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." 

James Harden and Anthony Davis headline the reserves for next month's NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets will captain their respective sides – Team LeBron and Team Durant – in the 70th All-Star contest on March 7.

Nets guard and former MVP Harden has been named an All-Star for the ninth consecutive year as he headlines the Eastern Conference reserves, which also includes Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum (both Boston Celtics), Zach LaVine (Chicago Bulls), Julius Randle (New York Knicks) and Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic).

Brown, LaVine and Randle have earned All-Star selection for the first time in their careers.

Lakers star Davis is the pick of the Western Conference reserves, alongside 11-time All-Star Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns.

Joining the pair as reserves from the west are Paul George (Los Angeles Clippers), Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert (both Utah Jazz), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers) and Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans) – who is a first-time All-Star.

The All-Star Game rosters will be determined through a March 4 draft, where James and Durant will select from the pool of players voted as starters and reserves in each conference.

The 10 All-Star Game starters were unveiled last week, with Durant, Kyrie Irving (Nets) two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards) and Joel Embiid (76ers) in the Eastern Conference starter pool.

James, Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets) and Kawhi Leonard (Clippers) are in the Western Conference starter pool.

76ers head coach Doc Rivers will coach Team Durant, while Quin Snyder of the Jazz will coach Team LeBron.

Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum admitted he is still battling with the after-effects of coronavirus despite returning to NBA action three weeks ago.

Speaking ahead of Boston's 112-99 win over the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, where Tatum contributed 21 points, six rebounds and eight assists, the All-Star revealed he was still experiencing respiratory issues during games.

Tatum tested positive for COVID-19 in early January, alongside some team-mates, forcing three Boston games to be postponed.

"I think it messes with your breathing a little bit," Tatum told reporters.

"I have experienced some games where, I don't want to say struggling to breathe, but you get fatigued a lot quicker than normal. Just running up and down the court a few times, it's easier to get out of breath or tired a lot faster; I've noticed that since I've had COVID.

"It's just something I'm working on. It's gotten better since the first game I played, but I still deal with it from time to time."

The Celtics have a 7-10 record since then, slipping to third in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference, behind the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets.

After a period of quarantine, Tatum returned to the court with 24 points against the Chicago Bulls on January 25.

Tatum has not missed any of Boston's 12 matches since returning, top scoring for the Celtics on seven occasions, insisting the issues have not affected his performances or output.

"It's gotten better obviously from the first game I came back and played, but I guess it's just a long process," he said.

"I've talked to other guys that have had it and they say they experienced the same thing and it kind of just gets better over time. But as much as we play, I guess it takes a little bit longer.

"You've got to take it on the chin when things aren't going great and you're not playing how you should be."

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