NBA

Nets' winning run halted by Magic despite Irving heroics, Mitchell leads Jazz to late win over Raptors

By Sports Desk March 20, 2021

The Brooklyn Nets' six-game winning streak came to a grinding halt with a 121-113 loss to the lowly Orlando Magic, despite the return of Kyrie Irving after groin soreness.

The Magic were coming into the match on a nine-game losing streak, but jumped out of the blocks with Aaron Gordon scoring 21 points in the first half.

Orlando led by as many as 12 points in the second quarter before the Nets closed to trail by only two at the main break, led by Irving, who finished with a game-high 43 points, six rebounds and four assists.

James Harden's output was slightly down, finishing with 19 points, four rebounds and nine assists as Orlando raced away again in the third.

Gordon finished with a season-high 38 points, Evan Fournier scored 31, while center Nikola Vucevic had 22 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists as the Magic pulled off an upset.

The Utah Jazz returned to the winners' list with a thrilling 115-112 triumph over the Toronto Raptors, who have now lost seven in a row.

The Jazz had lost four of six coming into the match, but found some form, led by Donovan Mitchell with 31 points and five rebounds, the star pinching the lead late after the Raptors were up by five with 90 seconds to go.

Pascal Siakam put up a three-point attempt on the buzzer which cruelly rimmed out.

Blazers do it again, Wiggins' season high

CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard produced another special performance as the Portland Trail Blazers came from behind again to win their third straight game, 125-119 over the Dallas Mavericks.

McCollum finished with 32 points, including seven three-pointers, while Lillard had 31 points along with six assists as Portland scored 32 points to 21 in the last to win. The victory was also Portland's Terry Stotts' 500th as head coach.

Andrew Wiggins produced a season-high 40 points, including six three-pointers, eight rebounds and four steals as the Golden State Warriors beat the Memphis Grizzlies 116-103.

Nikola Jokic sparkled with 34 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists as the Denver Nuggets edged the Chicago Bulls in overtime 131-127. Jamal Murray also scored 34 for Denver.

Guard Malcolm Brogdon scored 27 points as the Indiana Pacers piled on the points in a 137-110 win over the Miami Heat.

Mason Plumlee had 16 rebounds while Frank Jackson scored 23 points as the struggling Detroit Pistons won back-to-back games, 113-100 over the Houston Rockets, who have lost 19 in a row.

 

Melo makes history

Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony, 36, scored 18 points in Portland's win but he also brought up the milestone of 27,000 NBA points, becoming only the 11th player to reach the figure.

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    Grant Williams scored a career-high 27 points as the Boston Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, defeating the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks 109-81 in Game 7 on Sunday.

    Williams went seven-of-18 from the perimeter to lead the Celtics, with four others scoring in double digits in Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Payton Pritchard, who added 14 points off the bench.

    The 23-year-old's seventh triple of the night came at an important time, too, with the Bucks starting to gather momentum at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

    Tatum was pivotal on both ends despite seven turnovers, putting up 23 points on 50 per cent shooting, eight assists and six rebounds.

    The Celtics were able to restrict Giannis Antetokounmpo from scoring easily, with the reigning finals MVP getting 25 points but on 10-of-26 shooting, along with his 20 rebounds and nine assists.

    With the series-deciding win, the Celtics have set up a rematch of the 2020 Eastern Conference finals, facing the first-seeded Miami Heat.

    Doncic dominates as Mavs demolish Suns

    Both of the contestants in the 2021 NBA finals were knocked out in same night in Game 7s on Sunday, with the Dallas Mavericks blowing out the first-seeded Phoenix Suns 123-90.

    The Suns scored a disappointingly low 27 points on their home floor in the first half, as threes rained in on the other end, and the Mavs went into the main change with a 30-point lead.

    Chris Paul and Devin Booker went missing when they were needed most, generating little in terms of dribble penetration and combining for 21 points on seven-of-22 shooting.

    Conversely, Luka Doncic had come into Game 7 with shooting splits of 45.7 and 29.6 per cent but lit the Suns up with the season on the line, finishing with 35 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

    More importantly, Doncic was able to get his teammates good looks, with Dallas shooting an 48.7 per cent from the perimeter.

    The Mavericks will now face the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals. 

  • NBA Conference Finals: Doncic and Curry face off in blockbuster, Butler next in Tatum's sights NBA Conference Finals: Doncic and Curry face off in blockbuster, Butler next in Tatum's sights

    It almost feels as though using the Ron Burgundy 'boy, that escalated quickly' GIF would be a little too on the nose.

    The NBA Conference semi-finals proved to be just as dramatic as we all hoped, with two of them going all the way to all or nothing Game 7s.

    In the East, despite a bit of a comeback once Joel Embiid returned from injury, the Philadelphia 76ers were unable to halt the number one seed Miami Heat, while defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks are also out after going down in Game 7 to the Boston Celtics.

    Over in the West, the Golden State Warriors overcame the Memphis Grizzlies in a tempestuous series defined by Ja Morant's knee injury, while a sensational performance from Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks saw them destroy the Phoenix Suns in their own backyard in Game 7 on Sunday.

    They may not be the Conference Finals many predicted, but they will be absolutely covered in compelling narratives, so Stats Perform is here to take a look at what should be two fascinating contests to determine this year's NBA finalists.

    Eastern Conference Final

    Miami Heat v Boston Celtics

    Perhaps this pairing was to be expected given they are the one and two seeds respectively in the East, but with Giannis Antetokounmpo in their corner and an NBA championship to defend, many will have expected the Bucks to get the better of Boston.

    The Celtics showed their mettle, though, in particular Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 28.3 points per game (PPG) in the postseason.

    Tatum's 6.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game are supported by an impressive average of four turnovers as the 24-year-old has set about trying to drag his team all the way.

    He has not been alone though, with Jaylen Brown averaging 22.2 PPG, while an unlikely hero emerged in the 109-81 win against the Bucks on Sunday as Grant Williams top-scored with 27, the first time he has done so for the Celtics. Williams hit seven of the Celtics' 22 made three-pointers in an incredible shooting barrage.

    The Heat took full advantage of an Embiid-less Sixers in the opening games of their series with Philadelphia before losing their 2-0 lead, only to see it out 4-2.

    Jimmy Butler shone throughout and is averaging 28.7 PPG in the playoffs so far, as well as 5.4 assists and 7.5 rebounds.

    His 32 in Game 6 helped ease any nerves about going to a decider, while even the 40 he managed in defeat in Game 4 made the Sixers work harder than they should have had to.

    The Celtics won two of their three meetings with the Heat in the regular season, but Miami were triumphant last time out in late March, winning 106-98 at TD Garden thanks to 24 from Butler and 23 from Kyle Lowry, who may not feature in Game 1.

    Lowry injured his hamstring in Game 3 of the Heat’s first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, and is a doubt for the start of this series.

    Western Conference Final

    Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors

    Can you stop Luka Doncic, or do you just watch in awe and hope the ball pops before he can score?

    That probably won't be the question Steve Kerr and the Warriors will be asking, but they will certainly have to come up with some way of dealing with the dangerous Slovenian.

    Doncic is averaging 31.5 PPG from his 10 playoff games so far and was unsurprisingly trending on social media on Sunday as his own personal scoring was such that he was single-handedly matching the Phoenix Suns in the first half at Footprint Center.

    His 6.6 assists and 10.1 rebounds per game in the postseason also show how dominant he has been, but that should not take away from the fine work going on elsewhere in Jason Kidd's team.

    Having had to carry the Mavericks through most of the first round against the Utah Jazz in Doncic's absence, Jalen Brunson demonstrated his worth with 24 against the Suns in Game 7, while Spencer Dinwiddie posted 30 points of his own too.

    The Warriors are unsurprisingly just as good at spreading the wealth, even if Stephen Curry – like Doncic – is leading the way with his 26.9 PPG in the playoffs.

    The three-point assassin is tied with team-mate Klay Thompson for shots from beyond the arc, with both sinking 42 efforts in the postseason so far, which emphasises the importance of Thompson as well, who has averaged 20.4 PPG.

    Jordan Poole is playing his part too with 19.3 PPG, including a 50 per cent success rate on field goal attempts, making 74 from 148.

    Dallas may have the upper hand going into this one, not just because of their complete undressing of the Suns in Game 7, but also because they won three of the four games against Golden State in the regular season, with Doncic scoring 41 in their last meeting in early March.

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    Luka Doncic lauded the belief in the Dallas Mavericks dressing room after playing a starring role in a 123-90 thrashing of the Phoenix Suns.

    The Mavs advanced to the Western Conference finals, where they will face the Golden State Warriors, courtesy of a dominant showing in Game 7 against the top-seeded Suns.

    Doncic had as many points as Phoenix in the first half, making a mockery of the Mavs' status as supposed underdogs.

    And it came as no surprise to Doncic, who finished with 35 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

    “I know we were the underdogs,” he said.

    "Everybody had the Suns to win this one, but the whole locker room believed and that's what won us the game."

    Asked whether he knew he alone had matched the home team's total first-half points tally, Doncic said: "Yeah, of course.

    "I'm having fun. I always say when I'm having fun it is the way I best play.

    "Honestly, I'm really happy, man. You can't get this smile off my face right now.

    "I think we deserve this. We were playing hard the whole series – maybe a couple of games here we were not ourselves.

    "But we knew we came here with a statement Game 7. We believed, our locker room believed, everybody believed, so I'm just happy."

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