home to the Toronto Raptors.

There were also wins for the Orlando Magic, who topped the New Orleans Pelicans 108-102, and the Denver Nuggets, who beat the Sacramento Kings 106-100 thanks to a 38-point double-double from Nikola Jokic.

Russell Westbrook told a San Antonio Spurs fan not to "disrespect my name" and vowed to do so again as he stood by his wife's claims of death wishes.

Before Westbrook played in the Los Angeles Lakers' 117-110 defeat to the Spurs, his wife Nina revealed abuse she had received.

She wrote on Twitter: "When I'm being harassed on a daily basis over basketball games, and I'm having obscenity's [sic] and death wishes for me and my family sent my way because you're expressing your 'truth', it's hard for me to get on board with that."

And after the game, former NBA MVP Westbrook said: "I 100 per cent stand behind my wife and how she's feeling.

"It's not just this year. She's reached a point and my family has reached a point where it's really weighing on them.

"It's very unfortunate just for me personally because this is just a game, this is just a game. This is not end all, be all."

Westbrook has endured a tough season with the Lakers, for whom he is earning more than superstar team-mates LeBron James and Anthony Davis in 2021-22.

But the 33-year-old – who is averaging 18.1 points per game, his lowest mark since 2009-10 – has decided criticism of his displays is going too far when it involves abusing his family name.

"When it comes to basketball, I don't mind the criticism of missing and making shots," he continued. "But the moment it becomes where my name is getting shamed, it becomes an issue."

Westbrook revealed his approach had been altered by hearing of the pride his son, Noah, had in his surname, causing the Lakers star to push back at his "Westbrick" nickname.

"'Westbrick' for example, to me, is now shaming," he said. "It's shaming my name, my legacy for my kids.

"It's a name that means [a lot], not just to me, but to my wife, to my mom, my dad, the ones that kind of paved the way for me.

"A lot of times, I let it slide. But now it's time to put a stop to that and put it on notice. There's a difference. We need to make sure it's understood.

"And every time I do hear it now, I will make sure that I address it and make sure I nip that in the bud."

Gregg Popovich did not answer a single question on his record-tying 1,335th NBA win in his post-game news conference – and Jakob Poeltl revealed there was no discussion of the achievement in the San Antonio Spurs locker room either.

Popovich, in his 26th season with the Spurs, oversaw a 117-110 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers to move level with Don Nelson's all-time benchmark.

But the five-time champion and three-time Coach of the Year reserved no time for reflection on that feat in a short chat with the media.

Popovich preferred instead to discuss the Spurs' poor free-throw shooting, their "sloppy" first half and a strong defensive showing.

And Poeltl suggested it was a similar story in private, with the center – who had 18 points – expecting the 73-year-old to remain humble when he moves past Nelson with his next win.

"You guys know Pop," Poeltl said. "I don't think he really cares about stuff like that.

"It didn't even really get mentioned. I doubt it will get mentioned when we get the next win. It's just how he is."

It was left to Lakers coach Frank Vogel to salute his opposite number's accomplishment then.

"[I have] incredible respect for who he is as a coach," Vogel said. "We all, younger coaches, look up to him and admire him and respect what he's done and what he means to our game.

"I'm certainly happy for him. I wish it wasn't against us, but Pop's the best."

The Philadelphia 76ers maintained their perfect record with James Harden in the side with a 121-106 win over the slumping Chicago Bulls on Monday.

Joel Embiid scored 43 points with 14 rebounds while Harden had 16 points, eight rebounds and 14 assists as the 76ers made it six wins from their past seven games.

The 76ers are also 5-0 with Harden in the side, while the Bulls have lost their past five games.

Embiid recorded his 10th 40-plus point game this season, along with his 10th game this season with 40 or more points and 10 or more rebounds. The 76ers center also had his fourth quarter for the season with at least 15 points and five rebounds, which is an NBA high.

For the Bulls, All-Star DeMar DeRozan had 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, while Zach LaVine added 24 points.

 

Jokic records 18th triple-double

Nikola Jokic backed up Sunday's 46-point haul with another triple-double as the Denver Nuggets defeated the short-handed Golden State Warriors 131-124. Jokic had his 18th triple-double of the season by three-quarter time and finished with 32 points, 15 rebounds and 13 assists. The Warriors, who rested Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins in the catch-up game, have lost nine of their past 11 games.

Luka Doncic scored 35 points, with 16 rebounds and seven assists in a tense game, where the All-Star received a technical foul, as the Dallas Mavericks won 111-103 over the Utah Jazz. Doncic's game marked his third this season where he has scored 35 or more points and 15 or more rebounds, with Oscar Robertson the only other guard to achieve the feat in a single season.

Victor Oladipo returned for the first time since April last year for the Miami Heat scoring 11 points in 15 minutes as they beat the Houston Rockets 123-106, while top draft pick Cade Cunningham (28 points and 10 assists) lifted the Detroit Pistons to an over-time win over the Atlanta Hawks 113-110.

 

Spurs equals record as Lakers slump

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich tied Don Nelson's all-time NBA record for most coaching wins (1,335) as they won 117-110 over the Los Angeles Lakers without LeBron James. Russell Westbrook struggled in James' absence, with 17 points shooting five-of-14 from the field with five turnovers.

LeBron James has been ruled out of the Los Angeles Lakers' game with the San Antonio Spurs on Monday due to "significant" knee soreness.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel revealed the news prior to tip-off with James battling soreness in his knee following Saturday's 56-point display in the 124-116 win over the Golden State Warriors.

Vogel said the issue was ongoing and part of the 37-year-old's game-to-game management.

"He had some soreness in the knee the day after the game that [normally] subsides by the next game," Vogel told reporters pre-game.

"When we got here [San Antonio] the soreness today was still significant enough for us to rule him out."

The Lakers are struggling with a 28-35 record seeing them sit ninth in the Western Conference but James has been exceptional this season.

The 2003 number one Draft pick is averaging 29.4 points per game this season, behind only Joel Embiid with 29.5.

James, who is also averaging 8.1 rebounds and 6.2 assists this season, has the fourth highest league-wide minutes per game this season with 36.8.

"With the heavy load that he's carrying for us this year, we know that's [games out] always a possibility," Vogel said.

"That's why we continue to list him as questionable to see how it responds in the 48 hours between games. This is just one of those days where it was significant enough to hold him out."

Vogel said he was "hopeful" the four-time NBA MVP would be fit to play the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.

LeBron James inspired the Los Angeles Lakers to end their four-game losing run with 56 points in a 124-116 win over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.

James' 56-point haul was his most as a Laker and also meant he became the fourth player aged 37 or older to score 50 or more points in a game, alongside Michael Jordan (2001), Kobe Bryant (2016) and Jamal Crawford (2019).

The four-time NBA MVP made 19-of-31 from the field along with six-of-11 from beyond the arc, while he dished off three assists, including a key late pass for Carmelo Anthony's three-pointer. James also had 10 rebounds.

Russell Westbrook added 20 points for the Lakers, while Stephen Curry scored 30 points including four three-pointers for Golden State.

The result snaps the Lakers' skid and improves their record to 28-13, but it leaves the Warriors having lost four in a row, while they have only won twice in their past 10.

 

Harden absent as Heat move clear

Eastern Conference leaders Miami Heat made a statement with a 99-82 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers who were missing James Harden. The 76ers, playing on back-to-back nights, managed Harden's left hamstring complaint. Tyler Herro and Jimmy Butler scored 21 points each as the Heat moved three games clear of the east's second-placed 76ers. Joel Embiid had 22 points and 15 rebounds for the 76ers.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 36 points with 15 rebounds and five assists as the Minnesota Timberwolves won 135-121 over the Portland Trail Blazers. Emerging star Anfernee Simons had 38 points for the Blazers.

Ja Morant scored 25 points with seven assists as the Memphis Grizzlies continued their strong run with a 124-96 win over the Orlando Magic. Desmond Bane added 24 points with 10-of-15 shooting.

 

Kings blew big lead against Mavs

The Sacramento Kings blew a 19-point lead as they lost 114-113 to the Dallas Mavericks who were without All-Star Luka Doncic with a toe strain. Dorian Finney-Smith hit a three-pointer with 3.3 seconds left, while Spencer Dinwiddie scored a season-high 36 points. De'Aaron Fox had an equal career-high 44 points for the Kings.

Kevin Durant returned from injury with 31 points but the Brooklyn Nets' struggles continued with a 113-107 defeat to the Miami Heat.

Durant had missed the past 21 games due to an MCL sprain sustained on January 16, with the Nets going 5-16 in his absence, and they led by 16 points in the first half upon his return, but could not sustain it.

The 2014 NBA MVP had a three-point attempt with 57 seconds left which would have put the Nets in the lead but he missed and the Heat scored from the ensuing possession via Bam Adebayo.

Adebayo finished the game with 30 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, while Tyler Herro came off the bench to contribute 27 points, four rebounds and eight assists.

Durant shot 10-of-21 from the field for his 31 points, including two three-pointers, with four rebounds and four assists.

The result leaves the Nets at 32-32 with a .500 record, while the Heat are top of the Eastern Conference with a 42-22 record.

 

Tatum leads Celtics final-quarter charge

The Boston Celtics continued their strong form as Jayson Tatum scored 21 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter in a 120-107 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. Ja Morant maintained his own hot streak, with 38 points, four rebounds and seven assists.

Luka Doncic produced a dominant display with 41 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists as the Dallas Mavericks beat the Golden State Warriors for the second time in five days, 122-113. Stephen Curry managed 21 points with nine assists for the Warriors who have lost seven of their past 10 games.

The Chicago Bulls suffered their third straight defeat with Trae Young scored 39 points with 13 assists as the Atlanta Hawks won 130-124.

 

Struggling Lakers beaten by Clippers

The Los Angeles Lakers slumped to their fourth consecutive loss going down to the Los Angeles Clippers 132-111 after being blown apart in a 40-18 third quarter. LeBron James shot eight-of-18 from the field for his 26 points with four turnovers, while Reggie Jackson scored 36 points for the Clippers.

Ja Morant chalked up a first ever career 50-point game for the Memphis Grizzlies and was labelled a "beautiful player" and "special kid" by San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

It was the first time in Grizzlies franchise history a player had achieved the target, and his overall haul of 52 helped Memphis – who sit third in the Western conference –  to a 118-105 triumph on Monday.

Morant's performance followed a previous career-best 46 against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday, as he went 22-for-30 from the field and drained each of his four three-point attempts.

Popovich, at the age of 73, has seen plenty of the NBA's best during his illustrious coaching career and he waxed lyrical about Morant's talents.

"He's a beautiful player," Popovich said. 

"What else can you say about him? It's not just that he's athletic. Everybody says 'he’s athletic'. Somebody says 'he's a freak of nature' because he's so fast. But he makes decisions. He knows what is going on on the court.

"So, you combine that cerebral part of his game with his athleticism and you've got a special kid."

There was no shortage of highlights on the reel for Morant, including him dunking over the seven-footer Jakob Poeltl and landing a buzzer-beater for a 68-58 half-time lead after catching a huge launch forward from Steven Adams in mid-air.

He also executed a sensational three-pointer from near the logo, but for Morant it was clear what the highlight of the night was.

"It's got to be the 50 [points],"he said.

"I'm thankful for my teammates, my coaches. They believe in me and have all the confidence in the world that I’ll make the right plays."

De'Anthony Melton, who scored 15 points for the Grizzlies, said of Morant: "He's at the rim every night, but the way he put it together tonight, he was just in attack mode from the jump.

"He got whatever he wanted, and it looked easy out there. It was just special to be out there and watch that."

Of Morant's leap over Poeltl, Melton added: "That dunk was crazy. The way he rose, stared at him and dunked it."

All-Star Ja Morant scored a career-high 52 points including a massive dunk and a buzzer-beater as the Memphis Grizzlies won 118-105 over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday.

Morant's 52-point haul was the second highest of the NBA season, behind only Trae Young who scored 56 points for the Atlanta Hawks against the Portland Trail Blazers on January 3.

The 22-year-old guard went 22-of-30 from the field including four-of-four from beyond the arc. Morant also hit a ridiculous half-time buzzer-bester after Steve Adams' full-court pass, catching and shooting in one motion.

Earlier in the second quarter, Morant produced a monster one-handed dunk over Spurs center Jakob Poeltl.

Morant's half-century follows up his career-best 46 points against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. It was also the first 50-point game in Grizzlies franchise history.

 

Bucks bounce back with Giannis starring

Reigning champions, the Milwaukee Bucks, had dropped four of their past five games but Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way as they bounced back with a 130-106 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Antetokounmpo scored 26 points with 16 rebounds, four blocks, two steals and six assists, with Bobby Portis adding 20 points and 10 rebounds.

The Miami Heat took some ground in the race for top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 112-99 victory over the Chicago Bulls, with Tyler Herro contributing 20 points, six rebounds and five assists off the bench. DeMar DeRozan's 10-game run of 30-point games was halted, managing only 18 for the Bulls.

D'Angelo Russell's good run of scoring continued with 25 points as the Minnesota Timberwolves boosted their playoffs hopes by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-22, with Karl-Anthony Towns () draining a key late three-pointer.

 

Short-handed Nets blown away

The Brooklyn Nets slumped to their 14th loss from their past 17 games, going down miserably 133-97 to the Toronto Raptors at home. Scottie Barnes dominated with 28 points, 16 rebounds and five steals for Toronto while the Nets, missing Kyrie Irving who is ineligible to play home games and head coach Steve Nash in protocols, had few winners

Kyrie Irving was cool under pressure as he scored a season-high 38 points in the Brooklyn Nets' impressive 126-123 road win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds and six assists, missed a three-point attempt to send the game to over-time.

The Nets were missing key players Kevin Durant and Ben Simmons but produced a win that showcased their potential having lost 13 of their past 15 games.

New additions Seth Curry (19 points with four three-pointers) and Andre Drummond (17 points, 12 rebounds and five assists) supported Irving well, with the point guard crucial down the stretch from the stripe.

Bobby Portis scored a career-high eight three-pointers in his 30-point haul along with 12 rebounds, while Khris Middleton added 25 points for the Bucks who have lost four of their past five.

 

Ja records career-high haul

All-Star Ja Morant scored a career-high 46 points, while Steven Adams had 12 points with a season-high 21 rebounds as the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Chicago Bulls 116-110. DeMar DeRozan extended his 30-point streak to 10 games with a 31-point haul as the Bulls' six-game win streak was halted.

Nikola Jokic closed to within five of Wilt Chamberlain's all-time triple-doubles record as the Denver Nuggets won 115-110 over the Sacramento Kings. Jokic had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for his 73rd career triple-double.

The Boston Celtics claimed their 11th win from their past 12 games with a 113-104 victory over the Detroit Pistons, while Trae Young dropped 41 points as the Atlanta Hawks won 127-100 against the Toronto Raptors.

 

Pop's record on hold

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will have to wait a few more days before he can tie the NBA record for regular-season victories after a 133-129 loss to the Miami Heat, with Bam Adebayo scoring a season-high 36 points. Popovich has 1,334 regular-season wins as Spurs coach, putting him one behind Don Nelson.

James Harden scored 27 points with 13 assists on his Philadelphia 76ers debut and formed a strong partnership with Joel Embiid in a 133-102 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday.

Harden, who crossed from the Brooklyn Nets in an NBA Trade Deadline move earlier this month, almost registered a debut triple-double, with eight rebounds.

Embiid has been in irrepressible form this season, although there had been some concern Harden's arrival may blunt some of his offensive impact, but the center contributed 34 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

The new-look 76ers had immediate cohesion, scoring 65 points in the first half, before a 41-point final quarter with Tyrese Maxey finishing with 28 points while Harden also drained five three-pointers, shooting seven-of-12 from the field.

The 76ers recorded a season-high 19 three-pointers for the game, with head coach Doc Rivers admitting "that was pretty good" when asked post-game if Harden's debut could have gone any better.

 

Lakers fall to Clippers again

Terance Mann led the way with 19 points and 10 rebounds as the Los Angeles Clippers won a tight game with the Los Angeles Lakers 105-102, the sixth time in a row they have beaten their local rivals.

LeBron James top scored with 21 but was unable to stop the Clippers from taking charge in the closing moments, with Amir Coffey adding 12 of his 14 points for the night in the fourth quarter.

The San Antonio Spurs edged the Washington Wizards 157-153 in double over-time, with both teams setting season-highs in scoring. Spurs guard Dejounte Murray recorded a triple-double, although he missed potential winning shots in both regulation and the first over-time.

RJ Barrett scored 46 points including six three-pointers but the New York Knicks went down 115-110 to the Miami Heat, while Donovan Mitchell scored 33 points and Rudy Gobert had a double-double (14 points and 17 rebounds) as the Utah Jazz beat Luka Doncic's Dallas Mavericks 114-109.

 

Suns streak halted

The table-topping Phoenix Suns' eight-game winning streak came to an end, going down 117-102 to the lowly New Orleans Pelicans. Devin Booker top scored with 30 points for the Suns, who were without injured veteran guard Chris Paul. CJ McCollum scored 32 points for the Pels as he continues to thrive following his trade.

Four-time NBA champion Manu Ginobili is among this year's finalists for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

The San Antonio Spurs legend, who retired from the league following the 2017-18 season after 16 years with the franchise, was part of the side that triumphed in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014.

Ginobili also helped Argentina win an Olympic gold medal at Athens 2004.

The 44-year-old, who returned to Spurs as Special Advisor to Basketball Operations in September, was announced at a conference on Friday as one of 11 finalists ahead of the All-Star Weekend.

Former All-Star players Marques Johnson, Tim Hardaway and Michael Cooper are also on the list of nominees, along with coach George Karl and WNBA stars Lindsay Whelan and Swin Cash.

The Hall of Fame's class of 2022 will be announced at the men's Final Four in New Orleans on April 2, with the enshrinement scheduled to take place in September.

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