Sports

Suns obscure nuggets, rockets silence thunder

LOS ANGELES: Kevin Durant scored 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 104-97 victory over reigning NBA champion Denver on Wednesday (March 27) and the lead at the top of the Western Conference to keep.

The Suns made 16 three-pointers and never trailed again after the first quarter in Denver.

Durant said it’s not about making a statement, but about paying attention to details in a demanding final playoff push.

“I don’t know if you want to show anyone anything,” Durant said. “I think we’re just trying to get better…we’re just trying to play good ball.”

Denver’s two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic, playing with back and hip soreness, scored 22 points with nine rebounds and 10 assists.

But the Nuggets were keenly felt by the absence of point guard Jamal Murray, who missed the third straight game with a sprained left ankle.

It was only their third loss in their 18 games since the All-Star break, but they were just a half-game ahead of Oklahoma City and Minnesota at the top of the West.

The Timberwolves defeated the Detroit Pistons 106-91, but the undermanned Thunder fell to the red-hot Houston Rockets, who extended their winning streak to 10 games with a 132-126 overtime victory in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder were without star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was sidelined with a bruised right quadriceps.

Josh Giddey bore the brunt in his absence, scoring 31 points. But Houston’s Jalen Green led all scorers with 37 points and the Rockets outscored the Thunder 20-14 in overtime to secure the win.

Houston remained one game behind the Golden State Warriors for 10th place and the final play-in spot in the West.

The Warriors, fueled by 23 points from Andrew Wiggins and two late baskets from Stephen Curry, defeated the Magic 101-93 in Orlando, despite Draymond Green exiting just 3 minutes, 36 seconds into the contest.

Curry just shook his head as Green was ejected and received two quick technical fouls for speaking heatedly about a foul.

It was the fourth exit of the season for Green, who missed 16 games after being suspended in December for swinging an arm at the head of Suns center Jusuf Nurkic.

“It’s a shame,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Green’s ejection. “It was unfortunate. He deserves it and he will come back. I’m just proud of the boys for improving.”

JAMES TRIPLE-DOUBLE

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James returned after a one-game absence and posted a triple-double with 23 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists in a 136-124 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

James sat out the Lakers’ comeback double-overtime win over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday because of a left ankle injury.

Anthony Davis, who played nearly 52 minutes on Tuesday, was sidelined with a hyperextended left knee.

But Rui Hachimura provided a big boost, making seven of eight three-point attempts with 10 rebounds en route to 32 points and helping the Lakers to their fifth straight win.

There was controversy in Philadelphia.

The Los Angeles Clippers beat the 76ers 108-107, but officials admitted after the game that they missed a call in the final seconds that would have given the hosts a chance to win at the free throw line.

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard made two three-pointers in the final minute and made a big block on Kelly Oubre Jr. with 5.1 seconds left.

The Sixers, trailing, had one last chance after a jump ball and coach Nick Nurse was outraged that Paul George wasn’t given a foul while defending Oubre’s final attempt.

The nurse rushed onto the court to dispute the non-call-up, with Oubre also expressing his displeasure.

“I just thought it was enough contact to call,” said Nurse, who sounded more conciliatory after the game. “But that’s how it is sometimes.”

Referee Kevin Scott told a reporter that the officials thought George had jumped vertically in real time, but that “in the postgame video review, a slight deviation to the left by defender George was observed and a foul should have been called.”

There was some good news for the Sixers, as Nurse confirmed before the game that he believed there was “a very good chance” that NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid would return before the postseason.

Embiid has been out since January 30 with a knee injury that required surgery.

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