NBA

NBA playoffs 2021: Tatum's 50 thwarts Nets as Celtics hit back, Kawhi's Clippers respond

By Sports Desk May 28, 2021

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.

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    The New Orleans Pelicans are wholly deserving of their place in the playoffs, so says Larry Nance Jr.

    After losing to the Los Angeles Lakers earlier in the week, New Orleans clinched the Western Conference's No.8 seed on Friday by overcoming the Sacramento Kings 105-98.

    Brandon Ingram scored 24 points while Jonas Valanciunas added 19 with 12 rebounds.

    Victory also saw the Pelicans, who were without Zion Williamson due to a hamstring injury, beat the Kings for the sixth time this campaign, and they will now face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs.

    "We deserve it," Pelicans forward Nance Jr. said.

    "That's how we felt coming into this game, and that's how we felt going into the last game. You don't win 49 games by accident; that doesn't happen.

    "You don't just slip and do that in a historic conference. We're a really good team, and we deserve to be here. We showed that tonight, and we're proud to be going to Oklahoma."

    Ingram, meanwhile, was on top form having recently returned from injury.

    "It's been one my healthiest seasons, and I was out for three weeks just watching and just trying to stay disciplined," Ingram said.

    "It's hard just trying to stay disciplined, trying to stay locked in knowing I wanted to be out on the floor. I was losing some of my conditioning a little bit and just trying to stay ready.

    "That was three weeks that passed, and I was just coming in and trying to play 30 minutes after all that and be locked in. I was, of course, hard on myself because I didn't think it mattered that I just came off the knee injury. Those first two games didn't go how I wanted to go, but I just wanted to give it all tonight and trust my teammates, trust my stuff, and we ended up winning.

    "I thought I could control the game. I thought I controlled the game the first quarter, the second quarter. And I knew that it was about time for us to go on a run."

    Of the Pelicans' playoff hopes, he added: "This was the goal at the beginning of the year.

    "Throughout it, we had some injuries. We had different things happen. But we had another opportunity today, and we came in and everybody contributed."

  • Heat beat Bulls to set up rematch with Celtics; Pelicans hold off Kings Heat beat Bulls to set up rematch with Celtics; Pelicans hold off Kings

    Tyler Herro fell an assist shy of a triple-double and scored 24 points as the Miami Heat rolled to a 112-91 win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday to secure the last spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

    Jaime Jaques Jr. added 21 points, Kevin Love had 16 and Bam Adebayo 13 for Miami, which advanced to face the league-leading Boston Celtics in a rematch of the last two East finals.

    They were the No. 8 seed last season also and survived the play-in before going all the way to the NBA Finals.

    The Heat were without star forward Jimmy Butler and won’t have him available for the Boston series, either.

    Even without Butler, Miami took control with a 19-0 run in the first quarter, and a 14-0 surge midway through the second half. Herro finished with 10 rebounds and nine assists as the Heat eliminated the Bulls in the last East play-in game for the second straight season.

    DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points and Nikola Vucevic had 16, 14 boards and five assists but the Bulls were unable to become the fifth team in the last 35 years to make the playoffs after not spending a single day all season over the .500 mark.

    The Heat were held to 13 points in the second quarter but still took a 47-37 lead into the break because the Bulls went 8 for 39 from the field after opening 4 for 5. Chicago missed 14 of 15 shots in one stretch.

    Chicago got as close as 70-60 in the third quarter before Miami essentially iced the game with the 14-0 run.

    Pelicans continue mastery of Kings

    Brandon Ingram scored 24 points and Jonas Valanciunas added 19 with 12 rebounds as the New Orleans Pelicans secured the eighth seed in the Western Conference with a 105-98 victory over the Sacramento Kings.

    Trey Murphy III had 16 points, eight rebounds and six assists as six players scored in double figures for the Pelicans, who won all six meetings this season against the Kings and now move on to face top-seeded Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs.

    The Pelicans are the first team to 6-0 in a season (without a playoff series) against an opponent since Denver against Minnesota in 1994-95.

    New Orleans played without leading scorer Zion Williamson (left hamstring), who will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

    De’Aaron Fox poured in 35 points and Domantas Sabonis had 23 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists but the Kings shot just 40.9 percent (36 of 88) from the field and misfired on 30 of 41 (26.8 percent) from 3-point range.

    Sacramento got just 12 points from its bench compared to 34 for New Orleans.

  • 'Lot of value' in Warriors keeping Curry, Green and Thompson together, says Kerr 'Lot of value' in Warriors keeping Curry, Green and Thompson together, says Kerr

    Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr believes there is a "lot of value" in the team keeping their core of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson together, as the latter of the trio prepares to hit free agency.

    The Warriors' season came to an abrupt end on Tuesday as they were dumped out of the Play-In Tournament by the Sacramento Kings, falling to a 118-94 defeat to their upstate rivals. 

    It is the third time in the last five seasons that Golden State – who have won four NBA championships under Kerr – have missed out on a playoff berth. 

    That has led to questions being asked about the team's future, and they have a decision to make over Thompson as the 34-year-old prepares to become an unrestricted free agent.

    While the Warriors have outlined their desire to keep Thompson, he has been linked with the Orlando Magic and Dallas Mavericks and says his priority is playing for a championship contender. 

    Speaking at his exit interview on Thursday, Kerr spoke of the difficulties of breaking up great teams and said he was keen to continue working with the Warriors' 'big three'. 

    "It's rarely a storybook," Kerr said. "Even the '96 or '98 Bulls, the team was broken up and we won the championship in our last year but there was a documentary about what a disaster the whole thing was. It's impossible for this stuff to end perfectly.

    "I do think there is a lot of value to having our three guys being Warriors for life. I think there's a lot of value in ending with dignity.

    "For those three, I really want to see all of them finish their careers here, but also finish out their careers with a sense of pride and dignity in what they're doing."

    Much of the Warriors' season was overshadowed by discussions regarding Green's ill-discipline, with the forward being ejected four times in 2023-24.

    Green also missed 16 games after receiving an indefinite suspension for striking Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkic in the face in December, an incident that Kerr described as "unforgivable".

    However, Kerr still believes Green is worth the trouble, saying: "Yet I forgave him. He's one of the most competitive, one of the smartest players I've ever been around. 

    "Yet he makes these decisions that hurt the team, that aren't smart. So how do you reconcile all that? It's really difficult. 

    "The number one thing I would say is, if we decided he wasn't worth it then we would have moved off of him years ago. 

    "But he's worth it and he's worth it not only because of the banners that are hanging out there but because he really is a wonderful human being."

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