Andy Cross/The Denver Post/TNS

Nikola Jokic scores 32, Nuggets wear down Lakers again for series-opening win

Sports / Basketball /

DENVER — The series opener felt a lot like every other Nuggets-vs.-Lakers game.

LeBron James and Anthony Davis scored easy buckets early, Los Angeles hit the defending champions with its best shot — even taking a double-digit lead — and then Denver slowly, steadily sledge-hammered its challenger into submission.

Nikola Jokic went for 32 ...Read more

Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS

Keith Pompey: Joel Embiid must remember his career is more important than this year's playoff run

Sports / Basketball /

NEW YORK — He began the game by scoring the 76ers’ first three baskets and 15 of their 34 first-quarter points.

This is what responsibility looks like.

He played in the entire first quarter despite being hit above his left eye.

This is what accountability feels like.

He went to the locker room after landing awkwardly on his surgically-...Read more

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images North America/TNS

Anthony Edwards leads the way as Timberwolves dismantle Suns in Game 1

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MINNEAPOLIS — With under a minute to play in the third quarter Saturday, Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards shifted around a screen and pulled the trigger on a 3-pointer from the left wing.

Phoenix forward Kevin Durant was a step slow on the play, and Edwards had plenty of room to drain the shot, one of the final blows he dealt in a masterful...Read more

Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS

Kristian Winfield: Knicks must take advantage of Joel Embiid's limitations after Game 1 injury scare

Sports / Basketball /

NEW YORK — Whatever percent healthy Joel Embiid was before Game 1 between the Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday evening, slice it in half.

Embiid — one of the most dominant centers in all of basketball — flexed his particular brand of dominance with under three minutes left in the second quarter when he used an off-the-backboard ...Read more

Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS

Josh Hart's late-game buckets lead Knicks to Game 1 win over Joel Embiid, 76ers

Sports / Basketball /

NEW YORK — Playoff basketball returned to Madison Square Garden Saturday night. In the minutes leading up to tipoff, fan anticipation for Game 1 of the Knicks‘ first-round matchup against the Philadelphia 76ers reached its peak.

The venue revered as the World’s Most Famous Arena was filled to capacity. Former Knicks greats such as Bernard...Read more

Patrick McDermott/Getty Images North America/TNS

Anthony Edwards, Timberwolves march past Suns in playoff opener

Sports / Basketball /

MINNEAPOLIS — For a week, the Timberwolves heard the talk that the Suns were a bad match for them in the first round of the playoffs.

For a week, the Wolves had a chance to devise counters to the weaknesses Phoenix exploited in their three regular-season matchups.

The Wolves had an answer for all of the above in a resounding 120-95 Game 1 ...Read more

Robbie Avila, aka 'Cream Abdul-Jabbar,' will transfer to Saint Louis to join Josh Schertz

Sports / Basketball /

ST. LOUIS — Fans will have a plethora of nicknames from which to choose next season, but the most important factor for Saint Louis University men's basketball coach Josh Schertz is that Robbie Avila will have his last name on an SLU uniform.

The 6-foot-10 rising junior committed to SLU on his campus visit after soaring in prominence at ...Read more

Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS

Kawhi Leonard's status still uncertain day before Clippers' playoff opener

Sports / Basketball /

LOS ANGELES — At exactly 10:58 a.m. Saturday, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue’s latest injury update on Kawhi Leonard and his availability was cautious and optimistic for Game 1 of the Western Conference playoffs against the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday at Arena.

Leonard’s teammate, Paul George, in his session with reporters before ...Read more

Jason Miller/Getty Images North America/TNS

Poor shooting plagues Magic in Game 1 loss at Cavaliers

Sports / Basketball /

CLEVELAND — Before the Magic and Cavaliers took the floor inside Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse for Game 1 of the best-of-7 series between the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds in the East, both coaches stressed the importance of starting strong.

First, it was Cavs coach J.B. Bickerstaff who said ahead of tipoff that he wanted Orlando to chase all Saturday ...Read more

Grant Halverson/Getty Images North America/TNS

UNC's Harrison Ingram declares for NBA draft: 'I'm a Tar Heel for life'

Sports / Basketball /

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina basketball’s offseason rebuild now includes replacing Harrison Ingram, who declared for the NBA draft on Saturday morning.

“I would first like to thank my family and God for their sacrifices and support throughout my life,” Ingram said in a social media post. “To Coach [Hubert] Davis and the rest of ...Read more

Chris Graythen/Getty Images North America/TNS

Over and out: Play-in loss to New Orleans Pelicans costs Sacramento Kings trip to playoffs

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The Sacramento Kings proved they were capable of beating all the top teams in the Western Conference this season, but they never found an answer for the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Pelicans secured the No. 8 seed in the West with a 105-98 victory over the Kings in a play-in tournament game Friday night at Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.

...Read more

David Berding/Getty Images North America/TNS

Timberwolves defense would benefit from a better offense

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MINNEAPOLIS — Since the Suns put the capstone on their seasonlong shellacking of the Timberwolves with a 125-106 victory Sunday at Target Center, there has been plenty of time for fans, players and coaches to roll around the matchup in their heads.

Among the points of discussion: Does Phoenix present an unsolvable matchup defensively for the ...Read more

Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS

Al DiazGreg Cote: Heat win! But did they, really? No Butler a big problem in brutal matchup vs. Celtics.

Sports / Basketball /

MIAMI — How hard would you fight to win if winning meant a hugely harder battle ahead — one everyone seemed sure you would lose decisively? Perhaps even embarrassingly. And that you’d have to undertake this biggest of challenges without your biggest star and top scorer?

That is how much fight the Miami Heat brought Friday night in the ...Read more

Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS

Despite years of losing, Magic always believed young core good enough to end playoff drought

Sports / Basketball /

ORLANDO, Fla. — When Jalen Suggs was officially introduced less than 24 hours after he was drafted No. 5 overall by the Magic in 2021, he sat in front of a set of microphones alongside fellow first-round pick Franz Wagner, new head coach Jamahl Mosley and president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman.

Mosley had only been hired by Weltman ...Read more

Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images North America/TNS

LeBron James calls Nikola Jokic 'one of the best players to ever play this game'

Sports / Basketball /

DENVER — After the Lakers’ last practice before their playoff series begins Saturday night, LeBron James praised Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, calling him “one of the best players to ever play this game.”

“He does everything. Does everything. The most important thing is he changes the way his teammates think about their own ...Read more

John McCall/South Florida Sun-Sentinel/TNS

Jimmy Butler-less Heat batter Bulls, 112-91, behind a Tyler Herro takeover

Sports / Basketball /

MIAMI — Immediate challenge conquered.

Greater challenge ahead.

Pushing past the Chicago Bulls a day after learning team leader Jimmy Butler would be lost for weeks with a knee injury, the reward for the Miami Heat for Friday night’s 112-91 win-or-go-home play-in victory is a first-round matchup against the league-best Boston Celtics.

On ...Read more

Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group/TNS

Steve Kerr sees 'tremendous value' in Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green being Warriors for life

Sports / Basketball /

SAN FRANCISCO — In 1998, Steve Kerr was one of the several Chicago Bulls who left the franchise after winning the team’s sixth title.

“There was a documentary about what a disaster the whole thing was, you guys might want to watch it,” Kerr quipped Thursday.

Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and Kerr won the 1998 NBA ...Read more

Eric Sondheimer/Los Angeles Times/TNS

Michigan basketball adds four-star guard Justin Pippen to 2024 class

Sports / Basketball /

Michigan basketball has received its first high school commitment under new coach Dusty May, and it comes from the son of an NBA legend.

Justin Pippen, a 6-foot-3 guard out of Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon, verbally pledged to the Wolverines on Friday, becoming the second member of Michigan’s 2024 recruiting class.

Pippen made his ...Read more

AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post/TNS

Sean Keeler: Why LeBron James' playoff LeFlops won't be enough to overcome Nuggets, Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic

Sports / Basketball /

DENVER — The best way to play a LeBron James flop? Have a Joker up your sleeve.

“Listen: To have the success that they’ve had, as great as (Nikola) Jokic has been­ — if you go back and look at that (Western) Conference finals, the Lakers had no answer,” former NBA guard Greg Anthony, now an analyst with Warner Bros. Discovery and NBA...Read more

John McCall/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS

Ira Winderman: Heat now with a pause to take (needed) stock of Jimmy Butler

Sports / Basketball /

MIAMI — This moment was inevitable, whether it came during the play-in, playoffs or the offseason.

At some point, it felt as if the Heat would have to make a decision on Jimmy Butler.

Then, Wednesday night in Philadelphia, came the crashing and crushing reality.

And, so, a crossroads, the intersection of the franchise revival and older and ...Read more