Nikola Jokic had 32 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his 20th triple-double of the season, and the host Denver Nuggets overcame a big night by Jaylen Brown to beat the Boston Celtics 115-109 on Thursday night.

Denver swept the season series and has won seven of eight out of the All-Star break. Jamal Murray scored 19 points, Aaron Gordon contributed 16 points and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Peyton Watson had 11 points each for the Nuggets.

Brown had 41 points and 13 rebounds, both season highs, but missed seven free throws. Kristaps Porzingis had 24 points and 12 rebounds, Jayson Tatum finished with 15 points and Jrue Holiday added 12 for Boston, which lost consecutive games for just the second time this season.

Denver led 62-54 at halftime, but Boston scored the first eight points of the third. The teams traded buckets before Denver went on a 14-5 run to go ahead 82-73 and took a 90-80 lead into the fourth quarter.

Kings 131, Spurs 129

Domantas Sabonis racked up 31 points and 17 rebounds and produced the winning points on a steal and dunk with 7.7 seconds to play as host Sacramento defeated short-handed San Antonio.

Sabonis also had nine assists, falling just short of a triple-double. De’Aaron Fox poured in 33 points, 17 in the fourth quarter before fouling out with 57.1 seconds left. Malik Monk added 18 points, Harrison Barnes 17 and Keon Ellis 11. The Kings have won three of their past four games.

Devin Vassell led San Antonio with 30 points while Malaki Branham had 23. Keldon Johnson and Zach Collins hit for 22 points each and Wesley tallied 11. Tre Jones had a game-high 12 assists, but the Spurs dropped their second straight game.

Timberwolves 113, Pacers 111

Anthony Edwards scored 44 points and recorded a key block with 1.6 seconds remaining to fuel Minnesota to a victory over Indiana in Indianapolis.

Edwards made 18 of 35 shots from the floor while playing through an apparent injury he sustained after stepping on a defender’s foot just 26 seconds into the game. Rudy Gobert collected 18 points and 14 rebounds and Naz Reid added 13 and eight, respectively, for the Timberwolves, who overcame the absence of Karl-Anthony Towns.

Indiana’s Pascal Siakam scored 24 points and Tyrese Haliburton collected 23 points and 13 assists. Jalen Smith scored 14 points off the bench for the Pacers, who have lost three of their last four games.

Mavericks 114, Heat 108

Luka Doncic recorded his 15th triple-double of the season — 35 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds — and contributed to a late-game flurry of 3-pointers as Dallas outlasted visiting Miami.

Doncic tied Russell Westbrook’s NBA record with his fifth consecutive game posting a 30-plus-point triple-double. Dante Exum scored 13 points in just 17 minutes off the bench, shooting 3 of 5 from the floor, 2 of 2 from 3-point range and 5 of 5 at the free-throw line. Daniel Gafford shot 5 of 5 from the field for 12 points, P.J. Washington scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Tim Hardaway Jr. added 11 points off the bench.

Terry Rozier was one of six Miami scorers with at least 13 points. Duncan Robinson matched Rozier’s 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc and shot 7 of 10 from the floor overall en route to 19 points. Jaime Jaquez Jr. shot 3 of 4 from long distance for 13 points off the bench, and Caleb Martin added another 13 in a reserve role. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, both averaging more than 20 points per game, each scored 14.

Suns 120, Raptors 113

Kevin Durant scored 35 points and Grayson Allen poured in 26 first-half points to help Phoenix post a victory over visiting Toronto.

Bradley Beal recorded 20 points and eight assists as Phoenix won for the fourth time in its past six games. Bol Bol had 11 points and eight rebounds and Royce O’Neale contributed 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Suns, who were without Devin Booker (ankle) for the third straight game. Allen set a franchise record with seven treys in the first quarter. He finished the game with eight after going scoreless in the second half.

Gary Trent Jr. hit five 3-pointers and scored 30 points for Toronto, which never led and lost for the fourth time in its past five games. RJ Barrett added 23 points and Immanuel Quickley had 21 points and a career-high 18 assists for the Raptors. Gradey Dick had 12 points and Chris Boucher had 11 points and nine rebounds for Toronto.

Pistons 118, Nets 112

Jaden Ivey had 34 points and host Detroit topped Brooklyn.

Cade Cunningham supplied 32 points and 11 assists in the opener of a six-game homestand for the Pistons, who had lost nine of their previous 10 games. Ausar Thompson had 14 points and seven rebounds, while Jalen Duren added 12 points and 14 rebounds.

Dennis Schroder led the Nets with 31 points and eight assists. Lonnie Walker IV had 21 points, while Nic Claxton contributed 15 points and 10 rebounds. Mikal Bridges and Dorian Finney-Smith added 13 points apiece.

Bulls 125, Warriors 122

DeMar DeRozan converted a go-ahead three-point play with 26 seconds remaining, Nikola Vucevic capped a 33-point performance with two clinching free throws 20 seconds later and Chicago topped Golden State in San Francisco.

Vucevic also tallied a game-high 11 rebounds. Coby White complemented 20 points with a team-high seven assists for Chicago, which had already won at Sacramento and Utah on its four-game trip. Ayo Dosunmu had 14 points and Jevon Carter 10.

Jonathan Kuminga had 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Warriors. Klay Thompson finished with a team-high 25 points, Stephen Curry and Chris Paul had 15 apiece, Brandin Podziemski chipped in 11 and Moses Moody scored 10.


The NBA All-Star celebration is headed for Phoenix in 2027, the league announced Thursday.

Footprint Center, home of the Phoenix Suns, will play host to the All-Star Game on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2027, Phoenix’s fourth time hosting the event (1975, 1995 and 2009).

“Our NBA All-Star festivities in 2027 will showcase Phoenix’s love of everything basketball,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Thursday, joined by Suns managing partner Mat Ishbia and others during a news conference in Phoenix.

“And we couldn’t be more excited to work with Mat Ishbia and the entire Suns organization for what promises to be an unforgettable celebration of our sport.”

The format is planned to resemble the 2024 version, beginning Friday, Feb. 19, 2027, at Footprint Center with first-year and second-year players participating in the NBA Rising Stars competition.

The following day is capped by the All-Star Saturday Night events featuring the Kia Skills Challenge, the STARRY 3-Point Challenge and AT&T Slam Dunk.

The 76th All-Star Game is set for Sunday, Feb. 21.

“Phoenix is the ultimate basketball destination and we are excited for fans from around the world to experience our amazing city,” Ishbia said. “We will provide an NBA All-Star Weekend unlike any other, showcasing the passion of our fans, our city and everything that we’re building here.”

The NBA also will present fan-friendly events, including the All-Star practices and celebrity game, at several sites in Phoenix.

An All-Star fan fest will run through the weekend with entertainment and access to NBA luminaries and celebrities.

Phoenix also is hosting this season’s WNBA All-Star festivities.

The last time the NBA All-Star Game was in Phoenix, 2009, the Suns’ Shaquille O’Neal (17 points in 11 minutes) played with the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant (27 points), sharing the MVP award.

The Western Conference won 146-119 to cap a weekend that saw Oklahoma City Thunder youngster Kevin Durant, now with the Suns, score 46 points in the Rising Stars event.


A blown 22-point fourth-quarter lead has a way of leaving a bitter taste in one’s mouth, no matter how savory the course that preceded it.

In the case of the Boston Celtics, what preceded it was three-quarters of a season for the ages, and, more recently, the most emphatic 11-game win streak in NBA history. Tuesday night’s collapse against the Dean Wade brigade in Cleveland didn’t tell us anything new about this team, but it did seem to pick at some festering doubts, starting a familiar take-and-countertake cycle anew.

So with that game in the rearview mirror, and a potential palate cleanser against the defending champion Nuggets on tap, let’s take stock of where the Celtics are at, what makes them so good, and why people still have a hard time trusting them.

We can start with the facts: the Celtics have led the Eastern Conference for all but one week this season (shout out to the November Sixers), and they’re on pace to win 65 games. They currently have an eight-game cushion for the East’s No. 1 seed, and a 5.5-game lead for the top record in the NBA overall. And their underlying numbers are somehow even more impressive than that, painting a picture of a team that’s not just great but potentially historic.

They’ve outscored opponents by 11.4 points per 100 possessions, the fourth-best mark in NBA history behind only the 1995-96 and 1996-97 Bulls and the 2016-17 Warriors, per Basketball-Reference. Only 12 other teams have even cracked double-digits in net rating over a full season, and eight of those teams went on to win the championship.

Boston also owns the highest offensive rating in history, which partly speaks to this era of inflated offense – last year’s Kings set the previous record, for context – but not entirely. Relative to league average, the Celtics’ offense still ranks as the 16th-best unit all time, and the best since Golden State’s 73-win outfit in 2015-16. That alone wouldn’t make them historically great, seeing as only four of the 15 teams above them in relative offensive efficiency won titles (three being Jordan-era Bulls teams). But the Celtics happen to pair that offense with the league’s second-ranked defense, which is probably an even more reliable entity.

At that end, Boston simply doesn’t face the kind of difficult coverage questions that basically every other defense has to wrestle with. Even the top-ranked Timberwolves defense has to scheme around the limitations of Karl-Anthony Towns and, to a lesser extent, Mike Conley. The third-ranked Cavaliers need to insulate their small backcourt, and they have some question marks on the wing. The always innovative Heat tie themselves into pretzels to protect Tyler Herro.

The Celtics, comparatively, have no real weak spots to prod at. They can switch into virtually any matchup and feel secure enough not to consider it an emergency. Heck, they spend chunks of almost every game using nominal point guard Jrue Holiday as the primary defender of the opposing team’s center. If that’s a matchup they’re deliberately starting possessions with, it’s hard to find a “mismatch” that can truly trouble them.

As a result, no team is better at staying out of rotation. (If the Celtics do put two on the ball and put themselves in scramble mode, it’s usually the result of a calculated choice rather than one the opponent has forced them into.) As a result, they surrender the league’s fifth-lowest rate of corner threes, foul less frequently than any team, and induce more isolation possessions than all but three defenses. With Kristaps Porzingis able to stay out of ball-screen action and camp out in the lane, they also rank third in suppressing opponent rim shots.

Thanks to the strength and versatility of Holiday, the point-of-attack stickiness of Derrick White and Jaylen Brown (which frees Holiday to function as a roving big man defensively), the length and help-and-recover instincts of Jayson Tatum, and the enormity and agility of Porzingis as the last line of defense, Boston can cross-match and toggle assignments like no other team. And the rub is that opposing teams can’t do the same at the other end of the floor.

If those opponents want to avoid having their best rim-protector yanked out to the perimeter by the shooting gravity of Porzingis, the most viable place to stash that guy is on Holiday, the Celtics’ lowest-usage starter. The problem with that is Holiday’s still a very capable creator who’s shooting 45% from 3-point range this season. Last week, the Warriors tried to throw a curveball by making Brown their designated help point, and that went about as well as you’d expect.

Even though Tatum is clearly Boston’s best player and biggest offensive pressure point, there’s no easy answer for where a defense should direct its attention. Because they have so much shooting and so much shot creation, the Celtics can put together any number of two- and three-man partnerships for their various pick-and-roll, dribble-handoff, and split actions. That also owes to their primary scorers’ willingness to set screens, Tatum in particular. His actions with White are especially deadly no matter who’s handling and who’s screening.

Opponents are reluctant to switch White’s defender onto Tatum, so they’ll often put two on the ball and let White slip free out of inverted actions. When Tatum screens and pops, the screen defender won’t linger in the lane and risk giving him an open above-the-break three, which means White can often stroll into the lane unimpeded. Off-ball screens, especially flares from Tatum for a curling White, have much the same effect.

Brown’s developed great synergy with Porzingis, particularly when they run empty-side DHOs or when Porzingis slips out of weak-side pindowns. White and Porzingis run a mean two-man game as well. In fact, Porzingis has formed effective pick-and-roll combinations with almost everyone, because all of Boston’s other starters are killer pull-up jump shooters and Porzingis is a serious pick-and-pop threat.

The most sensible way to neutralize those actions is to switch, but defenses that do so risk getting smoked by Porzingis either slipping to the basket or posting a mismatch on the back side. The big man leads the league in scoring efficiency on post-ups, at a ridiculous 1.37 points per possession. Porzingis has also improved as a playmaker, so the Celtics feel comfortable running stuff through him at the elbow, with everyone else cutting and screening off of him.

So why does it feel like this team lacks the gravitas of an all-time juggernaut, even though every statistical indicator suggests they are one? Why do they still seem to engender so much doubt?

There are a few explanations, for which there are varying degrees of validity. One is the simple fact that this iteration of the Celtics hasn’t won a championship, and people tend to have a hard time imagining the future as anything but an extension of the present. There are also real scars from recent postseason letdowns (especially against Miami) in which Boston looked like the better team on paper.

Then there’s the fact Tatum isn’t a consensus top-five player in the league, which means the Celtics may find themselves in a scenario (or multiple scenarios) in which they don’t have the best player in a playoff series. There are questions about whether Brown’s shaky handle and vision will become liabilities against the best defenses. Holiday has a habit of disappearing offensively in the playoffs, clanking his way to 48% true shooting in three postseasons with the Bucks. And beyond the vaunted starters, Boston’s bench feels a bit precarious; the only reserves likely to see real playoff rotation minutes are the 38-year-old Al Horford, 6-foot-1 Payton Pritchard, and untested Sam Hauser.

There are also stylistic concerns, namely that the Celtics are jumper-dependent and don’t get to the rim a ton, which leaves them vulnerable to variance that could swing the wrong way at the wrong time. Though they have multiple solid playmakers, they lack one elite individual passer, which can contribute to some stodgy and predictable tendencies. That manifests most glaringly in their late-game offense, which tends to slow to a crawl as ball and player movement dries up.

Again, there’s at least a sliver of merit to all of those concerns, but Boston’s answered most of them as comprehensively as they possibly can until the playoffs give them the chance to prove this year is different. Sure, Tatum has some blemishes on his postseason resume, but critics tend to fixate on a couple of tough series (one against Miami in the bubble, another in the Finals against an exceptional Warriors defense) and ignore the triumphs, including the fact he set the record for Game 7 scoring to eliminate the rival Sixers nine months ago. Brown’s an improved playmaker, and a Holiday dropoff feels less likely (and wouldn’t hurt as badly) given his scaled-down offensive role.

The Celtics rank 27th in rim frequency and dead last in overall paint-shot frequency, but they’re one of the best teams in the league at converting from those zones because of the space they create. Porzingis has also given them an interior dimension that’s different from previous seasons, including nudging their free-throw attempt rate up to league average.

As for the crunch-time bug: though it did bite them Tuesday, when they scored seven points in the last six minutes against the Cavs, it hasn’t been an issue on the whole. It tends to stand out because it’s the only way the Celtics lose (they’ve lost only four games all season that didn’t include clutch time), but their offensive process in those scenarios isn’t much different from any other contender’s, with the exception of Denver’s. Boston ranks fifth in the league in crunch-time offense, and fifth in crunch-time net rating, per NBA Advanced Stats. Even their assist rate ranks 10th in the clutch, compared to 22nd overall.

For now, because of all the aforementioned nitpicks and the lack of precedent, we can still go on treating this season as a wide-open race. That’s fair, given Milwaukee’s championship pedigree, Miami’s recent penchant for giant-slaying, the upside of the fully healthy Sixers and Knicks, and the bevy of dangerous teams in the West, including the defending champs and their indomitable two-time MVP. But if the Celtics do wind up ripping through the East en route to hoisting the Larry O’Brien Trophy, as the numbers suggest they should, it could wind up being one of those title runs that feels inevitable in hindsight.


Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns is being evaluated for a left meniscus injury, ESPN reported on Thursday.

The big man’s return to the lineup is up in the air as doctors determine whether the four-time All-Star requires an immediate procedure on his knee, per the report.

Towns, 28, played only 21 minutes in Minnesota’s 119-114 victory against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday night.

The timing of the injury is brutal for the Timberwolves (43-19), who entered Thursday tied for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Towns is averaging 22.1 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 60 games (all starts) this season and is shooting 42.3 percent from 3-point range, a career best.

The 7-footer has averaged 22.9 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 571 games (all starts) since the Timberwolves drafted him No. 1 overall in 2015.


Former No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons is out for the regular season with lingering back trouble, the Brooklyn Nets announced Thursday.

The oft-injured guard appeared in just 15 games (12 starts) this season, averaging a career-low 6.1 points with 7.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 23.9 minutes per game. The three-time All-Star last played on Feb. 26.

“Ben Simmons will remain out for the remainder of the season while he consults with specialists and explores treatment options for the nerve impingement in his lower back,” the team said in a statement.

“Simmons, along with his representatives and Nets medical personnel, are currently in discussions with numerous experts to determine the course of action that will provide him with the best opportunity for long-term sustainable health.”

Simmons, 27, has a $40.3 million expiring contract for the 2024-25 season.

Drafted No. 1 overall by Philadelphia in 2016, the 6-foot-10 Australia native missed the entire 2016-17 season with a foot injury. He returned to win Rookie of the Year honors in 2017-18 and made three straight All-Star teams, starting in 2018-19, before falling out of favor in Philadelphia.

The Sixers traded him to Brooklyn in February 2022 in a deal for James Harden, but he did not play at all during the 2021-22 campaign.

Simmons appeared in 42 games for the Nets in 2022-23, averaging 6.9 points before back issues ended his season in mid-February.