The Dallas Mavericks have been fined $750,000 by the NBA for resting key players against the Chicago Bulls despite being in play-off contention.
In a statement, the NBA said they had shown “a desire” to lose in order to improve their chances of getting a top-10 pick in this summer’s draft.
NBA executive vice president Joe Dumars said the Mavericks’ actions had “failed our fans and our league”.
Mavericks were defeated 115-112 by the Bulls on 7 April.
Dallas said Kyle Irving, Tim Hardaway Jr and Maxi Kleber were all nursing injuries while Josh Green and Christian Wood were being rested.
All five players – plus Luka Doncic, who played only 12 minutes – featured in their previous win over the Sacramento Kings, which led to the accusations of ‘tanking’ – fielding a weakened side in order to lose and improve their draft chances.
A lower finish in the overall standings would have boosted Dallas’ hopes of signing highly-rated French teenager Victor Wembanyama.
“The Mavericks violated the league’s player resting policy and demonstrated through actions and public statements the organization’s desire to lose the game in order to improve the chances of keeping its first-round pick in the 2023 NBA draft,” the statement said.
“The league did not find that the players who participated in the game were not playing to win.”
Dumars added Dallas had “undermined the integrity of our sport”.
If Dallas secure a top-10 pick for the 2023 draft they get to keep it, but if the pick is 11th or lower, it goes to the New York Knicks as final payment for the January 2019 trade to sign Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis.
A lottery to determine the final order for the draft in June will be held on 16 May.
Miami and Minnesota make the play-offs
During Friday’s play-in tournament, Jimmy Butler and Max Strus both scored 31 points as the Miami Heat gained the final Eastern Conference play-off spot with a 102-91 victory over the Chicago Bulls.
Miami will be the number eight seeds and will face the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in the first round, which starts in Milwaukee on Sunday.
Strus scored 23 points in the first half and made seven six-pointers overall for the Heat, while Butler made 22 of his 31 points in the second half.
The Minnesota Timberwolves also advanced to the play-offs with a comfortable 120-95 victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 28 points and 11 rebounds and Rudy Gobert had 21 points and 10 rebounds on his return from a one-game suspension as the Timberwolves claimed the eighth-seed spot in the Western Conference.
They will take on the Denver Nuggets, who are the top seeds, in the opening round on Monday.