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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  • T20 World Cup: Kohli insists India will not press panic button after Pakistan loss T20 World Cup: Kohli insists India will not press panic button after Pakistan loss

    Virat Kohli will not press the panic button after Pakistan defeated his India side in a 10-wicket thumping at the T20 World Cup.

    India had lost just one of their last eight T20I meetings with Pakistan while they had collected five successive T20 World Cup wins but Azam's side prevailed in their Super 12 Group 2 opener.

    Kohli's 57 – his 29th half-century in the format in which he is the leading run scorer in history (3,216) – guided India to 151-7.

    However, India had lost all eight games defending 160 or lower and that trend continued Sunday.

    Babar Azam and Mohammed Rizwan combined for a 152-run opening stand, the highest opening partnership against India and the second-highest in the history of the competition, to see Pakistan to a maiden victory over India in the competition.

    Yet despite conceding Pakistan outclassed his side, Kohli insisted India would not begin to worry in the early stages of the tournament.

    "We did not execute the things that we wanted to but credit is certainly due – they outplayed us today," Kohli said at the post-match presentation.

    "When you lose three early it's very difficult to come back, especially when you know the dew is coming. They were very professional with the bat as well. 

    "Hitting through the line was not as easy in the first half as it seemed in the Pakistan innings, so when you know the conditions can change, you need 10-20 extra runs. 

    "But some quality bowling from Pakistan didn't let us get off the blocks. We're certainly not a team that presses the panic button, it's the start of the tournament, not the end."

    Meanwhile, Azam – who is the leading scorer in the last three years of T20I cricket with 1,241 runs – credited Shaheen Afridi's excellent opening bowling spell in which he managed 3-31, while also praising his opening partner Rizwan.

    "We executed our plans well and the early wickets were very helpful," Azam said after Kohli had spoken. 

    "Shaheen's wickets gave us a lot of confidence and the spinners dominated as well. The plan with Rizwan is always to keep it simple. We tried to get deep in the crease and from about the 8th over the dew came in and the ball came on nicely. 

    "This is just the start, we have the confidence to build on now. It will remain match by match for us. 

    "The pressure on us wasn't that much - we weren't thinking of the record against India at all. I only wanted to back all our players who've been preparing well. 

    "When you play tournaments before a big World Cup, it helps and our players came in with a lot of confidence because of that."

  • Klopp suggests Salah wants to end his career at Liverpool after 'insane' Man Utd thrashing Klopp suggests Salah wants to end his career at Liverpool after 'insane' Man Utd thrashing

    Jurgen Klopp has suggested star forward Mohamed Salah wants to end his career at Liverpool following the Reds' 5-0 thrashing of rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford.

    Liverpool romped to a big win in Manchester with Salah hitting a hat-trick and grabbing an assist for Naby Keita, with Diogo Jota also getting on the scoresheet.

    Liverpool head coach Klopp was full of praise for Salah, who became the first away player to score a hat-trick at Old Trafford since Ronaldo did so for Real Madrid in the Champions League in April 2003, while he is only the second player to do so while playing for Liverpool after Fred Howe in November 1936. 

    "The fifth goal, Mo was there to get the goals and he deals with the fuss that everyone makes around him," Klopp said to Sky Sports. "He enjoys his football and long, long, long, may it continue. I knew already (he wants to end his career here), I know the situation."

    Klopp was also stunned by the manner of his side's win and hailed their clinical performance after the Reds recorded their largest margin of victory against United since October 1895, winning 7-1 at Anfield. It was also Liverpool's greatest margin of victory in the fixture away from home. 

    The German also explained that the Reds intentionally eased off at 5-0 to lower the risk of further injuries after James Milner was forced off early and Keita was carried off on a stretcher after a two-footed tackle from Paul Pogba that saw the Frenchman sent off.

    "What can I say? Did I expect that? No," Klopp continued. "What we did in the last third was insane. Pressing high, winning balls, scoring wonderful goals. I told them at half-time to play better.

    "We started incredibly well and stopped playing football. We controlled the game after the fifth, it was not about scoring more, just trying to get out without more injuries.

    "The result is insane, I asked if there was one like this in history and if there isn't then it will take a while. The players put a nice piece in the book. It is special but we don't celebrate like crazy, we have respect for the opponents. We were lucky in some moments, United are not in their best moment.

    "Three points against a real opponent but you have to understand these games right. We got lost against Aston Villa and you have to learn off it. We smashed Crystal Palace once and the results are not interesting. I analyse the games, we can play better football and have to concentrate more.

    "I couldn't be happier, it is exceptional. Absolutely outstanding. I have a few defeats in my mind which was not necessary but we won today so we drink beer on the way home.

    "James Milner has a hamstring, he showed me something was not right. Naby Keita we have to see, a full-throttle [tackle] on the shin."

    Salah spoke of the Reds' title ambitions after becoming the top-scoring African player in Premier League history, his 107 goals taking him clear of Didier Drogba's 104, while also becoming the first-ever Liverpool player to score in three consecutive away games against United in all competitions.

    "I think it is great to win 5-0 here, we knew before the game it would be tough if we did not play our game," Salah said to Sky Sports. "We knew they will come and try to give everything so we had to give 100 per cent.

    "As long as the team keep winning I am happy and to give my best to the team to win. We know what it takes to win the Premier League, we did it two years ago. A big win here but still only three points.

    "We try to win each game and try to win the title. We need to play to win everything. From our heads from pre-season, we need to win the Premier League and hopefully, we go for that."

  • Solskjaer reflects on 'darkest day' as he shoulders responsibility for Man Utd's 5-0 defeat Solskjaer reflects on 'darkest day' as he shoulders responsibility for Man Utd's 5-0 defeat

    Ole Gunnar Solskjaer labelled Manchester United's 5-0 defeat at the hands of Liverpool as his "darkest day" as manager of the club.

    United's poor start to the season hit a potential nadir on Sunday as Liverpool ran riot at Old Trafford.

    Mohamed Salah became the first Premier League player to score an away hat-trick against United, with Naby Keita and Diogo Jota having put Jurgen Klopp's team in control inside the opening 15 minutes.

    Paul Pogba came on from the bench for a calamitous 15-minute cameo in which he conceded possession for Salah's hat-trick goal before seeing red for a lunge on Keita, though United at least managed to keep the Reds out while down to 10.

    Having seen their team go into half-time 4-0 down for the first time in a Premier League game, United's fans let their feelings known as the players and Solskjaer walked off, and the atmosphere hardly improved after the final whistle.

    Solskjaer appears to be under mounting pressure, with United relying on last-minute winners to see off Villarreal and Atalanta in the Champions League in recent weeks, while they have lost three of their last four top-flight matches, conceding 11 times and scoring just three in return.

    "It is not easy to say something apart from it is the darkest day I have had leading these players," a dejected Solskjaer told Sky Sports.

    "We were not good enough individually and as a team, can't give a team like Liverpool those chances but unfortunately we did.

    "The whole performance was not good enough. We created openings, they had chances and they have been clinical. The third goal decided the game."

    Asked who had to take responsibility, Solskjaer replied: "It is mine, that is it. The coaching staff are very, very good, brilliant.

    "I choose the way we approach the game, we were not clinical enough and gave too much space and when you give good players space they score."

    United decided to try and press Liverpool from the off, a tactic that swiftly proved naive, though Solskjaer did not regret his approach. 

    "We are at home, playing against Liverpool, we have gone here over the last two and half years and had a similar approach to high press but today they scored on their chances I think as United we should always try to stamp our authority on the game," he said.

    "That fourth goal is when you go into half time with having to score one every 15 minutes. I know these boys are capable of it. The fourth, that was probably game over.

    "You can look at last season we lose to Spurs 6-1 this is worse, miles worse. This is miles worse for me as a Manchester lad. I've just got to say we have to get over this as quickly as we can."

    Solskjaer knows questions over his future will only increase, but he insisted he is in no mood to give in.

    He added: "I have come too far, we have come too far as a group. We are too close to give up now.

    "It is going to be a difficult one. The players will be low but there's loads of characters there. We know we are rock bottom, we can't feel any worse than this. Let's see where we take it."

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