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Suns eclipse Nuggets, Rockets silence Thunder

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) drives to the basket around Memphis Grizzlies forward Lamar Stevens (24) during the first half at FedExForum.
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) drives to the basket around Memphis Grizzlies forward Lamar Stevens (24) during the first half at FedExForum.
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LOS ANGELES: Kevin Durant scored 30 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the Phoenix Suns to a 104-97 victory over reigning NBA champions Denver on Wednesday to keep things close at the top of the Western Conference.


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


Durant said it wasn't a matter of making a statement, but of paying attention to detail in a demanding final playoff push.


"I don't know if you're trying to show anybody anything," Durant said. "I think (we're) just trying to keep getting better... we're just trying to play good ball."


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


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


It was just their third defeat in their 18 games since the All-Star break, but left them just one half-game ahead of Oklahoma City and Minnesota atop the West.


The Timberwolves beat the Detroit Pistons 106-91, but the short-handed Thunder fell to the red-hot Houston Rockets -- who pushed their winning streak to 10 games with a 132-126 overtime triumph in Oklahoma City.


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


Josh Giddey carried the load in his absence, scoring 31 points. But Houston's Jalen Green led all scorers with 37 points and the Rockets out-scored the Thunder 20-14 in overtime to seal the win.


Houston remained a game behind the Golden State Warriors for 10th place and the last play-in berth in the West.


The Warriors, fueled by 23 points from Andrew Wiggins and two late baskets by Stephen Curry, beat the Magic 101-93 in Orlando despite the ejection of Draymond Green just 3min 36sec into the contest.


Curry was left shaking his head when Green was tossed, receiving two quick technical fouls for heatedly arguing a foul call.


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


"Too bad," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Green's ejection. "It was unfortunate. He deserved it and he'll bounce back. I'm just proud of the guys for stepping up."


Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) handles the ball as Memphis Grizzlies forward Lamar Stevens (24) defends during the second half at FedExForum.
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) handles the ball as Memphis Grizzlies forward Lamar Stevens (24) defends during the second half at FedExForum.


JAMES TRIPLE-DOUBLE


Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James returned from a one-game absence to post a triple-double of 23 points, 14 rebounds and 12 assists in a 136-124 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies.


James sat out the Lakers' come-from-behind double-overtime victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday with a sore left ankle.


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


But Rui Hachimura provided a big lift, drilling seven of eight three-point attempts on the way to 32 points with 10 rebounds to help the Lakers win their fifth straight.


There was controversy in Philadelphia.


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


Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard made a pair of three-point plays in the final minute and came up with a big block on Kelly Oubre Jr. with 5.1 seconds remaining.


The Sixers, down by one, had one last opportunity after a jump ball and coach Nick Nurse was incensed that no foul was called on Paul George as he defended Oubre's final attempt.


Nurse rushed onto the court to dispute the non-call, Oubre voicing his displeasure too.


"I just thought it was enough contact to call," Nurse, sounding more conciliatory after the game, said. "But that's the way it goes sometimes."


Referee Kevin Scott told a reporter that in real time officials thought George jumped vertically but that "in post-game video review we did observe some slight drift to his left by the defender George, and a foul should have been called."


There was some good news for the Sixers, as Nurse confirmed before the game he believed there was "a very good likelihood" that NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid would return before the post-season.


Embiid has been sidelined since January 30 by a knee injury that required surgery. -- AFP


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