DETROIT (AP) Jimmy Butler scored 18 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter and the Miami Heat avoided an embarrassing loss by rallying to beat the hapless Detroit Pistons 118-105 on Tuesday night.

Miami (42-37) kept its chance of escaping the Play-In tournament alive, but Detroit (16-63) made it tough before losing its 10th straight and falling to 1-21 in its last 22 games.

“We had a lot of guys contribute to this win, but Jimmy did what closers do,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We just need to get him the ball and we trust that he’s going to make the right decisions.

“That’s what he does.”

Gabe Vincent scored 22 points for the Heat while Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro had 18 apiece.

Jaden Ivey scored 30 points on 15 shots for the Pistons, while fellow rookie Jalen Duren had 20 points and 14 rebounds.

“I’ve just been constantly working on my 3-point shot,” said Ivey, who was 4 for 6 from behind the arc. “I was getting down on myself when I wasn’t making them earlier in the year, but that’s changed.”

The Heat led 80-79 at the start of the fourth quarter, but weren’t able to pull away from the NBA’s worst team. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Cory Joseph put Detroit ahead 97-94 with 6:42 left, but Butler’s floater gave Miami a 100-99 edge with 4:35 remaining.

Spoelstra started sending his defense hard at Ivey, and Detroit struggled to adapt.

“Did you see what he was doing to us before we started blitzing him?” Spoelstra asked. “He’s got so much speed and tonight he was hitting his 3s and his mid-range shots, which makes him even tougher. He’s a special young talent.”

Butler made it 107-99 from the free throw line with 2:47 left, and after Ivey hit a tough banker, Butler’s three-point play gave Miami a nine-point lead.

“He got to his right hand, and that’s what the coaches warned us about before the game,” Ivey said.

Miami led by as many as 17 points in the second quarter, but the Pistons narrowed the gap to 59-52 at the half. Gabe Vincent had 17 points for the Heat while Ivey scored 15.

“Any time you get a win on the road, it feels good,” Vincent said.

Duren’s dunk put the Pistons up 60-59 at 3:10 of the third, but Miami scored the next 13 points. Detroit nearly regained the lead at the end of the period, but Eugene Omoruyi’s layup came just after the buzzer.


Heat: Miami has won seven of its last nine against Detroit, including both games in Michigan this season. … Herro made both free throw attempts, extending his streak to 32, one short of his career-best set in 2020.

Pistons: Ivey extended his franchise rookie record by scoring 10-plus points in his 36th straight game. Dave Bing had streaks of 33 and 32 in the 1966-67 season.


During his postgame press conference, Spoelstra said Butler and Ivey each remind him of players he’s seen a lot of in his coaching career, but wouldn’t divulge who he meant.

“I’m not giving any hints – you’ll have to figure it out,” he said when asked if he was comparing Butler to LeBron James or Dwyane Wade. “I’ve told Jimmy, but that’s private between us.”


Heat: Visit the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

Pistons: Host the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday.


ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Donovan Mitchell scored 43 points, his fourth straight 40-point game, to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 117-113 victory over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.

The win secured the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the first round for the Cavaliers (50-30).

“Fifty wins, that’s no small thing, and now we’ve got to be locked in for the playoffs,” Mitchell said.

“You want to start at home, be in your own bed, your own facility. All those little things have a major impact in a series. That was a big spark for tonight. You could see it with everybody.”

The New York Knicks are currently fifth and Cleveland’s likely first-round opponent with three games left.

Mitchell scored Cleveland’s last six points to become the first Cavalier to score 40 or more points in four straight games, and the first player in the NBA since James Harden had five straight in the 2018-19 season.

Caris LeVert added 19 points and Darius Garland had 16 points and 10 assists in the opener of a two-game series. The teams meet again Thursday.

“When you look at this regular season, this has been a massive success for us,” said Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff. “We’re not done. We’re looking forward to the next part of this, but to win 50 games in the NBA is an accomplishment for sure.”

Markelle Fultz had 23 points and eight assists, and Paolo Banchero had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Magic (34-45).

The loss eliminated Orlando from playoff contention.

The Magic ran off 13 straight points while the Cavs went scoreless for more than four minutes of the first quarter, and Orlando led by nine – the largest lead of the game – when Gary Harris hit a 3-pointer midway through the second period.

But after being held to four shots and six points in the first 17 minutes, Mitchell got it going late in the first half, combining with Levert on a rally that pulled Cleveland ahead just before halftime.

“These guys trust me to go out there and do it,” Mitchell said. ”For me, it’s not like it’s forced. Those guys are out there finding me, allowing me to attack, keep going. But I’m also playing within the flow of the offense.”

Two 3-pointers by Mitchell, with a couple of Jarrett Allen blocks in between, lifted the Cavs to a 108-99 lead with 6:04 left.

Wendell Carter, who finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds, hit two 3-pointers to regain a one-point lead for the Magic before LeVert’s final 3-pointer put the Cavaliers back ahead with 3:31 remaining. Mitchell took over from there.

“Donovan got some clutch baskets down the stretch,” said Fultz. “They just executed down the stretch. They’re a great team. They’re the fourth seed and they came in trying to clinch that, and we came up short in the end.”


Cavaliers: Cleveland’s 50-win season is its first since 1993 without LeBron James on the roster. … In his four-game 40-plus spurt, Mitchell has scored 169 points in 161 minutes, shooting 60.6% (63 for 104) … F Isaac Okoro missed a fourth straight game with a sore left knee.

Magic: The Magic had a 47-30 rebound advantage.. … The Magic are 20-20 at home going into Thursday night’s home finale.


The Magic, out of the postseason for the ninth time in 11 years, came back to play a rare “meaningful game in April” after a 5-20 start, leaving coach Jamahl Mosley with a good feeling after their mathematical elimination.

“That’s the fourth seed in the East,” Mosley said. “We held our own, and more so, and our guys have to understand and believe what we’re capable of doing moving forward.”


WASHINGTON (AP) The Milwaukee Bucks were eliminated last season in a Game 7 on the road.

One more victory, and they won’t have to worry about that.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 28 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists, and Jrue Holiday nearly added a triple-double of his own as the Bucks took another step toward wrapping up the NBA’s best record with a 140-128 victory over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night.

Holiday finished with 26 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, and Bobby Portis added 19 points and 20 rebounds for Milwaukee.

The Bucks (57-22) moved to three games ahead of Boston with three to play, although the Celtics – who beat Milwaukee in that seven-game series last year – have the head-to-head tiebreaker. Boston lost a 103-101 thriller at Philadelphia on Tuesday, with ex-Buck P.J. Tucker hitting big 3-pointers down the stretch as Milwaukee players watched in their locker room.

After that game ended, Antetokounmpo downplayed the importance of home court just a little, noting that the Bucks were the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference when they won it all two years ago.

“At the end of the day, Boston is a beast, Philly is a beast, Cleveland is a beast, New York is a beast,” Antetokounmpo said.

Kendrick Nunn scored 24 points for the Wizards, who are out of playoff contention and played without Bradley Beal (left knee), Kristaps Porzingis (illness) and Kyle Kuzma (right ankle). Washington kept it close until late in the second quarter, when Milwaukee closed the half on a 13-5 run to lead 75-62.

It wasn’t close after that, with the Bucks leading by as many as 24 points. Milwaukee wasn’t at full strength either. Khris Middleton (right knee) missed the game, which was the first half of a back-to-back for the Bucks. Grayson Allen was also out after leaving Sunday’s game against Philadelphia with a sprained right ankle.

Pat Connaughton played only 5:40 because of what coach Mike Budenholzer said was a twisted right ankle. Budenholzer was hopeful it’s not too serious.


On a night when defense was in short supply, Antetokounmpo made an incredible chase-down block on Nunn in the fourth quarter with his team up 15 – although Corey Kispert followed up with a layup for the Wizards.

“His competitive fire, his competitive spirit, it’s the best,” Budenholzer said. “A lot of guys I think don’t go get that. Not his physical ability to go get it, but just the competitiveness and the willingness to try. He’s very special that way.”

Antetokounmpo nearly had his triple-double after three quarters but needed one more assist.


Washington (34-45) is now in a three-way tie for 11th place in the Eastern Conference with Orlando and Indiana.


Bucks: Jevon Carter (left foot) did not play. … Portis has 23 double-doubles off the bench this season, the most in the league. … Antetokounmpo had eight turnovers. … Jae Crowder scored 19 points. … Milwaukee shot 23 of 42 from 3-point range.

Wizards: In addition to the Beal-Porzingis-Kuzma trio, Washington was also missing Monte Morris (right ankle), Delon Wright (illness) and Deni Avdija (left elbow). Jordan Goodwin, Johnny Davis and Anthony Gill, who had combined for 10 starts all season, were all in the starting lineup. … Davis, a first-round draft pick last year, scored a career-high 20 points. … Gafford picked up four fouls in the first half.


Bucks: Host Chicago on Wednesday night.

Wizards: At Atlanta on Wednesday night.


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Pascal Siakam scored 22 points and the Toronto Raptors rallied from four 9-point first quarter deficits to roll past the Charlotte Hornets 120-100 on Tuesday night.

Toronto has won five of its last six games, improving to 40-39 and solidifying their position for the NBA play-in tournament.

The Raptors scored 19 straight points during a stretch late in the third quarter and into the fourth quarter after Charlotte had gotten within 80-75 with 3:49 left in the third quarter.

Siakam also had 14 rebounds and was joined in double digits by Chris Boucher (21 points), Will Barton (20), O.G. Anunoby (17), Fred VanVleet (16), Precious Achiuwa (12) and Jakob Poeltl (10).

The Hornets were led by Bryce McGowens’ career-high 20 points. Nick Richards added 18 points and 11 rebounds and Svi Mykhailiuk had 17 points, JT Thor 13 and Theo Maledon 13.

The Hornets (26-54) are without eight players due to injury: LaMelo Ball (right ankle surgery), Gordon Hayward (left thumb sprain), Kelly Oubre Jr. (left shoulder sprain), Terry Rozier (right foot injury), Dennis Smith Jr. (right toe sprain), P.J. Washington (right foot sprain) and Mark Williams (left ankle sprain).

Toronto’s 36-20 second quarter was sparked by reserves Boucher and Barton, who combined for nine 3-pointers.

“We weren’t that sluggish,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said of the early Charlotte leads. “They were just really fast and we weren’t as fast as they were. I just kept saying, ‘They’re really moving’ so we had to pick it up a half-notch. We switched to zone and got a bunch of stops in a row and obviously got the … 3-ball going. Fifteen out of 33 is a really good night on 3-pointers.”

Boucher said Barton, who converted six of his nine 3-pointers, really helped the Raptors spread the floor in its victory.

“We need that off the bench,” Boucher said of Barton’s production. “The more guys we have that can do things will help. They got Will here for a reason. They know what he can do and today was just a peek at what he can do.”

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said Toronto’s defense that created 22 points off 18 turnovers was a huge difference-maker.

“Ball pressure and passing lane pressure led to live-ball turnovers,” Clifford said. “It was 22-10 in points off turnovers.”


Boucher’s big effort came one day after he announced a scholarship program to help his community and young people growing up like he did.

According to Monday’s Toronto Star, Boucher grew up in abject poverty, was once homeless, dropped out of school and washed dishes at restaurants.

Now a key to the Raptors’ second unit who has a three-year, $35 million contract, the Star says he is using “an undisclosed amount of money disbursed through his SlimmDuck Foundation” to launch a scholarship program that will offer financial support to five students of Caribbean descent. For each of the next five years, a scholarship will be offered to a student with financial struggles who wants to pursue a university degree.

“It’s something I wanted to do for a long time,” Boucher said after Tuesday’s game. “It was just finding the opportunity. I want to help the people that struggle when they move to Canada.”


Raptors: Barton is one of the more veteran players on the Raptors’ roster with 11 years of NBA experience, which includes 29 postseason games with nine starts. But he’s played in 12 games with Toronto since being signed as free agent on Feb. 28 and he had missed the previous three games with a left ankle sprain. “I guess we’re going to have to figure that out in the next four games that we have left,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said of Barton’s role.

Hornets: Clifford started his 26th different starting lineup Tuesday. It’s the third-most lineups in franchise, behind the 2005-06 and 2006-07 Charlotte Bobcats, which used 28 different starters.


Raptors: At Boston on Wednesday.

Hornets: Host Houston on Friday.


NEW YORK (AP) Anthony Edwards scored 23 points, Karl-Anthony Towns had 22 points, 14 rebounds and five assists, and the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Brooklyn Nets 107-102 on Tuesday night to snap a three-game losing streak.

“Right now every win feels like two, and every loss feels like three. It’s just crazy,” Minnesota coach Chris Finch said. “We desperately needed this game.”

Rudy Gobert had 12 points and 12 rebounds, and Mike Conley scored 18 points, nine in the fourth quarter. Minnesota moved within a half-game of eighth-seeded New Orleans, which lost to 121-103 to Sacramento.

“It’s a very good feeling, obviously us winning,” Towns said. “We need some teams to lose, and they’re losing.”

Spencer Dinwiddie had 30 points and six assists, Mikal Bridges scored 24 points and Dorian Finney-Smith had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Nets, who had their three-game win streak snapped. Their lead over Miami for the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference was cut to one game after the Heat’s 118-105 victory in Detroit.

“There were a couple of opportunities where we didn’t keep them away from the rim,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “That ended up being the difference in the game.”

Similar to their first meeting, a 124-123 Nets win, the teams traded momentum in the game, which featured 24 lead changes and eight ties. But Minnesota shot 53% in the fourth quarter and outscored Brooklyn 14-7 over the final 4:06 with Gobert, the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, on the bench.

“We knew that we were going to have a matchup (advantage) somewhere,” Finch said. “We put as much shooting out there as we could and felt a little more comfortable guarding everyone on the perimeter, and take nothing away from Rudy; he played a great game.”

Towns, who is laboring through a calf strain and illness, gave the Timberwolves the lead for good when he made a pair of free throws with a minute remaining, and Edwards went 4 of 4 at the line in the final 19.1 seconds.

“Every day I’m getting closer and closer to 100%,” Towns said. “I think today is the most comfortable I’ve felt in the post since I came back, so it was great.”

Dinwiddie had two chances to tie the game with 3-pointers in the final 10 seconds, but Edwards blocked his first attempt, and his second hit the back rim.

“The second one I probably could’ve drove it, probably hunted the 3 a little too much,” Dinwiddie said. “The first one was try to get an attempt up just because we didn’t have any more timeouts left.”

Minnesota’s length wreaked havoc on Brooklyn’s offense early, and the Nets shot just 29% in the first quarter. Towns had six points, eight rebounds and four assists in the period, and the Wolves led 31-24 after one.

“We’ve got a big lineup. I think everyone in the world knows we’re playing a two-big lineup,” Towns said. “We might as well utilize the mismatches we have … instead of trying to outplay them in a chess game. We can just play checkers.”

The Nets found their shooting touch in the second quarter, especially from the outside, where they made 5 of 8 from 3-point range. Finney-Smith hit a pair of 3-pointers in Brooklyn’s 11-0 run, and the Nets outscored Minnesota 30-20 in the second, taking a three-point halftime lead.

Brooklyn outscored Minnesota 26-10 over a span of 9:46 between the second and third quarters. The Nets scored the first eight points of the third, building their largest lead, 62-51.

“I never felt like, even when they went on their little run, or we were chasing, or they were making some threes, that we weren’t doing what we wanted to do,” Finch said. “We knew it was gonna be like this.”


Timberwolves: Gobert’s double-double was his 34th of the season. …. Towns was listed as questionable but played. Guards Jaylen Nowell (left knee tendinopathy) and Austin Rivers (illness) and forward Naz Reid (left scaphoid fracture) were inactive.

Nets: Bridges was named Eastern Conference player of the week Monday after averaging 33 points and 5.7 rebounds over three Nets wins. He entered play averaging 27.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 35.2 minutes per game in 23 games since the Nets acquired him from Phoenix on Feb. 9.

UP NEXT Timberwolves: At San Antonio on Saturday. Nets: At Detroit on Wednesday.


NEW ORLEANS (AP) Sacramento rookie Keegan Murray could be the face of the Kings’ remarkable reversal of fortune.

Murray has heard all about the club’s recently ended, 16-season playoff drought. But his only season with the Kings now includes a first division title in two decades – and his scoring has been no small part of that.

De’Aaron Fox scored 23 points, Murray added 21 on seven 3-pointers, and the Kings beat the New Orleans Pelicans 121-103 on Tuesday night to clinch the Pacific Division title – their first such title since the 2002-03 season.

“I’m excited for this organization,” said Murray, who was drafted fourth overall out of Iowa last summer. “It’s really cool for the city.”

Domantas Sabonis had 16 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for the Kings, who took the lead for good late in the first quarter and led by as many as 24 points in the second half.

“The physicality that we brought to the game tonight, starting with the starting five, was really good,” Kings coach Mike Brown said. “I also thought our pace was good. … We put pressure on them play after play after play. That’s how we play offensively.”

Brandon Ingram scored 22 points and Trey Murphy III had 17 for the Pelicans (40-39), who entered the game knowing they could guarantee themselves sixth place in the Western Conference if they won their final four games.

Now New Orleans is more likely destined for a play-in spot that goes to teams finishing seventh through 10th. But they have yet to clinch even that, needing one more victory or a loss by Dallas, which next plays on Wednesday.

The Kings “just beat us to a lot of the hustle stats, getting out on us in transition, second-chance opportunities and then the 3 ball,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “It’s not a great game for us and we have to bounce back quick.”

Malik Monk scored 17 and Harrison Barnes 16 points for the Kings (48-31), who remained 1 1/2 games behind Memphis (49-29) for the second seed in the West.

Murray hit five 3s during the third quarter, when the Kings opened up a 17-point lead. It was his third straight game with 18 or more points.

“I felt like I’ve been getting a lot of good looks lately,” Murray said. “They were finding me in the third quarter and I was able to knock down shots.”

Fox hit 10 of 23 shots and also had nine assists.

“They have shooters all across the floor; you have to worry about every single person,” Murphy said. “They have a guard (in Fox) who is as quick as lightning and can score the ball. It’s tough. They put you in help situations and they’re making you pay when they’re kicking it out to shooters and they’re hitting. It’s going to be a tough night when they’re hitting those shots.”


Kings: Sabonis has 13 triple-doubles this season. … Murray now has hit 201 3-pointers this season and has scored 20 or more points in 13 games. … Kevin Huerter scored 11 points. … Shot 50.5% (46 of 91), including 17 of 42 (40.5%) from 3-point range. …. Outrebounded New Orleans 43-37.

Pelicans: Jonas Valanciunas scored 13 points, CJ McCollum and rookie Dyson Daniels each scored 12 points and Herbert Jones scored 11. … Still need two more victories in their last three games to finish with a winning regular season record for the first time since 2017-18, when they went 48-34.


Kings: At Dallas on Wednesday.

Pelicans: Host Memphis on Wednesday.


CHICAGO (AP) Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 26 points and the Atlanta Hawks overcame the loss of top scorer Trae Young to beat the Chicago Bulls 123-105 on Tuesday night.

Young, who leads the Hawks with a 26.2 scoring average, didn’t play due to a non-COVID illness. Forward De’Andre Hunter missed his third consecutive game because of a left knee bruise.

But Bogdanovic led the way on 9-of-15 shooting from the field, including 5-of-10 on 3-point attempts.

“I tried to put him back in a couple times, but he was tired,” Hawks coach Quin Snyder said. “Which tells me he’s good. That means he was playing defense. We know he can shoot the ball.”

Atlanta (40-39) opened a two-game lead over the Bulls (38-41), who clinched a play-in berth in the Eastern Conference by virtue of Orlando’s loss to Cleveland earlier in the evening.

After Zach LaVine opened the game with a basket, the Hawks ran off 13 consecutive points, with Bogdanovic scoring 11 during that span as the Hawks never trailed after that.

“We didn’t guard the ball well, didn’t rotate well and didn’t rebound well,” LaVine said.

The Bulls managed only seven fast-break points, and the Hawks had a 66-48 advantage in points in the paint. Saddiq Bey added 18 points while Dejounte Murray had 17 and Jaylen Johnson 16.

LaVine led the Bulls with 26 points, and DeMar DeRozan added 21 and Nikola Vucevic 19.

Without Young or Hunter, Atlanta still managed to expose Chicago’s porous defense by shooting 55.8% from the field (47-for-85), including 10-of-28 shooting from 3-point range.

“I think the key thing is we responded collectively, and that’s what it takes,” Snyder said. “There was no one guy that said, ‘OK, I’m going to be the guy who closes the door on a run. They did it as a group, and they did it defensively, getting stops at various times.”

The Bulls’ defensive efforts were challenged after specialist Alex Caruso committed his second foul six minutes into the game. Caruso returned midway through the second quarter but left two minutes later after being charged with his third foul.

The Hawks led by as many as 20 points after Bey turned a loose-ball sequence into a reverse layup with 1:11 remaining in the second quarter.

“Every one of these games is a must-win game for us,” LaVine said. “Obviously we didn’t do good enough. They wanted it more than us. It’s tough to have that type of result at this point in the season.

A restless crowd booed the Bulls, who responded with an 8-0 run capped by a LaVine 3-pointer to end the quarter.


Hawks: Young didn’t make the trip to Chicago, and Snyder was unsure when he would rejoin the team. …


Hawks: Wednesday vs. Washington.

Bulls: Wednesday at Milwaukee.


HOUSTON (AP) Jalen Green scored 32 points, six others scored in double figures and the last-place Houston Rockets prevented the Denver Nuggets from clinching the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with a 124-103 victory in their home finale on Tuesday night.

Denver entered Tuesday three games ahead of Memphis for the top spot in the Western Conference with four games remaining for both teams. At 19-60 entering Tuesday, the Rockets stood 33 1/2 games behind Denver’s 52-26 record.

But none of that mattered to the upstart Rockets, hoping to end a rocky season on a positive note.

“When we stay together as a team, feed off each others’ energy and just play hard, the sky’s the limit,” Green said. “We competed with the best in the NBA.”

Denver had a sluggish start to the fourth quarter, making just one field goal in the first five minutes. Houston went on a 16-4 run in that stretch.

Running away with the game late, the young Rockets went on a dunking spree, firing up the Toyota Center crowd for the home finale. After the fourth dunk of the quarter, a thunderous, two-handed windmill dunk in transition from Tari Eason, Nuggets coach Michael Malone called timeout with 5:33 remaining in the game and pulled his starters.

“If that’s how we’re going to play, we’ll be out in the first round,” Malone said after the game. “When we don’t do our jobs, there’s accountability. And I speak the truth. I just called our team, ‘soft,’ and I dared someone to challenge me. No one did, because we as a group were soft tonight. I’m not saying we are soft, but tonight, we were.”

The Rockets outscored the Nuggets 38-18 in the fourth quarter.

Alperen Sengun had 20 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, Kevin Porter Jr. had 20 points and nine assists, and Jabari Smith Jr. had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Eason added 11 points off the bench for Houston.

“There was a lot of defensive activity, the guys were in the right spots, they were making it hard on them,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “I thought (Sengun) had the best defensive game of his career.”

Michael Porter Jr. led Denver with 23 points, and Nikola Jokic had 14 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes. After missing three games with right calf tightness, Jokic also added a sloppy eight turnovers and went 7 for 13 from the field. Aaron Gordon added 13 points, nine rebounds and four blocks.

“We started the game OK, but we just lost it,” Jokic said. “The whole game was in their favor. Even when we were finding open shots, we couldn’t make shots. We didn’t make free throws, they were blocking our shots, we had a huge amount of turnovers – it was a one-sided game.”

As for coming back from his brief absence, the two-time MVP said he “felt good – just didn’t play good.”

Nuggets guard Jamal Murray left the game early in the second quarter with a right thumb sprain. He was listed as questionable with the same injury and was ruled out late in the third quarter. In nine minutes, he had two points and four assists.

Malone said the team would be smart in deciding whether Murray can play again in the remaining three regular-season games.

With the Rockets finishing the last two games of the season on the road, Houston finished the season 14-27 at home.

Denver had won the previous 10 meetings.


Nuggets: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had a team-low 23 points in the plus-minus category and Jokic was at -21. … PF Zeke Nnaji missed a second straight game with a right knee sprain.

Rockets: F Jae’Sean Tate remained out with left knee soreness.


“Fun level was at an all-time high. Before the game, we were talking about how we wanted to put on a show and end this home stretch with a win. Everyone had good energy, played hard and we came out with a dub.” — Jalen Green


Soccer star Houston Dynamo FC midfielder Héctor Herrera made his pregame free throw, earning a $5,000 donation for the Rockets Clutch City Foundation. Herrera is captain of both the Dynamo and the Mexican national team.


Nuggets: Visit Phoenix on Thursday night.

Rockets: Finish the season with a road trip to Charlotte and Washington on Friday and Sunday, respectively.


PHILADELPHIA (AP) Joel Embiid earned the highest stamp of approval from coach Doc Rivers after the All-Star center blistered Boston for his third 50-point game of the season and carried the 76ers on his beat-up, 7-foot frame to victory.

“The MVP race is over,” Rivers said.

There’s an argument to be made for Denver’s Nikola Jokic or Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Embiid, though, certainly won’t argue with his coach or Sixers teammates stumping on his behalf.

“They’re probably right,” Embiid said with a laugh. “But we have bigger goals in mind.”

Embiid strengthened his bid for the award with 52 points and 13 rebounds, and the NBA scoring leader carried Philadelphia to a 103-101 win over the Celtics on Tuesday night.

Embiid made 20 of 25 shots from the floor and 12 of 13 free throws en route to his ninth game of the season with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds. Embiid joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain as the only NBA centers with three 50-point games in a season.

Embiid had a career-high 59 points against the Utah Jazz in November and 53 against Charlotte in December. Considering the magnitude of this game – the 76ers hadn’t beat their East rivals all season – this effort was the most impressive one yet.

“If they end up the No. 2 seed, we might see them in the second round, if we make it there,” Embiid said.

In a game with a playoff vibe, this one came down to the end, as Jayson Tatum’s tying jumper fell short at the horn.

P.J. Tucker gave Embiid and the Sixers the help they needed when he made three late 3-pointers that turned a one-point deficit into a 101-95 lead. Derrick White buried a 3 with 2 seconds left that pulled Boston to 103-101 and hushed a crowd that had just bellowed “MVP! MVP!” chants.

Embiid was whistled for an offensive foul, the latest in a string of late-game breakdowns that almost gave away the game.

“We were trying to give them the game back. We really tried,” Rivers said.

But they hung on and beat the Celtics for the first time in four tries this season. They can thank the All-Star center that punctuated the victory with a vicious two-handed slam late in the game that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

“When he gets it going like that, no one can stop him,” Tucker said.

James Harden had 20 points and 10 assists.

White scored 26 points and Tatum had 19. The Celtics fell to 9-4 this season without Jaylen Brown, the team’s second-leading scorer who got the night off with a back injury.

“Our offense, we just weren’t elite tonight,” coach Joe Mazzulla said. “When your offense isn’t elite, it puts pressure on your defense against great, great players like tonight.”

Embiid responded to the chants that rained down on him by playing early like a one-person show. Embiid got the 50-point effort going from the jump and made 6 of 7 from the floor and 6 of 7 from the free throw line for 18 points in the first quarter. The rest of the team missed 8 of 12 shots and did not attempt a free throw.

As the season winds down, the same pressing question looms for the Sixers just as it did at the start of the season: Who will step up and join Embiid and Harden as consistent playoff performers?

Tucker showed with his string of 3s – left open in large part because Embiid was double-teamed – he could be an option.

“PJ was huge. Three huge corner 3s, I mean, we don’t win that game without him,” Embiid said.

Without the help needed from Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris and some production off the bench, the Sixers could be doomed to yet another 50-win, second-round exit this season. The Sixers haven’t advanced to the Eastern Conference finals since 2001 and another early flameout this season could lead to an offseason of upheaval in Philly.

Embiid shuffled off for the night in slippers, after one of the best performances of his career, hoping that never becomes a concern.

“If we can correct a lot of the mistakes that we made,” he said, “we’ve got a pretty good chance.”


Celtics: Hit 15 3-pointers.

76ers: Embiid’s 24 points in the first half gave him 2,134 on the season, the most for an NBA center since Shaquille O’Neal scored 2,344 for the Lakers in 1999-2000. … Only Chamberlain with five in 1965-66 has more 50-point games in a season for the Sixers than Embiid.


Celtics: Host Toronto on Wednesday.

76ers: Play their home finale Thursday against Miami.


MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) Desmond Bane scored 30 points and keyed a fourth-quarter rally, Ja Morant added 23 points and nine assists and the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the short-handed Portland Trail Blazers 119-109 on Tuesday night.

Luke Kennard added 20 for Memphis, converting 6 of 10 3-pointers.

Skylar Mays, who signed a 10-day contract with Portland last weekend, led the Trail Blazers with 24 points and seven assists. Shaedon Sharpe added 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Jabari Walker finished with 16 points.

Portland held the lead with nine minutes left, but Bane connected on a trio of 3-pointers over a four-minute stretch midway through the fourth. That was part of a 22-2 Memphis run to put away the feisty Trail Blazers.

“We tied it up, and we went on a nice run,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said of the fourth quarter when Memphis outscored Portland 23-14. “Des (Bane) helped spark that.”

As it has in recent games, Portland played without key pieces, such as leading scorers Damian Lillard (32.2 points a game), Anfernee Simons (21.1 points) and Jerami Grant (20.5 points), along with top rebounder Jusuf Nurkic (9.1 boards per game).

That left a number of reserves to carry the Trail Blazers, who are out of the playoff hunt. But Portland coach Chauncey Billups praised his team for their fortitude in a hostile environment.

Memphis not only won its 50th game of the year, but finished the season 35-6 at home, clinching the best home slate in the league.

“I thought we definitely played hard,” said Walker, who was 6 of 11 from the field, including a trio of 3-pointers. “We were in it the whole game, and that speaks volumes to all the guys, how competitive we are and how much heart we have.”

The Trail Blazers chipped away at a 19-point Memphis lead in the first half when the Grizzlies became lackadaisical with the ball. That, and a much more focused Portland defense, led to Memphis holding a slim 66-62 lead at the break.

“We just went to old habits,” Morant said of the lackluster play in the game’s middle stages. “Just no energy. That was pretty much it. We weren’t taking them lightly at all. We’d seen what they’ve done the last couple of games.”

At the start of the third quarter, Portland’s intensity continued, and the Trail Blazers not only pulled even, but took the lead. They were still tied until Bane and the Grizzlies pulled away with the late burst.

“For us to be able to stay together and come back and get a win was big-time,” Morant said.


Trail Blazers: Portland was one of the few visiting teams to defeat the Grizzlies this season, winning 122-112 on Feb. 1. … Portland already had eight players listed as “out” with the early injury reports. By the time Billups got to the podium for his pregame comments, three more previously listed as questionable were not available. That left nine Trail Blazers in uniform. … Jeenathan Williams, the rookie out of Buffalo signed by Portland on Saturday, started his first game and finished with four points.

Grizzlies: F Dillon Brooks took the night off with right hip soreness. Kennard started in Brooks’ spot. … The win snapped a four-game losing streak to Portland at FedExForum.


Kennard started the game hitting all four of his 3-pointers before finishing 6 of 10 from outside the arc. He has made better than 50% of his 3-pointers since joining the Grizzlies in a trade deadline deal in February. Morant told Kennard to keep shooting when he is on that kind of streak. “Whatever shot he likes, we love,” Morant said.


Trail Blazers: Play Thursday at San Antonio against the Spurs.

Grizzlies: Play the Pelicans in New Orleans on Wednesday.


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) LeBron James missed a potential game-winning layup on the final play of regulation. Given a second chance, he delivered.

James scored 37 points, including a go-ahead basket with 27 seconds left in overtime, to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 135-133 victory over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night.

Ochai Agbaji tried to impede James’ drive to the basket, but he spun off from the Jazz guard and finished over Damian Jones. James has now made 40 career go-ahead shots inside the final 30 seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime, counting playoff games.

“I saw a nice clear lane to the right side,” James said. “I definitely had to make up for blowing that layup at the end of regulation. I had a really good look. We set up a good play and I just left it a little short.”

Anthony Davis had 21 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers. Austin Reaves added 28 points. Five players scored in double figures to help Los Angeles win for the seventh time in eight games.

The Lakers escaped with a win by holding Utah without a basket over the final 1:38 after Kelly Olynyk gave the Jazz a 132-129 lead on a 3-pointer.

“This has been us lately. We’ve been one of the top teams defensively,” James said. “We had to get stops and we did that.”

Olynyk finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Talen Horton-Tucker added 23 points and seven assists for the Jazz. Agbaji chipped in 22 points. The Jazz lost for the seventh time in eight games.

Horton-Tucker has scored 124 points over his last four games. He had a chance to force a second overtime but missed a fadeaway jumper with 6.1 seconds remaining.

“Those are shots you want to hit so hopefully I get another opportunity,” Horton-Tucker said.

Utah rallied from a double-digit deficit after shooting 71% from the field in the third quarter. The Jazz finally took their first second-half lead on back-to-back baskets from Collin Sexton and Luka Samanic, going up 99-97 early in the fourth quarter.

Los Angeles retook the lead on back-to-back baskets from Dennis Schroder and James and went up 124-114 with 1:43 left on eight straight points from Reaves.

Utah countered with an 10-0 run to force overtime. Olynyk scored a basket and assisted two others and Jones knotted the score on a pair of free throws with 11.4 seconds remaining in regulation.

“I thought we kind of walked the ball up the floor,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “They were charging, obviously making a run. We got the ball and kind of were walking. … but we found a way.”

The Jazz were missing starters Lauri Markkanen, Walker Kessler, and Jordan Clarkson.

“Our team did a good job of continuing the pace,” Jazz coach Will Hardy said. “We had the freedom down 10 to just like keep our foot on the gas.”


James and Davis both unexpectedly played heavy minutes on the first game of a back-to-back set. Davis logged a team-high 42 minutes James played 38. Both players saw more court time than planned while helping Los Angeles close out a tight game.

Their status for Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers isn’t yet clear. Davis hasn’t played in both games of a back-to-back set since November. James anticipated playing only 30 to 32 minutes and admitted the extra five minutes didn’t help.

Both players have been dealing with lingering right foot injuries. James said how he feels in the morning will dictate if he’s ready to go against the Clippers.

“It’s always when you step out of bed for the first time in the morning,” James said. “How does it feel? Because that’s going to dictate the rest of the day.”

TIP INS Lakers: Reaves is averaging 20.5 points over his last eight games. Los Angeles has lost once in that stretch. … James, Davis, and Reaves each had six assists.

Jazz: Samanic made his first start of the season, finishing with 12 points. … Sexton returned to action after missing 18 games with a hamstring strain. He scored 15 points and had three assists in 16 minutes.

UP NEXT Lakers: At Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.

Jazz: Host Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday. —


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) These second-half comebacks are becoming a thing for the Golden State Warriors, much like those old third-quarter surges that used to define this bunch.

Stephen Curry scored 34 points, Jordan Poole dazzled down the stretch to score 30 and the Warriors didn’t lead until the 8:29 mark of the fourth quarter on the way to beating the Oklahoma City Thunder 136-125 on Tuesday night.

In their final regular-season home game, the Warriors moved into fifth place in the Western Conference standings.

For a day, that is. The winner of the Clippers-Lakers game Wednesday jumps to fifth and will drop Golden State to sixth. The Warriors will be watching closely, and can win their final two games on the road and secure their spot.

“It’s fun, this is all what it’s about. We love the competition and even though we’d prefer to be home free in the playoffs right now, this is where we are,” coach Steve Kerr said. “Really proud of the guys what they’ve done here in recent weeks to put ourselves in this position but now we’ve got to go finish the deal and get into the top six.”

On a night Klay Thompson was a late scratch with low back tightness – “totally unexpected,” according to Kerr – Poole and his backcourt mates came through. Poole raised his hands to make a 3 sign while celebrating his big make from deep with 3:17 to play that put the Warriors up 131-120. He added a 360-degree layup the next time down off Draymond Green’s steal.

Poole is happy he’s playing some of his best basketball during a crucial stretch.

“They all matter. You try to lock in as much as possible and put us in a really good position to be successful,” Poole said.

Green contributed 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists with a pair of blocked shots and steals.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 32 points, 21 in the first half, for the Thunder. Jalen Williams added 19 points but the Thunder lost their third in a row and fourth of five.

Moses Moody’s dunk with 4:57 left in the third pulled the Warriors within 92-91 after they trailed by 10 at halftime. He finished with 13 points and five rebounds in his first game scoring in double figures since Jan. 13.

“It definitely had that playoff feel to it being out here in these games, how much each game matters, how much each possession matters,” Moody said.

Donte DiVincenzo added 16 points and Kevon Looney grabbed 11 rebounds as the Warriors held a 54-38 advantage on the boards.

The defending champions got a nice lift before the game seeing Andrew Wiggins back with the team after he had been away since mid-February dealing with a family matter, though he won’t be ready to play immediately as he works to get his conditioning back. Wiggins received a warm ovation when announced during the first quarter and he grinned ear to ear.

“To have him back and see his emotions and see him smiling, that’s a bright spot for the team,” Moody said.


The Warriors won their final three at home and finished the regular season 33-8 at Chase Center and with their 471st consecutive sellout.


Wiggins has rejoined the team after being away for six weeks dealing with a family matter and is working his way back to playing again. That won’t be in the next few days, Kerr said.

“When you’re in a certain situation and your family needs you, it requires your attention and your love, that’s my first priority,” Wiggins said. “My career, everything, family’s always first for me. It will always be that way.”

Wiggins missed his 23rd straight game and hasn’t played since Feb. 13 versus Washington.


Thunder: Oklahoma City shot 15 for 26 in the opening quarter and 59.6% in the first half. … The Thunder lost the season series 3-0 last year and 3-1 this season.

Warriors: Golden State has won five straight against the Thunder at home and hasn’t lost on its home floor in the series since a 100-97 defeat on Nov. 25, 2019, in Chase Center’s initial season.


Thunder: At Utah on Thursday night looking to snap a four-game skid on the Jazz’s home floor.

Warriors: At Sacramento on Friday night looking to win the season series against the playoff-bound Kings and former top assistant Mike Brown.


PHOENIX (AP) Devin Booker scored 27 points and the Phoenix Suns never trailed, beating the depleted San Antonio Spurs 115-94 on Tuesday night to clinch a playoff spot.

The Suns (44-35) won their sixth in a row, the longest current winning streak in the NBA. With one more victory in the final three games, Phoenix would assure itself of the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and home-court advantage in the first round.

Chris Paul scored 22 points, while Deandre Ayton had 19 points and 11 rebounds. Kevin Durant scored 18 points and reserve Torrey Craig added 15 points and 10 rebounds, playing particularly well in the second half when the Spurs got as close as nine points after trailing by 31 in the second quarter.

“I just wanted to come in and bring a spark,” Craig said. “We get a big lead and think that sometimes teams might lay down because of the guys we have. But it is the NBA and teams make runs.”

The Suns are 7-0 when Durant has been in their lineup, including the last four games after he returned from an injured ankle. His presence has opened up more scoring opportunities for Paul, who was 9 of 14 from the field, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range.

“I never thought I’d have to tell a Hall of Fame player to shoot the ball,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “Kevin and Book are going nuts because they all want him to shoot.”

Malaki Branham led the Spurs with 21 points. Tre Jones scored 20, while Keita Bates-Diop and Sandro Mamukelashvili each had 13.

The Spurs (20-59) only dressed 10 players. They were without their top two scorers, Keldon Johnson (right foot sprain) and Devin Vassell (left knee). Also out for San Antonio were Zach Collins (finger), Jeremy Sochan (right knee soreness) and Romeo Langford (left adductor).

And during Tuesday’s game, Doug McDermott played six minutes and limped off with an apparent ankle injury. Dominick Barlow was hurt in a fourth-quarter collision, and starter Devonte’ Graham was helped to the locker room late in the game after hurting his leg.

“Obviously it was going to be a tough, tough night for them, but their competitiveness was great,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “I think we were intimidated (in the first quarter). After that we played very competitively and we executed pretty well against a very good basketball team.”

San Antonio entered the night ranked last in scoring defense, having allowed 122.8 points per game. Phoenix came out roaring, shooting 63% in the first quarter in building a 42-25 lead. That’s the most the Suns have scored in the first quarter this season, passing the 40 points against Chicago on March 3.

Phoenix led 69-51 at the half. Paul made 7 of 8 shots in the half to lead the Suns with 18 points while Booker scored 14, all in the first quarter. The Spurs got within nine in the third quarter, but by the end of the period Phoenix was back ahead 97-76.


Williams played for Popovich with the Spurs and coached under him as well.

“I just enjoy seeing him and I’m grateful for the history I have with him,” the Suns coach said before the game. “I’m grateful that I get to tell people outside of basketball that I know Gregg Popovich as a man, as a mentor, as a friend.”

Popovich may not have enjoyed Tuesday’s result, but he too admires what Williams and the Suns have done.

No matter who’s playing, Popovich said of Williams, “He’s gonna coach. He’s going to do the same things, have the same standards, the same accountability. Kick ‘em in the butt when necessary, put an arm around them and love ’em when necessary. He’s a good man.”


Popovich coached the Olympic gold-medal team in 2021 and saw Durant from the same bench.

“He was great. I love him,” Popovich said. “How do you stop him? You can’t. There’s no way you can stop him. Now you can double-team him, and he’s smart enough to give it up. No matter what happens, they’ll figure out what they need to do.”


Spurs: Play Portland on Thursday in Austin, Texas.

Suns: Host Denver Thursday. —