LOS ANGELES: Kevin Durant produced a 37-point masterpiece as the Phoenix Suns defeated the Dallas Mavericks while Steph Curry’s return from injury was not enough to prevent Golden State falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA on Sunday. In the Eastern Conference, the New York Knicks made it nine straight wins with a thrilling victory in double overtime against the second-placed Boston Celtics. A packed slate of NBA games featured two heavyweight fixtures in the Western Conference, with Durant going up against former Brooklyn team-mate Kyrie Irving as the Suns traveled to Dallas, where they claimed a nail-biting 130-126 victory.
In Los Angeles, Curry’s return was a further boost to the in-form Warriors but it was the Lakers who claimed a precious 113-105 win to keep their playoff hopes on track. Phoenix’s clash with Dallas lived up to the hype, with 13 lead changes in a contest that went down to the wire. Durant, traded to Phoenix in a blockbuster move from the Nets last month, delivered a signature clutch performance to guide the Suns to victory. The 34-year-old scored the go-ahead basket with less than 12 seconds remaining before adding two late free throws to ice the game.
Durant received support from Devin Booker, who added 36 points, 10 assists and five rebounds, while Chris Paul added 11 points. “We dug down deep,” Durant said. “Just tried to do my best and finish the shot. Guys were moving the ball all night – it was a good win.” Durant said he had not been distracted by playing against former Nets team-mate Irving. “I’ve played more of my career against him than with him so it didn’t feel any different,” Durant said. “We just want to keep building.” Dallas star Luka Doncic finished with 34 points, with Irving contributing 30 points and Tim Hardaway Jr adding 21 off the bench.
Davis leads Lakers
Tempers flared in the dying seconds with Doncic and Booker going nose-to-nose after the Slovenian squandered a relatively straightforward chance to tie the game with six seconds remaining. Doncic confronted Booker after the Phoenix star appeared to taunt the Dallas talisman, triggering a confrontation between players from both teams.
“It’s a competitive game. It’s all good,” Doncic said of his spat with Booker. “Next time, just don’t wait until there’s three seconds left to talk.” Booker laughed off the verbal dust-up. “It was just two competitors going at it,” he said afterwards. “I’ve no problem with Luka on or off the court – but when we’re competing, we’re competing.” Phoenix improved to 36-29 to stay in fourth spot in the West while Dallas fell to 33-32. The Mavs are in seventh, just outside the automatic postseason places.
In Los Angeles, Anthony Davis once again came up big for the Lakers in the absence of the injured LeBron James to help secure victory over the Warriors. Davis finished with 39 points, eight rebounds and six assists as six Lakers players finished in double figures. The Lakers sprinted into a 20-point lead in the first quarter and then held off a second-half rally from the NBA champions. The returning Curry led the Golden State scoring with 27 points while Klay Thompson added 22.
The Warriors fell to 34-31 with the loss and are fifth in the Western Conference. The Lakers improved to 31-34, and are just outside the play-in places. The Knicks were without star point guard Jalen Brunson for the trip to Boston but his replacement Immanuel Quickley put up a career-high 38 points in a 131-129 win after double overtime. The Knicks went on a 21-2 run at the end of the third and into the fourth quarter but Boston, who trailed by seven with 1:25 left in the game, were able to take the contest into overtime.
With the last play of the game, Al Horford had a chance to win it for Boston but his three-point attempt from the corner bounced out off the rim. Jayson Tatum top-scored for Boston with 40 points while RJ Barrett had 29 points and Julius Randle scored 30 for the on-fire Knicks. Eastern Conference leaders the Milwaukee Bucks bounced back from their loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, beating the Washington Wizards 117-111. Giannis Antetokounmpo claimed his fourth triple double of the campaign with 23 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds. – AFP