Missing Doncic, Exum and Mavericks step up in NBA win

Dante Exum has played a valuable role as the Dallas Mavericks overcame the absence of Luka Doncic to notch an important 108-106 win over Golden State in the countdown to the NBA Playoffs.

MVP candidate and league leading scorer Doncic was ruled out with knee soreness, having averaged 33.8 points, 9.8 assists and 9.2 rebounds this season.

Australian Exum started for the Mavericks and scored 11 points on 5-of-8 field-goal shooting, while also dishing up seven assists in front of home fans on Friday night (Saturday AEDT).

PJ Washington stepped up with 32 points, making the tie-breaking lay-up with 4.5 seconds remaining, and was abetted by Kyrie Irving, who had 26 points and seven assists.

Dallas (74-30) won for the 13th time in their past 15 games and solidified their hold on fifth place in the Western Conference, two games clear of seventh in pursuit of one of the six guaranteed playoff spots.

Stephen Curry scored 28 points, including a tying jumper with 13 seconds to go, as Golden State missed a chance to clinch a post-season spot.

In Indianapolis, Australian Josh Giddey finished one rebound short of a triple-double, but his Oklahoma City Thunder were unable to overcome the absence of their injured leading scorers Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (quad) and Jalen Williams (ankle).

After a strong start the Thunder (52-25) fell 126-112 to the impressive Pacers, losing a third straight game for the first time this season and denting their bid for top seed in the Western Conference.

Aaron Nesmith (23) tries to get around Thunder guard Josh Giddey
Indiana Pacers forward Aaron Nesmith (23) tries to get around Thunder guard Josh Giddey.

Giddey took on primary play-making duties with Gilgeous-Alexander sidelined and scored 14 points on 6-of-17 shooting from the field, while handing out 12 assists and claiming nine rebounds in his 35 minutes on court.

Lu Dort led Oklahoma City with 22 points and centre Chet Holgren had 15, while Kendrich Williams added 18 from the bench.

Pascal Siakam scored 21 points and Aaron Nesmith had 17 for the Pacers. All-Star Tyrese Haliburton was held to eight points, but had 11 assists.

“Those are injuries that basically the timetable is dictated by how they respond to the recovery and that whole process,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said.

“It’s a quad contusion (for Gilgeous-Alexander). Jalen’s an ankle sprain. We’ll let the timetable play out.”

In Boston, Payton Pritchard had 21 points, including five three-pointers, as the league-leading Boston Celtics held off a late charge to beat the Sacramento Kings 101-100.

Kristaps Porzingis added 20 points and 11 rebounds as the Celtics claimed a 12th consecutive win at home one game after clinching home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

In Milwaukee, the Bucks, playing without the injured Giannis Antetokounmpo (hamstring), fell to 15-16 since Doc Rivers took over as coach as they lost 117-111 at home against the Toronto Raptors.

Gary Trent Jr scored 31 points as the Raptors snapped a 15-game losing streak.

Milwaukee remain second in the Eastern Conference, leading Cleveland by one game and Orlando and New York by two with five games remaining for each team.

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