Kevin Durant believes Jayson Tatum will eventually claim the Team USA points record he just took from Carmelo Anthony.

In scoring 23 points in the United States' 119-84 win over the Czech Republic – a victory that secured their progression to the quarter-finals at Tokyo 2020 – Durant reached 354 in Olympic play.

He is now past Anthony (336) and will expect to stretch his advantage in pursuit of a third Games gold.

The three-pointer that took Durant to new heights gave Team USA their first lead midway through the second quarter, with the Brooklyn Nets forward leading his country's recovery from a slow start.

Tatum took control thereafter, though, finishing on a game-high 27 points.

The 23-year-old is appearing at his first Games but has 50 points through three appearances, prompting Durant to make a bold claim.

Appearing alongside Tatum in a post-game interview, Durant said: "This guy to the left, I think he's going to be the next one to break that record."

 

Tatum boosted his total with five-for-10 three-point shooting, as the United States made 20 shots from deep – tied for their third-most in an Olympic game.

Coach Gregg Popovich said of Tatum: "Obviously he's more confident but he makes better choices, decision-making wise.

"He attacks for himself and for a team-mate at the same time, and he didn't do that in the very beginning in the league; he was just a scorer.

"But now he's valuable because he does the other things. He's starting to rebound better. We're telling him that it's important, we're not that big and we do need him on the boards."

In the same news conference, Durant was asked again about his achievement in surpassing Anthony.

"You just think about all the players that played in this programme and [it is] pretty cool to be among names like that," he said.

"Carmelo is a guy that I played on two Olympic teams with and I've seen his approach to these games and I try to steal some of his techniques and approach.

"It's still pretty weird for me to do stuff like this because I play a team sport and I try my hardest to make it about the group.

"But it is special to do something like that and scoring is something that I've worked on my whole career and something that I've expanded my whole career, and to consistently do it is pretty cool."

After a seventh-place finish in the Eastern Conference was followed by a first-round exit in the playoffs, the Boston Celtics decided it was time for change.

Danny Ainge, the long-time director of basketball operations, is out. Brad Stevens' reign as head coach is over too, though he has switched from orchestrating plays on the sideline to making deals in the front office. His replacement on the bench, Ime Udoka, is an experienced member of supporting casts who finally gets a chance to take on a lead role.

The revamp was not just restricted to team staff, either.

Kemba Walker – seen as a major addition in 2019 – was deemed expendable amid concerns over both his long-term health and salary number. The deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder came at a cost – Boston had to give up their first-round pick in this year's draft as a sweetener – but it may not be the final move for a franchise aiming to regain momentum.

For so long, the Celtics were viewed as a team on the rise. A plethora of burgeoning talents were allowed to develop under the highly rated Stevens, a graduate from the college system who steered them to the Eastern Conference Finals on three occasions between 2017 and 2020.

However, 2020-21 was undoubtedly a step back. A 36-36 record in the regular season, albeit amid the backdrop of a global pandemic, was a surprise. Losing to the Brooklyn Nets in five, however, was not. In fact, the only shock was that they managed to avoid being swept.

So what happens in the next chapter of the Celtics story? Stevens must work out the path for a team that, after playing the long game, has quickly been left behind by its rivals

Boston's double act offers hope

Capitalising on a plethora of draft picks stockpiled over time, the Celtics had sculpted a roster that appeared a step away from moving onto the next level. Major moves were made to try and tip the balance: Kyrie Irving appeared the perfect marriage only for the relationship to flame out, while Gordon Hayward endured a hugely unfortunate start and never completely recovered.

Walker has gone now too, leaving Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown as the two fundamental pillars in place for Boston to build around.

Brown finished with a career-high 24.7 points per game at the end of the regular season, a figure aided by shooting 39.7 per cent from deep when averaging 7.1 three-pointers an outing. He attempted more shots in general, with his 19.2 field goals up from 15.6 in the previous campaign. There was also an upturn in assists as well.

However, a wrist injury meant he missed the series against the Nets. Tatum fought a lone hand, including a 50-point performance in Game 3. He became the third Celtic to reach a half-century in a regulation playoff game, joining a select group that also includes John Havlicek and Sam Jones.

Yet that stunning performance merely delayed the inevitable. In putting together a big three, the Nets had jumped the queue in the East. Boston were one of only two teams to have a pair of players finish in the top 20 for points per game in the regular season. The other? Brooklyn, of course.

Tatum averaged an impressive 26.8 points per 75 possessions to continue on an upward curve. Kevin Durant described the third overall pick in the 2017 draft as a "tough, tough cover" after trying to keep him quiet during the first-round matchup. Like Brown, the 23-year-old showed his all-round capabilities by setting career-high averages for points, rebounds and assists.

His usage rate of 30.8 per cent for every 75 possessions was both a sign of his growing status and also a by-product of an ever-changing cast around him. The Celtics used 37 different line-ups – only three teams topped that figure – as injuries and the added wrinkle of the NBA's COVID-19 protocols left Stevens consistently shuffling the deck on a nightly basis.

However, the absences should not paper over the cracks: Brown and Tatum - whose absence from an All-NBA team cost him $33million in his rookie extension – need help.

 

Moving on from Walker

Boston hoped Walker would be a multi-dimensional scoring guard who could also facilitate for others. The issue was he did not play nearly enough to merit holding on to that ideal any longer.

Walker was restricted to 43 appearances in the regular season, during which he averaged 19.3 points per game – his lowest total since 2014-15. The team was marginally better with him on the court – they scored at 113.2 points per 100 possessions, compared to 109.6 without – though played at a slightly higher pace when the former Charlotte Hornet was absent.

Taking into consideration the likelihood of the four-time All-Star utilising his player option for the 2022-23 season, there was over $73m left on his deal. Boston did get something in return from the Thunder, as a familiar face returned for a second spell (more on that later).

Walker's departure provides some cap relief, of course, but it also leaves a sizable hole in the roster. Marcus Smart appears the in-house option to start at point guard, yet he is heading into a contract year and is still yet to demonstrate how he can be relied upon for consistent offensive production.

His 14.2 points per 75 possessions ranked him 222nd in the league, although a player with a reputation for being a pest to opposing teams posted a defensive rating of 112.8, the highest of his NBA career. As he heads into his eighth season, Smart is a solid contributor capable of making plays without the ball, yet also someone opposing teams do not fear having possession in crunch time.

The same may well be said for Al Horford, even if the Celtics are not quite getting the same player who said farewell to Boston in 2019.

You can call me, Al

Life in Philadelphia did not pan out for Horford following his move in free agency two years ago, with him stuck as the odd man out in a crowded front court where Joel Embiid rules the roost. His time in Oklahoma was short-lived, but now he is back in familiar surroundings.

The 14-year veteran returns having become a more frequent three-point shooter since his first stint – his average of 5.4 attempts in 20 games for the Thunder was a career high, a stark contrast to the player who tried 18 shots from beyond the arc across his first six years in the league.

His playmaking abilities will help lighten the load on Brown and Tatum, while his experience should be invaluable to promising big Robert Williams, whose effective field goal percentage of 72.1 left him behind only DeAndre Jordan in the entire NBA.

Williams also showed he can be a presence on defense, with only five players averaging more blocked shots per game. The third-year center is a low usage, high-value finisher when close to the rim who is primed to take on a starting role.

In general, however, Boston's defensive numbers suffered a dip. Having ranked second in the category in 2019-20, giving up 107.3 points per outing, they fell outside the top 10 this term, their points against number finishing up at 111.2

The Celtics also have a decision to make over Evan Fournier, the trade-deadline addition who is now a free agent. Outside shooting is a must in the league, and the Frenchman was successful with 46.3 per cent of his three-point attempts in the regular season following his arrival from the Orlando Magic.

Last year's first-round selection Payton Pritchard, who shot 46.7 per cent when averaging 2.5 catch-and-shoot three-point attempts, showed signs of promise, but Boston still needs more shooting depth.

 

Verdict: Evolution

The revolution may have already occurred in Boston. After over 600 games as the head coach, Stevens wasted no time in making an impact following his change of roles.

However, a full re-shaping of the team would require trading away one of the core pieces he has worked so closely with over recent years. Smart, who makes just over $14m on an expiring deal, appears the most trade-friendly asset: the Celtics know the clock is ticking.

Whether Smart sticks around or not, Boston needs more to aid their dynamic duo in Brown and Tatum. The cap situation suggests dipping a toe into the free agency waters, rather than diving right in. There is no point pinning too much faith on the draft process for help either, as their first-round selection is now sitting in the Thunder's treasure chest of picks.

Stevens will survey the landscape and acknowledge standing still is a risk. Brooklyn have their big three, Giannis Antetokounmpo is ensconced in the East with Milwaukee and the Atlanta Hawks have suddenly found their wings to make a run to the Conference Finals.

His final year saw Boston average 1.18 points per possession, behind only the Sacramento Kings, while their effective field goal percentage of 63.3 ranked fourth. There is much to like about this group, yet also a feeling that standing pat is a risk with few potential rewards.

If there is a shortcut to potentially becoming a title candidate, it could be in the form of a frustrated superstar ripe for picking off in a blockbuster trade. That, however, would require a change of mindset when it comes to how they have gone about team building in recent years.

Moving Walker was a fine start, but Stevens the GM has to get creative if Boston are to get back involved in the title race again, rather than just making up the playoff numbers.

Jayson Tatum admitted to having "just one of those nights" after scoring 50 points to help the Boston Celtics strike back in their series against the Brooklyn Nets.

The Celtics found themselves in a 2-0 hole in the playoffs after successive defeats in Brooklyn, during which Tatum managed a combined total of 31 points.

His Game 2 contribution was cut short at 21 minutes after he suffered a poke in the eye, the injury ruling him out as the Nets prevailed 130-108 to double their advantage.

However, Tatum had no issues seeing the basket on Friday when the series switched to Boston, going 16-for-30 shooting from the floor as he reached a half-century of points in a 125-119 triumph.

"It's just one of those nights." Tatum said afterwards.

"A tough shooting night the first game and I didn't get to play much the last game because I got poked in the eye."

His performance makes him just the third Celtic to score 50 in a regulation playoff game, following in the footsteps of John Havlicek (54 in 1973) and Sam Jones (51 in 1967).

Isaiah Thomas was the previous Boston player to achieve the milestone in a playoff contest, managing 53 in an overtime victory over the Washington Wizards in May 2017.

For Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, it was just the latest example of Tatum's undoubted talent.

"He is so advanced for 23 years old; I’ve said the word 'special', and I don’t say that very often, obviously," Stevens told the media.

"But he just has a unique ability to score the ball, to slither through screens and find angles to score, but also the vision to make every right move.

"He was super tonight, but he's been like that a lot this year. He's special."

The game marked Kyrie Irving’s first appearance with fans present in Boston since his departure in 2019. The point guard was booed by the home crowd throughout proceedings as he finished with 16 points and six rebounds.

Irving left in free agency after two seasons with the franchise, opting to move closer to New Jersey for family reasons as he signed with the Nets.

"It's basketball. I've been in a few environments in my life," Irving said about the reaction he received.

"Like I said, as long as it's just strictly the nature of basketball out there and there's nothing extra, I'm cool with it."

James Harden led the way with 41 points for the Nets, while Kevin Durant had 39. Game 4 of the first-round series takes place in Boston on Sunday.

Jayson Tatum was the hero as the Boston Celtics bounced back against the star-studded Brooklyn Nets, winning 125-119 in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference opening-round matchup.

Tatum posted a playoff career-high 50 points to thwart James Harden, Kevin Durant and the high-flying Nets in Boston on Friday.

The second-seeded Nets had seized control of the NBA playoff series following back-to-back wins in Brooklyn, but Tatum and the Celtics hit back on home court to cut the deficit to 2-1.

Tatum became the third Celtics player with 50-plus points in a regular playoff game, according to Stats Perform. The All-Star joined John Havlicek (54 in 1973) and Sam Jones (51 in 1967).

The 23-year-old Tatum also became the third youngest player in NBA history to post 50 or more points in a postseason contest. Ricky Barry (55 in 1967) and Michael Jordan (63 in 1986) are the only other players.

Big performances from former MVPs Harden (41 points and 10 assists) and Durant (39 points and nine rebounds) were not enough for the Nets.

Harden and Durant became the first pair of team-mates with 30-plus points in a playoff game since Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson in 2006.

 

Kawhi and George deliver in much-needed win

With their backs against the wall, the Los Angeles Clippers topped the Dallas Mavericks 118-108. Kawhi Leonard (36 points in 13-for-17 shooting) and Paul George (29 points) fuelled the fourth-ranked Clippers, who closed within 2-1 of the Mavericks in the Western Conference series. The Clippers spoiled the party in Dallas, where Luka Doncic produced a playoff career-high 44 points as the Mavs raced out to a 30-11 lead before the visitors rallied in front of 17,705 fans.

 

Randle fails to fire again

All-Star Julius Randle struggled as the New York Knicks lost 105-94 to the Atlanta Hawks, who claimed a 2-1 series lead in the east. Randle finished with a double-double of 14 points and 11 assists, but he was just two-for-15 shooting. Per Stats Perform, Randle became the first Knick to go 0 of eight or worse on two-pointers in a playoff game since Patrick Ewing (0 for 10) did so 27 years ago. Randle's 20.6 two-point percentage in the series is the lowest in a three-game span by any player with that many attempts in the last 30 postseasons.

While the Celtics won, Kemba Walker underwhelmed. He was just three-for-14 shooting as he finished with six points in 34 minutes.

 

Trae stars as Hawks soar

Trae Young was hot again for the Hawks after posting 21 points and 14 assists. The Hawks star joined Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Kevin Johnson, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson as the only players to record more than 30 assists in their first three career playoff games. Young recorded 10 assists in the first half – the first player to achieve the feat in a half of a playoff clash in their first postseason since Rajon Rondo in 2008. According to Stats Perform, Young is the third player since the merger with 80-plus points and 30-plus assists in his first three career playoff games, joining Johnson and Paul.

 

Friday's results

Atlanta Hawks 105-94 New York Knicks
Boston Celtics 125-119 Brooklyn Nets
Los Angeles Clippers 118-108 Dallas Mavericks

 

Bucks at Heat

The Milwaukee Bucks can seal a series sweep of the Miami Heat on Saturday. Eastern Conference rivals and top seeds the Philadelphia 76ers are also in action against the Washington Wizards, leading 2-0.

Jayson Tatum posted 50 points as the Boston Celtics overcame indifferent form to secure seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and an NBA playoff berth with a 118-100 win over the Washington Wizards.

Boston's play-in tournament victory against Washington on Tuesday secured a first-round meeting with star-studded second seed the Brooklyn Nets in the playoffs.

All-Star Tatum scored 32 of his 50 points in the second half as the Celtics rallied past the in-form Wizards, who had 15 of their last 20 games prior to the matchup at TD Garden.

Tatum added eight rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal for the Celtics, who open their series against the Nets on Saturday, while Kemba Walker added 29 points.

Russell Westbrook was below his usual standards for the Wizards, finishing with 20 points and 14 rebounds before prematurely exiting the game in the last quarter.

Bradley Beal added 22 points, nine rebounds and six assists as the Wizards now prepare to face the Indiana Pacers on Thursday to earn eighth seed and a date with the top-ranked Philadelphia 76ers in the east.

The Pacers cruised past the shell-shocked Charlotte Hornets with a 144-117 triumph earlier on Tuesday.

Indiana raced out to 17-4 lead and never looked back as the Hornets and Rookie of the Year candidate LaMelo Ball – who was four-for-14 from the field while making just two of six three-pointers – had a game to forget.

Pacers All-Star Domantas Sabonis had 21 rebounds along with his 14 points and nine assists in the win.

Malcolm Brogdon returned after three weeks out with a hamstring injury to add 16 points and eight assists from 16 minutes.

Oshae Brissett top-scored with 23 points as Indiana had eight players reach double figures, with Doug McDermott (21 points) shooting four-from-six beyond the arc.

The Boston Celtics have made the Eastern Conference Finals in three of the past four years, but this time they are in danger of missing the playoffs entirely.

Boston (35-33) are seventh in the east heading into Tuesday's home clash against rivals the Miami Heat (37-31), and at this stage they are on track to feature in the NBA's inaugural play-in tournament next week.

If the Celtics, who lost 130-124 to the Heat on Sunday, go down to Miami again, it would all but seal Boston's fate.

Last season's NBA Finals participants Miami are currently sixth in the Eastern Conference – the top six advance directly to the playoffs.

The play-in tournament will include teams with the seventh through to the 10th-highest winning percentages in each conference, taking place between May 18-21.

There is a lot on the line with postseason berths up for grabs at TD Garden.

 

TOP PERFORMERS

Jimmy Butler – Miami Heat

If you needed more proof of Butler's importance to the Heat, look no further than Sunday's showdown. Miami's go-to guy put up 26 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds on the road in Boston, where he recorded his 17th double-double of the season.

Butler's character has often been questioned following stops in Minnesota and Philadelphia after making a splash with the Chicago Bulls, but he continues to impress in Miami, where he is averaging 21.6 points, a career-high 7.2 assists and a career-best 7.0 rebounds. The five-time All-Star also boasts a field-goal percentage of 49.6 – the best mark of his career so far.

Jayson Tatum – Boston Celtics

With Jaylen Brown suffering a season-ending wrist injury, the Celtics will rely heavily on another of their All-Stars – Tatum, who had 29 points in a losing effort against the Heat last time out.

Tatum is enjoying a career year, having elevated himself to an All-Star calibre forward with the Celtics last year. The third pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Tatum is averaging 26.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.4 assists – all career highs in 2020-21, while he is also averaging the highest number of minutes on the court (35.9) amid Boston's frustrating season.

KEY BATTLE – PRESSURE ON KEMBA

Kemba Walker arrived in Bostom amid much fanfare in 2019 but the four-time All-Star has only shown glimpses, albeit injuries have not helped.

Walker finished with 18 points in the previous game against the Heat, though he was five-for-12 shooting, making just one of his four three-point attempts.

As Tatum carries the load, Walker must provide the necessary support against a Heat roster stacked with shooters in Butler, Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson, Goran Dragic and Tyler Herro.

HEAD TO HEAD

The Celtics and Heat have split their two games this season, and there is a theme.

After the Celtics beat the Heat 107-105 in January, Miami bounced back on Sunday. The margin of victory has not gone above six points, highlighting just how closely matched these two teams are.

Unsurprising, Tatum (27 points) and Butler (26 points) were the stars of the show in the January encounter.

There are just two weeks of the NBA regular season remaining and the race for the playoffs is really hotting up.

The top teams in the East are jostling for the first seed, while the Washington Wizards' form has taken them into a play-in place.

The West is even more open, with the top seven in flux and defending champions the Los Angeles Lakers falling into the play-in game as things stand.

Lakers superstar LeBron James even suggested the individual responsible for this format "needs to be fired".

There is still time for James and Co, but players with momentum – identified by our NBA Heat Check, powered by Stats Perform data – will be key.
 

RUNNING HOT...

Jayson Tatum

The Boston Celtics are down in seventh in the East, meaning they are set to go through the play-in, but their 1.0-game deficit to the teams above them would undoubtedly be greater if not for Tatum.

Although the team went 2-2 last week, one of their wins – against the San Antonio Spurs – was particularly memorable.

Tatum put up 60 points in the overtime win, where the Celtics trailed by 32 at one stage. That performance matched Larry Bird's single-game Boston scoring record and ensured he averaged 42.7 over the three games he featured in, up from his prior seasonal mark of 25.7 for the biggest increase of the week.

Aaron Nesmith

Tatum also had some help from the bench as rookie Nesmith found his feet at this level. Last year's first-round pick averaged 3.4 points per game through April 25 and continued this unimpressive form with two points as Tatum sat out against the Orlando Magic. Then he hit form.

Displays of 15, 16 and 16 points meant an average of 8.9 for the week, including 85.7 per cent shooting against the Portland Trail Blazers, making all four attempts from beyond the arc.

It was a timely improvement as fellow wing Evan Fournier, dealing with long-term COVID-19 effects, scored just 10.5 points per game, down from 17.5 for the league's eighth-largest decline last week.

Michael Porter Jr

Nikola Jokic will win the NBA MVP award, but injuries to Jamal Murray and Will Barton appeared to have hit his hopes of team success with the Denver Nuggets until they won four straight last week.

Porter is the Nuggets' third-best scorer but looked better than that as he led the team in points in two of those victories.

Enjoying his first year as a regular starter, Porter had boosted his average to 18.2 points per game with a career-high 39 in the final game of the previous week yet raised those standards even further with 26.8 over four outings.
 

GOING COLD...

Joel Embiid

Jokic's impending individual recognition is in part due to the failure of his MVP rivals to stay fit. Joel Embiid was the frontrunner until he missed 10 games in a row.

The Philadelphia 76ers center might still have returned in time to wrestle back the top honour, but limited minutes last week – even in four Sixers wins – look to have put paid to those hopes.

Only appearing for more than 25 minutes when he contributed 34 points against the Spurs, Embiid averaged 22.5ppg, a significant decrease on his prior 30.0 for 2020-21.

James in LA, another early contender, certainly will not trouble Jokic after he returned for two games, scored 35 points in total and then went down again.

Malcolm Brogdon

The 76ers can afford to give Embiid a light schedule as they focus on an NBA title, but the Indiana Pacers would be happy simply making the playoffs from ninth in the East.

Their hopes were hit by a tough week for Brogdon, who played only 12 minutes in their second game against the Brooklyn Nets before succumbing to a hamstring issue that kept him out of a trip to Oklahoma City.

Brogdon, previously scoring 21.6 points for the year, could only partially be excused by injury, though, having shot five-of-14 against Portland then none-of-five in a brief Brooklyn outing.

Rudy Gobert

The Utah Jazz are wobbling at the top of the West, where they have been joined on 46-18 by the Phoenix Suns following a 2-2 week that included a defeat to their rivals for the first seed.

Phoenix and Deandre Ayton continue to prove tricky opponents for presumed Defensive Player of the Year Gobert, who could not carry the load in Donovan Mitchell's absence.

With 10 rebounds against the Suns – relatively poor by his dominant standards – Gobert averaged 10.3 for the week, down from 13.6, and Utah have now lost four straight against their co-leaders. That is a worry heading into the postseason.

Jayson Tatum tied Larry Bird's Boston Celtics' all-time single game scoring record with a 60-point haul in their 143-140 over-time win over the San Antonio Spurs on Friday.            

Tatum posted 31 points in the fourth quarter and over-time in an incredible individual display, also collecting eight rebounds and five assists.

The Celtics forward led Boston's comeback after trailing by 32 points with a career-high personal total.

He received good support as the Celtics turned around the Spurs' dominant first half, with Tristan Thompson having 15 rebounds, while guard Marcus Smart had 12 assists.

The win keeps the Celtics in the top six in the East with a 34-30 record, while the Spurs are 31-31 and set for the play-in tournament.

 

LeBron returns in defeat

LeBron James made his return from an ankle injury for the first time in 20 matches, but could not inspire the Los Angeles Lakers to victory as they surprisingly went down 110-106 to the Sacramento Kings.

James played 32 minutes, scoring 16 points, with eight rebounds and seven assists, while Anthony Davis made 22 points for LA too.

The 36-year-old looked mobile but speaking after the game, he made the revelation: "I don't think i'll ever get back to 100 per cent in my career."

Devin Booker scored a game-high 31 points as the Phoenix Suns toppled leaders Utah Jazz 121-100 in the top two clash in the West.

The Suns opened up a 16-point deficit at quarter-time and kept the Jazz at arm's length, with Rudy Gobert having a tough game defensively and offensively, with only eight points.

Kevin Durant was rested as the Brooklyn Nets lost 128-109 to the Portland Trail Blazers with Damian Lillard scoring 32 points with seven rebounds and nine assists.

Joel Embiid had 18 points as the Philadelphia 76ers won 126-104 over the Atlanta Hawks.

 

Wayward Nets

The Trail Blazers shot 16-from-36 beyond the arc, going at 44.4 per cent led by Damian Lillard's eight-from-13 but the Nets were far less productive from range. Brooklyn hit 13-from-41 beyond the arc, going at 31.7 per cent with Kyrie Irving only hitting two-from-eight.

 

Record-hunting Russell

Russell Westbrook moved within five triple-doubles of Oscar Robertson's all-time record as the Washington Wizards won 122-93 over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Westbrook had 15 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.

 

Friday's results

Philadelphia 76ers 126-104 Atlanta Hawks
Boston Celtics 143-140 San Antonio Spurs 
Washington Wizards 122-93 Cleveland Cavaliers
Memphis Grizzlies 92-75 Orlando Magic
Portland Trail Blazers 128-109 Brooklyn Nets
Chicago Bulls - Milwaukee Bucks
Phoenix Suns - Utah Jazz
Los Angeles Lakers - Sacramento Kings

 

Nuggets at Clippers

Nikola Jokic's Denver Nuggets (42-21) make the trip to California to take on one of the West's best, the Los Angeles Clippers (43-21).

Steve Kerr was "in awe" of the quality on show in an NBA thriller between his Golden State Warriors side and the in-form Boston Celtics.

The Celtics extended their winning run to six games with a 119-114 victory at TD Garden on Saturday despite being 16 points down in the first half.

Steph Curry's 47-point haul could not prevent Boston from coming out on top in a pulsating contest, with Jayson Tatum scoring 44 points and claiming 10 rebounds.

Kemba Walker weighed in with 26 points for the Celtics, who are 31-26 and sit fourth in the Eastern Conference.

Warriors head coach Kerr said: "First of all, I'm in awe of what I watched tonight.

"From a skill level and level of competition, it felt like a playoff game out there. Both teams were just gassed and competed like crazy, and just incredible shot-making, particularly from Steph and Jayson.

"So, what a basketball game. It hurts to lose, but I told the team I feel like they got better tonight."

Tatum and Curry had a court-side conversation after the Celtics small forward spoke of his admiration for the Warriors legend.

He said when asked what the pair had discussed: "Just mutual respect. Obviously two big performances. I was glad that we got the win, but obviously he's one of the all-time greats.

"Just to earn his respect and get a win on the same night ... it was a good night."

Golden State are 28-29 following this setback, languishing down in ninth in the Western Conference.

 

The NBA ladder leading-Utah Jazz felt the absence of Donovan Mitchell as they lost 127-115 in over-time to the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

Mitchell hurt his ankle during the week and was unavailable for the clash against the Lakers who were missing injured pair LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Lakers center Andre Drummond dominated with 27 points, eight rebounds and three assists, while Dennis Schroder had 25 points, six rebounds and eight assists too.

The Jazz could have won the match in normal time when Jordan Clarkson's buzzer beater missed with scores locked at 110-110.

The Lakers ran away with it in over-time, but had a late injury scare with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who also had 25 points, clutching his right ankle.

The result improves the Lakers to 35-22, while the Jazz remain top of the West with a 42-15 record.

Giannis Antetokounmpo's Milwaukee Bucks stumbled to a 128-115 home loss to the surging Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies kept the Bucks at arm's length the whole match led by Grayson Allen who shot 26 points including seven-from-10 beyond the arc.

A fired-up Dillon Brooks had 21 points, six rebounds and four assists for Memphis, while Giannis had 28 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in a losing side.

 

Celtics edge shootout with Curry

Jayson Tatum won an All-Star shootout against Stephen Curry as the Boston Celtics edged the in-form Golden State Warriors 119-114.

Boston forward Tatum had 44 points and 10 rebounds, while Curry played a leading role for GSW with 47 points, including 11 three-pointers as well as seven rebounds and three assists.

Tatum had outstanding assistance from Kemba Walker, particularly in a tight final quarter, with 26 points and eight rebounds as the Celtics won their sixth straight.

Russell Westbrook had another triple-double with 15 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists while Bradley Beal made 37 points in the Washington Wizards' 121-100 win over the Detroit Pistons.

The Phoenix Suns were well beaten by the San Antonio Spurs 111-85, while Nikola Vucevic had 25 points in the Chicago Bulls' 106-96 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

Scary sideline spell

There was a scary incident late in the Warriors' loss to Boston when youngster Juan Toscano-Anderson threw himself at a loose ball, with his momentum seeing him bundling over the scorers' fence across tables and monitors. He lay injured for several minutes before eventually walking to the locker room aided, with a towel on his head.

 

Russell makes triple-double history

In-form Wizards guard Westbrook's triple-double made history as he became the first player in NBA history to have 15 in a 20-game span. 

 

Saturday's results

Los Angeles Lakers 127-115 Utah Jazz
Washington Wizards 121-100 Detroit Pistons
Chicago Bulls 106-96 Cleveland Cavaliers
Boston Celtics 119-114 Golden State Warriors
Memphis Grizzlies 128-115 Milwaukee Bucks
San Antonio Spurs 111-85 Phoenix Suns 

 

Nets in Miami

With Kevin Durant back, the Brooklyn Nets (38-18) make the trip to face the Miami Heat (28-28), although they will likely still be without the injured James Harden.

Giannis Antetokounmpo added another MVP award to his growing collection as the Milwaukee Bucks superstar guided Team LeBron to a 170-150 victory over Team Durant in Sunday's All-Star Game.

The previous three All-Star contests had pitted LeBron James against Antetokounmpo in a mouth-watering Team LeBron versus Team Giannis matchup.

But James and Antetokounmpo joined forces for this year's 70th All-Star Game as the later fuelled Team LeBron to a comprehensive win in Atlanta.

Two-time reigning NBA MVP Antetokounmpo – drafted first by Los Angeles Lakers superstar James – led Team LeBron to a fourth consecutive All-Star triumph behind his game-high 35 points on 16-for-16 shooting.

Antetokounmpo joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to go 16-for-16 or better from the field in any game (regular season, playoffs or All-Star Game), per Stats Perform. Chamberlain accomplished the feat twice in the regular season in 1966-67 (18-for-18 and 16-for-16).

Antetokounmpo's performance earned All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP honours for the first time in his career.

Team LeBron – without Joel Embiid as he joined Philadelphia 76ers team-mate and Team Durant's Ben Simmons in sitting out due to COVID-19 contact tracing – entered the fourth quarter requiring only 24 points to seal victory under the Elam Ending rule.

Each of the first three quarters started with the score at 0-0 and lasted the standard 12 minutes, with the game clock turned off for the final period and a final target score set.

Team LeBron's Damian Lillard sealed the victory with a three-pointer – the Portland Trail Blazers guard posting 32 points.

Stephen Curry, who won the Three-Point Contest as All-Star proceedings were condensed into one day amid the coronavirus pandemic – had 28 points for Team LeBron, including eight three-pointers in 22 minutes.

Jaylen Brown was next best for Team LeBron, while James tallied four points, four assists, two rebounds and a block in 13 minutes of action and Chris Paul posted six points and 16 assists.

Bradley Beal (26), Kyrie Irving (24 and 12 assists), James Harden (21), Jayson Tatum (21), Donovan Mitchell (15), Zach Lavine (13) and Zion Williamson (10) all had double-digit points for Team Durant.

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry was dramatically crowned Three-Point Content champion on the final shot in Atlanta.

Gearing up for Sunday's All-Star Game, two-time MVP Curry reigned supreme thanks to his final shot – a two-point money ball that put him ahead of Utah Jazz star Mike Conley in a shooting masterclass.

Curry bested Conley and Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics in the final round to become just the seventh player to win the contest multiple times, and the first to do so since Jason Kapono (2007-08).

Three-time NBA champion Curry, who posted a final round score of 28, previously won the three-point competition in 2015.

Curry dedicated the win to injured Warriors team-mate Klay Thompson, who claimed the contest in 2016.

"The Splash bros, we are back," Curry said. "This one goes out to Klay Thompson, we got it done big fella."

Damian Lillard posted 44 points for the Portland Trail Blazers in a 123-119 win over the Sacramento Kings before the NBA All-Star break.

Lillard shot eight three-pointers in a dominant display, while he scored 10 straight points down the stretch to help take down the Kings on Thursday.

Portland's Lillard is the first NBA player to hit a game-winning field goal while trailing in the final 15 seconds one day and then follow that up with a 40-point game the next day since Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant did it on January 31 and February 1 in 2010, according to Stats Perform.

Trail Blazers team-mate Enes Kanter provided support with 22 points and 21 rebounds in a dominant double-double display.

According to Stats Perform, it is the first time in franchise history the Trail Blazers have had a player with 40-plus points and another with 20-plus points and 20-plus rebounds in the same game.

Elsewhere, Ja Morant and Jrue Holiday traded clutch buckets in the final 10 seconds, with the latter earning the Milwaukee Bucks a game-winning lead with two seconds remaining in their thrilling112-111 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, who was the first pick by Team LeBron for Sunday's All-Star Game in Atlanta, fuelled the Bucks by scoring 26 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

 

Lowry ties Raptors record

The depleted Toronto Raptors lost 132-125 to the Boston Celtics, but Kyle Lowry impressed. The veteran guard finished with 14 points and 19 assists. He tied a franchise record with his 19 assists, matching Damon Stoudamire (1996) and Jose Calderon (twice). Chris Boucher led the way with 30 points in the absence of stars Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, as well as head coach Nick Nurse and other players and stuff due to the league's health and safety protocols. Boston's Jayson Tatum starred with 27 points, 12 rebounds and five assists as the Celtics claimed their fourth win a row.

Bradley Beal (33 points and seven rebounds) and Russell Westbrook (27 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds) were exceptional as the Washington Wizards produced a big second-half performance to knock off the Los Angeles Clippers 119-117. The Clippers were without Paul George.

MVP candidate Nikola Jokic put up 20 points and 12 rebounds in the Denver Nuggets' 113-103 win at the Indiana Pacers.

The New York Knicks topped the Detroit Pistons 114-104 behind Julius Randle's double-double of 27 points and 16 rebounds, while he also tallied seven assists.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's 33 points and eight assists inspired the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 107-102 win against the San Antonio Spurs.

 

Brogd-off day

Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon had a night to forget in his side's loss to the Nuggets, which leaves Indiana 16-19 and slipping from playoffs contention in the Eastern Conference. Brogdon finished with 10 points from 34 minutes on court, shooting at four-of-14 from the field, while he missed all five of his three-point attempts.

 

Hart's half-courter

LeBron James selected two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo with his number one pick for the NBA All-Star Game, while Kevin Durant drafted Brooklyn Nets team-mate Kyrie Irving.

On Thursday, team captains James and Durant filled out their rosters for Sunday's All-Star contest in Atlanta.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James and Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo often go head-to-head in the All-Star Games as respective captains, but that is not the case this year.

Antetokounmpo will team up with James, who also selected Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and the Denver Nuggets' MVP candidate Nikola Jokic as starters.

Team LeBron's reserves are Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Chris Paul (Phoenix Suns), Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics), Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers) and Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz).

Durant – sidelined as he nurses a hamstring injury – turned to Brooklyn star Irving with the second overall pick in the All-Star draft.

MVP candidate and 76ers star Joel Embiid, Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard, Washington Wizards sharpshooter Bradley Beal and Jayson Tatum of the Celtics are the other starters for Team Durant.

The reserves drafted by Durant are James Harden (Nets), Devin Booker (Suns), Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls), Julius Randle (New York Knicks), Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic) and Donovan Mitchell (Jazz).

Team LeBron have won the past three All-Star Games after topping Team Giannis 157-155 in Chicago last year.

Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle praised Luka Doncic for having "laser-like focus" after his game-winning shot sunk the Boston Celtics on Tuesday. 

Doncic hit a three-point attempt with just 0.1 seconds remaining to seal a 110-107 triumph for the Mavericks in front of a small crowd, his second successful effort from deep during a dramatic finish to proceedings.

The Celtics had tied the scores at 107-107 when Jaylen Brown made a driving layup, but there was still enough time left for the Mavs to nick it. 

For Carlisle, it was just further proof that certain players are wired differently to deal with such moments, putting Doncic in the same bracket as legendary names such as Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. 

"He's just a very unique player, a very unique person," Carlisle said.

"The wiring of people like Luka Doncic, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Larry Bird, Kobe Bryant, guys that have this laser-like focus in these situations.  

"It's difficult to explain how their minds and their brains work." 

Doncic – who will be one of the starters for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game next month – finished with 31 points, aided by making six of his eight attempts from deep.  

He had missed a late three that would have tied the game in the defeat to the Portland Trail Blazers last time out, but this time came up with the clutch shot under pressure, something he has become accustomed to taking – and making – despite not turning 22 until Sunday.

"It felt good out of my hands, I was kind of tired just running around the whole possession. But it got in, and that's all that matters," Doncic said. 

"It's something I've been doing. Sometimes two people go to me and I have to pass it. 

"Sometimes you're going to miss it, sometimes you're going to make it."

Brown led the way for the Celtics with 29 points, while Jayson Tatum contributed 28. Both players were named to the Eastern Conference All-Star reserves list prior to the game. 

"I don't feel very much like an All-Star because we're below .500," Brown said as Boston fell to a 15-16 record for the season.  

"I think this is the most I've lost since I've been here. I'm hopeful that we'll string some games together and make a run. It's very much in our grasp to do so." 

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