Thu Mar 23 10:49pm ET
Field Level Media
Western Conference counterparts jockeying for playoff positioning meet Friday in Sacramento when the host Kings look to pull out of a losing skid against an injury-plagued Phoenix Suns team.
Sacramento (43-29) sits two games behind Memphis for second in the West after dropping back-to-back decisions to the Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics. The 128-120 loss Monday in Utah denied the Kings a perfect 4-0 road trip after beating Chicago, Brooklyn and Washington in succession.
Sacramento was a winner in six of seven games before its current dip, which extended to two games upon the Kings' return home on Tuesday.
No King scored more than De'Aaron Fox's 18 points, while Sacramento surrendered 36, 27 and 20 points on the other end to Boston's trio of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Derrick White in the 132-109 loss.
"It's not the outcome we want, but we showed in the first half we can compete," said Domantas Sabonis in Tuesday's postgame press conference. "There's moments in the game where we make a run. But definitely, there's a lot to improve. We have two days now to get some rest, watch film and try and work on these things we struggle with against these top teams."
Phoenix (38-34) coming to town pits Sacramento against teams that reached the last two NBA Finals in back-to-back outings. The Suns made moves before the trade deadline to contend for another Western Conference championship, acquiring Kevin Durant from Brooklyn.
Durant made his Suns debut on March 1, and by his third game he scored 37 points in a win over Dallas. But an ankle injury sustained in pregame warmups March 8 has sidelined Durant for the past seven games, including Wednesday's 122-111 loss in Los Angeles to the Lakers.
Phoenix fell to 2-5 since Durant's injury with the defeat. The Suns hold a tenuous, half-game lead over the Los Angeles Clippers for the fourth spot in the West through games played Wednesday, and they trail Sacramento by five games for third place.
Just two games separate Phoenix and Minnesota. The Timberwolves occupy the seventh seed in the conference, the last place out of a guaranteed berth in the Playoffs without having to navigate the play-in round.
The Suns' current spell of five losses in six games began March 11 against Sacramento. The Kings won in Phoenix, 128-119, with seven players scoring at least 12 points and the bench combining for 65 points.
Meanwhile, Deandre Ayton -- who finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds in the loss -- has missed Phoenix's last two games with a hip injury.
With two key players out of the lineup, the Suns head into Sacramento looking both to avoid a further slide, and to get to the free-throw line more often. There was a 46-20 foul-shot disparity Wednesday against the Lakers.
"We're attacking the rim, I'm getting explanations that we're taking too many mid-range jump shots. We're playing a physical game," Phoenix coach Monty Williams said in his postgame press conference. "It's happening to us too much."
Phoenix has attempted fewer free throws in every game since March 3,. The time the Suns shot more from the charity stripe than an opponent was Feb. 26.
Boston Celtics guard Derrick White had a good 18-point outing in Monday's Game 7 loss to Miami. 13 of his points came in the third quarter, and White even scored eight straight for Boston at one point to keep the team in the game before things fully unraveled in the fourth frame. The 28-year-old finished with 5-for-12 shooting from the field and went 2-for-9 from deep with a 6-for-7 record at the line. Boston's season finished with a big disappointment, but White should be happy with his contributions throughout the campaign, as he took another step forward in his development and even earned himself a spot on the All-Defensive Second Team.
Boston Celtics guard/forward Jaylen Brown was the team's leading scorer in Monday's Game 7 against Miami, but he also committed eight turnovers, which was one more than the Heat starters combined. Brown gave away the ball three times already in the first quarter and turnovers ended up escorting him throughout the game. He also had a poor shooting night, going 8-for-23 from the field and 1-for-9 from downtown during his 19-point effort. With Jayson Tatum hurting his ankle right at the start of the game, Boston needed Brown to step up and produce a special performance, but he fell well short of it and the summer could now be full of speculation surrounding Brown's future in Beantown.
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum struggled to make an impact in Game 7 against Miami Monday after getting hurt on the very first play of the game. He rolled his left ankle and was seen grimacing in pain throughout the contest after that. Tatum had only 13 shot attempts and finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and one steal. It was a very disappointing finish to an otherwise outstanding campaign. Tatum's scoring numbers dropped during the postseason, but he was a double-double machine in the playoffs, averaging 27.2 points and 10.5 rebounds.
Miami Heat point guard Kyle Lowry logged very good minutes off the bench in Monday's Game 7 victory over the Celtics, scoring seven points with seven rebounds and five assists. He was a game-best plus-26 for the contest in just 24 minutes of action. It was a very up-and-down series for the veteran point guard, but he came up big when it mattered the most, and luckily for the Heat, Gabe Vincent had a great series. Lowry is averaging 8.8 points per game with 3.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists this spring on his quest to win his second NBA championship ring.
Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo continued to struggle from the field against Boston in Monday's Game 7, but he was still one of the key figures in a dominating win, finishing with 12 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and one block. Adebayo shot 4-for-10 from the field, but he was plus-22 across 43 minutes of action, which was the best mark among all starters. The two-time All-Star has hit only eight field goals with 26 attempts across the past two games and definitely needs to do better for Miami to have a chance of beating Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets in the Finals.
Miami Heat forward Caleb Martin wrapped up the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston with a 26-point effort, making history in the process. The 27-year-old broke John Starks' record from 1994 for most points in a Conference or NBA Finals. He had 135 points across the seven-game series, averaging 19.3 points a night with 60.2 percent shooting. On Monday, Martin shot 11-for-16 from the field with a 4-for-6 record from deep and had his third double-double of the postseason by finishing with 10 rebounds. In a game-high 45 minutes on the court, he also handed out three assists and recorded one steal. It's been a great story with Martin in these playoffs, and it would be even more special if he can keep his performance levels up and the Heat win one more series.
Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler scored a game-high 28 points and had seven rebounds with six assists and three steals as the team beat Boston in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals Monday. Butler again struggled from the field, shooting 12-for-28, but he had a nice 3-for-7 record from deep and made some very timely baskets. The Heat star ended up being voted the Eastern Conference MVP after averaging 24.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 2.6 steals in the series. It's been a phenomenal playoff run by Butler and his team, and Miami is now only four wins away from glory.
Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine might be headed elsewhere sooner than expected. Insider K.C. Johnson is skeptical that the Bulls are committed to LaVine for the full length of his contract. The two sides agreed to a massive extension that keeps LaVine in Chicago through the 2025-2026 season. However, the Bulls could be headed in a right direction soon, which might mean they'd be willing to move LaVine. This core roster isn't getting any younger and LaVine is the best trade piece that the Bulls have right now. There is no word from the organization about trading LaVine, but it wouldn't be shocking to see it happen if things continue to go in the wrong direction.
Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving is set to become a free agent this summer. The superstar guard recently mentioned that he's in no rush to sign a new deal. It sounds like the 31-year-old is going to take his time before deciding where his next home is going to be. There have been rumors that the Mavs could do a sign-and-trade with Irving this offseason. One obvious designation would be the Los Angeles Lakers, so Irving can be reunited with LeBron James again. However, the Lakers don't have much to offer in exchange for Irving. There have been rumors that they'd do a sign-and-trade for Irving with D'Angelo Russell as the centerpiece of the trade. The Mavs have made it clear that won't be happening. It seems like the Mavs would be open to moving Irving, but they likely want a superstar in return.
Boston Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon (forearm) is expected to suit up for Monday's Game 7 against the Miami Heat. Brogdon only played eight minutes during Game 5 due to a right forearm strain. The 30-year-old was held out of Saturday's Game 6 victory due to the issue. His absence allowed more minutes for Derrick White and Marcus Smart in the rotation. It appears Brogdon will be ready for Monday's win-or-go-home matchup. The expectation is that he'll resume his role as the sixth-man off the bench.
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr seemingly confirmed Jordan Poole would be back next season. However, it appears others aren't so sure. With the Warriors looking to cut costs this offseason to avoid a hefty tax bill, John Hollinger of the Athletic believes the team may look to trade Poole ahead of the 2023-24 campaign. The 23-year-old averaged a career-high 20.4 points during the regular season while playing all 82 games. Yet, he shot 33.6% from deep, a dip from the previous year, and averaged only 10.3 points in the postseason. Without question, Poole could turn things around this season. But he may be a more efficient fantasy option by being the preferred scoring option for a new team.
According to Dan Bernstein of WSCR, many within the Bulls organization believe Lonzo Ball (knee) may never play again. The 25-year-old has been sidelined since January 2022 because of a right knee injury and eventually missed the entire 2022-23 campaign. There was hope he'd be back this year. However, he underwent a third surgery in March, a procedure that included cartilage being replaced. Nobody has ever returned from an injury of that magnitude. But dynasty managers should remain optimistic and keep the former UCLA Bruin on the roster until there is an official update on his future.
Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (shoulder) is available for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals versus Boston. He's been dealing with shoulder discomfort for a while, so his presence on the injury report isn't anything new. However, the 25-year-old has worn a compression shirt and played through it. Adebayo has averaged only 15.3 points versus the Celtics, his lowest in any series during the postseason. But he remains active on the glass and has a high upside, so DFS managers should never count him out.
Boston Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon (forearm) is questionable for Monday's Eastern Conference Finals finale against Miami. The 30-year-old is dealing with a forearm injury, which kept him off the floor for Saturday's win over the Heat. However, he's averaged only 6.8 points and shot 18.7% from deep during this series, so the injury is obviously negatively impacting his play. If he suits up, DFS managers should think twice before putting him in the starting lineup.
Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III isn't listed on the injury report for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals versus Miami. The 25-year-old briefly exited Game 6 on Saturday night after suffering a hand injury. However, DFS managers should plan on him being out there, considering a trip to the NBA Finals is on the line. Williams has averaged 9.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks during this series, making him an excellent fantasy option for those looking for value on Monday evening.
Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent (ankle) is questionable for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics. The 26-year-old didn't suit up in Game 5 because of a sprained ankle. However, he returned on Saturday night, finishing with 15 points in 41 minutes. It would be surprising if Vincent isn't available on Monday night, considering the Heat are hoping to earn a trip to the NBA Finals. But if he isn't, Kyle Lowry should slide into the starting lineup.
Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro (hand) won't play in Monday's postseason matchup with the Celtics. The 23-year-old hasn't played since Game 1 of the series versus the Milwaukee Bucks. Although he was recently cleared for non-contact basketball injuries, he's nowhere near ready to return. However, there's a chance Herro could be back for the NBA Finals. But Miami will need to secure one more win on Monday night after dropping the last three games.
Miami Heat guard/forward Duncan Robinson played a big role off the bench in Saturday's Game 6 loss to Boston, scoring 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting. He was 3-for-6 with the three-ball and bagged a pair of assists with one rebound in 20 minutes. Unfortunately for the Heat, Robinson couldn't hit from deep when the team needed it the most, as the 29-year-old sniper had a pair of open looks late in the game. Robinson has averaged 11.7 points in the Eastern Conference Finals, and he's also impressed with his playmaking, dishing out nearly three assists per contest.
Miami Heat guard/forward Max Strus contributed 10 points in Saturday's 104-103 loss to the Celtics, shooting 3-for-8 from the field and 2-for-5 from downtown. This was a good bounce-back effort from Strus, who has combined for only 12 points in the previous two games. He wrapped up his line with one rebound and three assists in 25 minutes. The 27-year-old sniper is enjoying a decent postseason, having averaged 10.5 points per game with 3.2 rebounds.
Miami Heat guard Gabe Vincent returned from an ankle sprain with a 15-point performance in Saturday's Game 6 loss to Boston. He had a quiet opening to the game but suddenly sparked into life with back-to-back threes early in the second quarter and produced a solid 41 minutes for the team. Vincent shot 3-for-6 in total from deep and had a 6-for-18 record from the field with four rebounds and one block. The 26-year-old has been outstanding in the series, averaging 17.0 points with 50 percent shooting from deep.