Bojan Bogdanovic scored a career-high 48 points to rally the Utah Jazz past the Denver Nuggets 127-120 on Friday night in Salt Lake City.
Bogdanovic went 16 of 23 from the field — making a career-high eight 3-pointers — to lead the NBA-leading Jazz to their fourth straight victory. He also had eight rebounds.
Jordan Clarkson added 21 points and eight assists. Rudy Gobert had 14 points and nine rebounds, and Georges Niang chipped in 13 points – all in the second half.
Former Tiger Michael Porter Jr. scored 31 points for Denver. Nikola Jokic added 24 points, 13 assists, and nine rebounds, Paul Millsap had 20 points and Austin Rivers 18.
Utah did not trail over the final 11:22 of the fourth quarter after Niang hit back-to-back shots to give the Jazz a 103-99 lead. Denver scored just one basket over a six-minute stretch and couldn’t quite erase the resulting deficit.
The Nuggets cut it to 121-118 on a free throw from Rivers. Clarkson answered with a stepback 3-pointer with 51.7 seconds left and Bogdanovic hit a pair of free throws in the final seconds to seal the win.
Both offenses sizzled during the first quarter. Denver shot 68% from the field and Utah shot 67%. The two teams combined for 81 points and 31 total baskets in the quarter.
Denver made 11 of its first 13 shots from the field and staked out a 24-13 lead midway through the first quarter. The Nuggets repeatedly blew past perimeter defenders and scored five layups over the first six minutes – culminating with a reverse layup from Gordon that put Denver up by 11 points.
Utah answered with a 19-6 run to erase Denver’s lead before the end of the quarter. Clarkson hit three 3-pointers to level the score. Ersan Ilyasova made another 3-pointer and hit a pair of free throws to finish off the run and give the Jazz a 40-36 lead.
Denver pulled ahead again before halftime. The Nuggets built up a 58-49 lead behind a 17-6 run capped off by a Jokic jumper. Bogdanovic kept Utah within striking distance. He hit three 3-pointers to help the Jazz erase the deficit a second time and pull even at 67-67.
76ers 109, Pelicans 107: Joel Embiid had 37 points and 13 rebounds to the tune of “MVP! MVP!” chants and the Philadelphia 76ers inched closer toward securing the top spot in the East with a victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in Philadelphia.
Embiid made two free throws with 1:39 left to bring the Sixers within one, then grabbed a defensive rebound on the other end to set up Tobias Harris’ 3 with 1:10 left that made it 109-107. Philadelphia forced two turnovers to seal the victory.
The Sixers (46-21) won their season-high seventh straight game and increased their lead to three games over Brooklyn in the Eastern Conference. Barring a crazy collapse over the final five games, the Sixers will win the conference and home-court advantage through the conference playoffs. The Sixers are 26-7 at home this season and they won another tight one against a Pelicans team playing without Zion Williamson (finger).
Embiid and the Sixers are rolling as they head toward a postseason series with the winner of an East play-in tournament. Harris scored 17 points.
Lonzo Ball and Eric Bledsoe both scored 18 points for the Pelicans.
Embiid, the 7-foot All-Center center, continued to put up the numbers in stats and the win column that made him an MVP frontrunner for most of the season. The one number slowing down his bid? It’s 48, as in games played, well behind the 67 played by Denver’s Nikola Jokic. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Phoenix’s Chris Paul are also among the stout candidates. FanDuel Sportsbook has the Sixers at +1,200 to win the NBA title (Boston is the betting favorite) and Embiid is +950 (Jokic at -1,300 is the favorite) for MVP honors.
Embiid missed 10 games with a bone bruise in his left knee just after the All-Star break (19 overall) which may hinder his bid to win the award.
“I think it’s the quality,” Rivers said. “Let’s say we keep winning and end up the No. 1 seed, I don’t know how you can argue Joel Embiid being the MVP.”
Sixers fans, naturally, thought Embiid should win the award. Embiid opened the game with a 3-pointer on the first shot, grabbed a defensive rebound and would dish to Curry for a 3. Sure enough, late in the quarter, Embiid stood at the free-throw line as 5,000 fans chanted “MVP!”
The Sixers needed every point against an undermanned Pelicans teams playing for its postseason life. The Pelicans pulled within 1½ games of the final Western Conference play-in spot, entering Friday. Their push got tougher with Williamson — 27 points and 7.2 rebounds in 61 games — sidelined indefinitely with a fractured left finger. The 20-year-old forward was lost just as the Pelicans started a five-game road trip against certain or potential playoff teams.
Trail Blazers 106, Lakers 101: Damian Lillard had 38 points to lead Portland to a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Portland, Oregon, that gave the Trail Blazers the tiebreaker over their Western Conference foe as the season winds to a close.
Lillard had five 3-pointers for the Blazers, who were back at home after going 5-1 on a six-game trip. They were welcomed back to Portland with fans allowed at the Moda Center for the first time this season.
Anthony Davis had 36 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who were without LeBron James for the third straight game. Los Angeles has lost eight of its last 10 games.
The Lakers and the Blazers were both 37-29 heading into the game but the Lakers held sixth in the Western Conference because the series between the two teams was tied 1-1 and Los Angeles had the tiebreaker with a better record against conference teams.
With the win, Portland moved into sixth, a game up on Los Angeles, and also secured the tiebreaker. Both teams were trying to earn a playoff spot outright with just five games left in the regular season.
Markieff Morris' tip shot got the Lakers to 89-85 with 7:21 left in the game but Lillard answered with a 3-pointer for Portland.
Davis' 3 and Alex Caruso's layup narrowed it to 94-90 for the Lakers, and again Lillard hit a 3 in response.
Portland went up 100-90 after CJ McCollum's 3-pointer. Davis made a series of free throws before a tip-in that closed the Lakers within five. He added another pair of free throws to make it 100-97 with 1:10 left but the Lakers couldn't catch up.
Los Angeles was coming off a 118-94 loss to the rival Clippers on Thursday. Davis did not play after the first quarter because of back spasms but he started against the Blazers.
But the Lakers remained without four-time league MVP James, who has missed two games while he recovers from a high ankle sprain.
Boosted by cheering fans, the Blazers went up 34-20 after the opening quarter. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit a 3-pointer late in the first half to get the Lakers to 55-53 but Portland led 59-55 at the break.
Lillard had 19 points in the opening quarter alone and the Blazers were 9 for 9 from the free-throw line.
Caldwell-Pope's jumper tied it at 64 early in the second half before Davis' 3-pointer put the Lakers in front. Anfernee Simon's jumper put Portland back ahead 74-73 and the Blazers led 82-78 heading into the final quarter.
Bucks 141, Rockets 133: Brook Lopez had 24 points and Khris Middleton scored 21 of his 23 in the second half to help the Milwaukee Bucks beat the short-handed Houston Rockets in Milwaukee for their fifth consecutive victory.
The Bucks (43-24) tied Brooklyn for second place in the Eastern Conference standings. The Bucks also have the tiebreaker advantage over Brooklyn because they won two of their their three regular-season meetings.
Philadelphia (46-21) leads the East.
Jrue Holiday had 20 points as the Bucks had seven players reach double figures. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 17 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists.
KJ Martin had 26 points and seven assists — both career highs — as well as seven rebounds for the Rockets before fouling out. Kelly Olynyk added 23 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists.
Milwaukee earned a measure of revenge after falling 143-136 on April 29 at Houston. Bucks forward and reigning two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo left that game in the opening minute with a sprained right ankle.
The Bucks haven’t lost and the Rockets haven’t won since that game.
Houston had only eight available players for Friday’s rematch. Among the missing Rockets was Kevin Porter Jr., who scored 50 points against the Bucks last week but couldn’t play Friday due to a sprained left ankle.
Khyri Thomas became the 28th player to get in a game for the Rockets this season — tying an NBA record — and he scored 16 points and shot 6 of 7 after signing a contract earlier in the day.
The Orlando Magic also have used 28 players this season. Other teams in NBA history to use 28 were the 2015-16 and 2018-19 Memphis Grizzlies.
Milwaukee still struggled to put the Rockets away.
The Bucks trailed for most of the second quarter before rallying to take a 64-63 halftime lead. Milwaukee stayed in front throughout the second half, though the Rockets responded whenever the margin hit double digits.
Spurs 113, Kings 104: Dejounte Murray scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Sacramento Kings in Sacramento, California, to end a five-game losing streak and strengthen their hold on the final playoff spot in the West.
DeMar DeRozan had 25 points, Murray added seven assists and six rebounds, and Keldon Johnson scored 16 for San Antonio.
The Spurs (32-34) were coming off back-to-back losses to Utah in a skid that knocked coach Gregg Popovich’s team down to 10th place in the West — the final spot for the play-in tournament — before holding off a pesky Kings team that had won its last four.
San Antonio has some breathing room now. New Orleans (30-37) lost to Philadelphia earlier Friday, while Sacramento (29-38) fell 3 1/2 back of the Spurs.
Terence Davis scored 24 points for the Kings. Sacramento missed a chance to move into a tie with the Pelicans for 11th place in the West.
DeRozan had 18 in the first half to pace San Antonio early but the Spurs trailed 81-78 going into the fourth.
Murray had six points as part of an 18-6 run to start the final quarter and put the Spurs ahead for good. Walker scored eight points in the final 3 1/2 minutes to help San Antonio close it out.
Popovich moved within 27 games of breaking Don Nelson’s record for career coaching victories in the NBA.
Heat 121, Timberwolves 112: Tyler Herro returned after a six-game absence and scored 27 points, Jimmy Butler had 25 and the Miami Heat moved back into the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference, beating the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Goran Dragic added 23 points for Miami. Herro, who had been out with right foot soreness, was 10 of 13 from the field and 6 of 8 from 3-point range for Miami (36-31).
The win, combined with a loss at Chicago by Boston (35-32), allowed the Heat to pass the Celtics in the standings. Miami opens a two-game series in Boston on Sunday, the teams battling to avoid having to be part of the play-in tournament that awaits the teams finishing between No. 7 and No. 10 in each conference.
Karl-Anthony Towns scored 14 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter for Minnesota, which had won five consecutive meetings against Miami. Anthony Edwards scored 25 points and D’Angelo Russell added 17 before getting ejected in the third quarter.
Butler also had eight rebounds, six assists and five steals for Miami. Bam Adebayo scored 15 for the Heat.
Minnesota was up by as many as 11 in the first quarter, then lost the lead in the second — and its cool in the third.
The Timberwolves were hit with four technical fouls in the third quarter, the first on coach Chris Finch just 72 seconds after halftime, then simultaneous ones on Ricky Rubio and Russell with 5:27 left in the period. Russell got another and was ejected 52 seconds later.
Miami got that early deficit down to four by the end of the first, then outscored Minnesota 61-46 in the middle two quarters.
Hornets 122, Magic 112: Terry Rozier scored 28 points, LaMelo Ball added 27 points and the Charlotte Hornets inched closer to securing a spot in the play-in tournament with a win over the Orlando Magic in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Hornets needed a win and a loss by Chicago to Boston to clinch a berth, but the Bulls beat the Celtics 121-99. Charlotte can clinch a spot in the play-in tournament with a win Sunday against New Orleans.
P.J. Washington had another strong shooting night and finished with 23 points and nine rebounds, while Bismack Biyombo had 11 points and 11 rebounds as Charlotte (33-34) bounced back from a 21-point drubbing by the Bulls on Thursday night.
Dwayne Bacon tied a career high with 26 points and Mo Bamba had a career-best 18 rebounds to lead the Magic (21-46). Cole Anthony had 22 points.
The Magic led for the better part of three quarters, but Ball began to assert himself with series of aggressive drives through the lane and some nifty no-look passes to set up teammates with easy buckets. Using his quick first step, Ball drove and delivered a one-handed, no-look dish to Rozier on the right wing set up a 3 that put the Hornets ahead by 10 with 8:24 left in the game.
Ball continued to struggle with his 3-point shot though, missing all seven attempts.
Orlando never mounted a serious challenge after that.
Washington had another strong shooting night from beyond the arc. After going 6 of 8 from 3-point range Thursday night, Washington finished 4 of 6 from beyond the arc against the Magic.
Mavericks 110, Cavaliers 90: Luka Doncic scored 24 points in 23 minutes and the Dallas Mavericks kept the prime spot in a tight race to avoid the Western Conference play-in tournament with a victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Dallas.
Tim Hardaway Jr. added 20 points for the Mavericks, who didn't trail after going ahead 4-2 while the undermanned Cavaliers lost their ninth consecutive game, one short of their longest skid of the season. The teams play again Sunday in Cleveland.
The already injury-riddled Cavaliers had to play without Kevin Love, who was sidelined after banging knees with Portland's Enes Kanter two nights earlier in a 141-105 loss to the Trail Blazers. Collin Sexton scored 27 points for the Cavaliers.
Dallas guaranteed it would remain in fifth place in the West, a game ahead of either the Los Angeles Lakers or Portland with five games remaining. The Lakers and Blazers, who started the night tied for sixth, played later Friday. The odd team out among the three will be forced into the play-in scenario as the No. 7 seed.
Trey Burke hit a half-court shot at the buzzer in the first quarter for a 33-19 Dallas lead, and Doncic converted a three-point play in the final seconds before the half for a 62-37 margin at the break.
With seven points in the first four minutes, the 22-year-old Doncic became the fourth-youngest in NBA history to reach 5,000 points. LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony were each 21 when reaching the milestone.
Doncic had one assist, a season low, to leave him one short of 1,500 for his career. The Mavericks didn't need that part of their career triple-double leader's game.
Doncic sat the final 16 minutes as the Mavericks led by as many as 29 points while taking care of a team in the mix for the worst record in the East. Similar matchups have been far from automatic lately for Dallas, which is 9-3 in the past 12 games with all three losses to Sacramento. The Kings started the day 12th in the West.
Bulls 121, Celtics 99: Zach LaVine and Coby White each scored 25 points and the Chicago Bulls overcame a big effort by Kemba Walker to beat the Boston Celtics in Chicago.
With their playoff hopes fading and fans at the United Center for the first time this season, the Bulls had their way with the Celtics. They led by 21 in the third quarter and put this one away after Boston got within eight in the fourth, scoring 12 straight.
Chicago pulled within three games of Washington and 3½ of Indiana for the final spots in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament with five to play. The Wizards and Pacers were off Friday.
LaVine started the decisive run with a dunk and finished it with a fadeaway 3 to make it 112-92 with about three minutes remaining. He also had a steal in that stretch.
White hit seven 3-pointers — one shy of his career high — and the Bulls made 18 of 40 from beyond the arc. Nikola Vucevic added 18 points, 10 assists and 14 rebounds as Chicago won for the second time in as many nights after losing four straight.
Walker scored 33 for Boston, which came in tied for sixth in the East with Miami. The four-time All-Star made six 3s. Evan Fournier scored 17, but the Celtics came up short after winning three of four.
White scored 12 in the second quarter and nailed four 3s as the Bulls stretched a two-point lead to 14. He and Patrick Williams hit back-to-back shots from beyond the arc to make it a 17-point game before Walker made one in the closing seconds of the half to cut it to 60-46.
Suns 128, Knicks 105: Deandre Ayton scored 26 points, a feisty Chris Paul added 17 points and 11 assists and the Phoenix Suns stayed in the hunt for the top record in the NBA by beating the New York Knicks in Phoenix.
The Suns stunned the Knicks by taking a 90-88 lead into the fourth quarter after scoring four points in less than a second. Torrey Craig tipped in Devin Booker's miss with 0.8 seconds left and Cameron Payne stole the in-bounds pass and made a layup.
It was the Suns' first lead since the first quarter and they'd never relinquish it, scoring 38 points in the fourth while making 8 of 12 3-pointers.
Payne celebrated with the bench, the crowd got rowdy and the momentum continued into the fourth. Mikal Bridges made a corner 3-pointer with 9:38 left to push the Suns ahead 101-93 and a frustrated Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau called a timeout.
It got tense midway through the fourth when Knicks forward Taj Gibson knocked Paul to the ground and was called for a flagrant foul. Paul got up angry and started jawing with Thibodeau before Suns coach Monty Williams came on the court and pulled the point guard away.
Later, New York's Julius Randle was given a technical after getting into it with Phoenix's Jae Crowder.
The incident proved motivation for Paul, who quickly made two mid-range jumpers that helped push the Suns to a comfortable win. Ayton contribued one of his best games of the year, shooting 10 of 14 from the field and grabbing 15 rebounds.
Randle led New York with 24 points and 11 rebounds. R.J. Barrett added 23 points.
The Suns and Knicks both came into the game fighting for playoff positioning with less than two weeks left in the regular season.
Phoenix still has a chance at the top seed in the Western Conference and best record in the NBA. The Suns are one game behind the Jazz for the No. 1 spot. The Knicks are trying to fend off the Hawks, Heat and Celtics for the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Suns led by 13 at one point in the first but the Knicks rallied to take a 33-30 lead by the end of the quarter. New York stayed ahead the entire second quarter and had a 63-56 advantage at halftime.
Randle had 17 points and seven rebounds before the break while Rose had 14 points and five assists. Ayton had 14 points and nine rebounds for the Suns.