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NBA notebook

Denver’s Nikola Jokic wins second straight MVP award

Center Nikola Jokic is now a member of a rare club — the 13th player to win back-to-back NBA MVP awards.Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic earned a second straight NBA Most Valuable Player trophy to become the second consecutive international player to win two in a row.

The 27-year-old from Sombor, Serbia, averaged 27.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 7.9 assists to take home MVP honors. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo — who hails from Greece — earned the title in 2019 and 2020.

International players finished 1-2-3 in this year’s MVP voting. Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, who led the league in scoring average, finished runner-up and Antetokounmpo was third. Devin Booker of Phoenix wound up fourth.

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Suns, Heat dominate

Booker scored 28 points, Deandre Ayton added 20 and the host Phoenix Suns pulled away for a lopsided 110-80 win against the Dallas Mavericks to earn a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semifinals. The Suns bounced back after dropping the previous two games and can win the series in Game 6 on Thursday in Dallas. Mavericks star Luka Doncic finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds, but acknowledged that the offense bogged down at times. Jalen Brunson added 21 points. The Mavs shot just 38 percent from the field … Jimmy Butler scored 23 points, Max Strus added 19 points and 10 rebounds, and the host Miami Heat moved one win away from a trip to the Eastern Conference finals by topping the Philadelphia 76ers, 120-85, on Tuesday night. The Heat now lead the East semifinal series 3-2. Embiid scored 17 points for Philadelphia, which got 14 from James Harden and 12 from Tobias Harris.

Lanier dead at 73

Bob Lanier, the left-handed big man who muscled up beside the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as one of the NBA’s top players of the 1970s, has died. He was 73.

The NBA said Lanier died Tuesday after a short illness. The Hall of Famer had worked for the league as a global ambassador. The Athletic reported in 2019 that Lanier was being treated for bladder cancer.

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Bob Lanier, seen here at an event in Boston with Celtics' legend Bill Russell in 2008, was regarded as one of the best big men of his time.Josh Reynolds/Associated Press

Lanier played 14 seasons with the Detroit Pistons and Milwaukee Bucks and averaged 20.1 points and 10.1 rebounds for his career. He is third on the Pistons’ career list in both points and rebounds. Detroit drafted Lanier with the No. 1 overall pick in 1970 after he led St. Bonaventure to the Final Four.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Lanier was among the most talented centers in league history, and added that his accomplishments went far beyond what he did on the court.