NBA: Suns top Knicks on buzzer-beating trey; max pressure as Sixers, Harden down Cavs

New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (centre) passes the ball against Phoenix Suns players during the second half at Footprint Center, on Mar 4, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (REUTERS, AFP) - Cameron Johnson capped the best game of his career by hitting a long three-pointer as time expired on Friday (March 4) night to complete Phoenix's 14-point, fourth-quarter comeback, with the hosts Suns edging out the New York Knicks 115-114 in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

The Knicks, who lost their seventh straight, appeared on the verge of upsetting the league-leading Suns (51-12) when Mitchell Robinson put back an R.J. Barrett miss with 15.6 seconds left, and Cameron Payne missed a layup on the other end.

New York's Alec Burks was fouled with 7.1 seconds remaining, and he hit the first free throw but missed badly on the second. Mikal Bridges grabbed the rebound and dished to Payne, who passed back to Johnson. He capped his career-high, 38-point night when his 31-foot bank shot went in, setting off pandemonium.

Johnson had 21 points in the fourth quarter, and he finished with 14 more points than his previous career high. He also was at the centre of a near-brawl in the third quarter that resulted in the ejection of Knicks star Julius Randle.

Johnson shoved Randle after Evan Fournier's three-pointer gave the Knicks (25-38) their largest lead to that point at 86-76. Randle responded by bumping Johnson as officials and players from both teams intervened. The Knicks power forward, who had 25 points and seven rebounds, then shoved aside an official and pushed Johnson.

Payne finished with 17 points and a career-high 16 assists, while Bridges (20 points), Jae Crowder (14 points) and Aaron Holiday (10 points) all scored in double figures for the Suns.

Phoenix continued to play without Chris Paul (broken thumb) and Devon Booker (Covid-19 protocols) in winning their second straight following a two-game losing streak.

Meanwhile, Tyrese Maxey scored 33 points as the Philadelphia 76ers overturned a 21-point deficit to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers 125-119.

Maxey found his scoring touch after the interval with 24 points in the second half as the Sixers extended their winning streak to five games. New recruit James Harden enjoyed another influential performance with 25 points, 11 assists and three turnovers to maintain his unbeaten start.

Joel Embiid added 22 points while Georges Niang had 17 off the bench and Tobias Harris added 15. Darius Garland led the Cavaliers scorers with 26 points while Isaac Okoro added 22. Jarrett Allen and Cedi Osman had 20 points apiece.

The Cavs (36-27) appeared ready to run away with the game after an explosive first quarter, erupting for 43 points to go 21 points clear before Philadelphia gradually clawed back the lead to trail 71-63 at the break.

Maxey then sparked the Sixers into life after half-time as Philadelphia outscored the visitors 62-48 to close out the win. He said the their tighter defensive display after the break proved the difference.

"It was all about stops," the 21-year-old said. "They had something like 40 points in the first quarter and that's way too many points.

"Once we settled in and started getting stops we turned the game around."

Sixers coach Doc Rivers meanwhile praised the contribution of rising talent Maxey. "He's just playing great," Rivers said. "I'm on him a lot about being aggressive. Yelled at him about five times tonight. The more he's aggressive, the better we are.

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo shoots a free throw against the Chicago Bulls during the first half at United Center, on March 4, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

"He's a fearless kid, he's playing great, and he's getting great shots. He's been great for us."

The win lifted the Sixers to second place in the Eastern Conference at 39-23 before Saturday's road trip against leaders Miami (42-22) in Florida.

Elsewhere on Friday, Giannis Antetokounmpo delivered a 34-point display as the Milwaukee Bucks outlasted the Chicago Bulls 118-112 in another heavyweight Eastern Conference duel.

The Greek hauled in 16 rebounds and finished with five assists and two steals as the reigning champions showed their pedigree with a gutsy win on the road.

Jrue Holiday added 26 points for Milwaukee, while Khris Middleton finished with 22 as the Bucks moved into third place in the standings at 39-25, leapfrogging Chicago, who have the same record, in fourth.

Zach LaVine (30 points) and DeMar DeRozan (29) led the Chicago scorers. The Bulls led by eight points early in the fourth quarter, but were unable to ram home the advantage in the closing stages as Milwaukee finished the stronger.

In another game, Saddiq Bey had 25 points, Cade Cunningham contributed 20 points and nine rebounds and Detroit rallied past visiting Indiana 111-106.

Down by six with 2:55 to play, the Pistons finished the game on a 12-1 run to win for the fifth time in seven games.

Brandon Ingram scored 29 points and hosts New Orleans dominated Utah from beginning to end to claim its fourth consecutive victory, 124-90.

Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (left) against Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and center Hassan Whiteside, on March 4, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

C.J. McCollum added 24 points for the Pelicans, who led by 18 points after one quarter, by 27 at half-time and by 32 at the end of the third quarter. They led by as many as 37 on their way to increasing their average margin of victory during the winning streak to 26.8 points.

Karl-Anthony Towns and Naz Reid scored 20 points each to lead Minnesota to a 138-101 road win over Oklahoma City.

The Timberwolves came into the game with the highest-scoring road offence in the NBA, and they did it again on Friday. Six players scored 15 or more points for Minnesota, who won their third consecutive game.

And DeMarcus Cousins produced a season-high 31 points and grabbed nine rebounds as hosts Denver sent Houston, the worst team in the NBA with a 15-48 record, to their 12th consecutive loss.

Jeff Green and JaMychal Green scored 14 points each for Denver, who played without reigning Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic (non-Covid illness). The Nuggets (37-26) won for the seventh time in eight games.

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