NBA-leading Jazz stay hot, Durant fuels Nets in Warriors reunion

By Sports Desk February 14, 2021

The NBA-leading Utah Jazz flexed their muscles with a 112-94 win over the Miami Heat on Saturday.

Utah (22-5) extended their winning streak to seven games after Donovan Mitchell fuelled the Jazz at home to last season's NBA Finals participants the Heat.

Jazz star Mitchell posted 26 points and Rudy Gobert added 16 points and 12 rebounds for Utah, who have won 18 of their last 19 games.

Kendrick Nunn had a team-high 23 points as the Heat had their four-game winning streak snapped.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant returned from coronavirus protocol to lead the way for the Brooklyn Nets in his reunion with the Golden State Warriors.

Durant, who won two championships over three years with the Warriors before joining the Nets in 2019, scored 20 points in Brooklyn's 134-117 victory.

"My time here at Golden State was so much fun," Durant, who watched a tribute video during the opening quarter, said after his return to Bay Area for the first time since leaving.

"It was such a big learning experience, especially learning the game of basketball, a different philosophy. I'm going to take that with me for the rest of my life."

Kyrie Irving posted 23 points and fellow Nets star James Harden finished with 19 points and 16 assists.

Stephen Curry had a game-high 27 points for the Warriors.

 

Booker stars as Suns sizzle

Devin Booker put up 36 points to inspire the Phoenix Suns to a 120-111 win over Eastern Conference leaders the Philadelphia 76ers. Joel Embiid's 35 points were not enough for the 76ers in Phoenix.

 

Tucker scoreless again

It was another scoreless display from P.J. Tucker in the Houston Rockets' 121-99 rout at the hands of the New York Knicks. In 31 minutes, Tucker missed all four of his field goals, going 0-of-four from three-point range.

 

Jazz dazzle

There is just no stopping the Jazz at the moment. Playing with confidence, Utah put on a show as they highlighted their elite ball movement against the helpless Heat.

 

Saturday's results

Phoenix Suns 120-111 Philadelphia 76ers
New York Knicks 121-99 Houston Rockets
Brooklyn Nets 134-117 Golden State Warriors
Utah Jazz 112-94 Miami Heat
Indiana Pacers 125-113 Atlanta Hawks

 

Lakers at Nuggets

The in-form Los Angeles Lakers (21-6) travel to the Denver Nuggets (14-11) on Sunday. Defending champions the Lakers are riding a seven-game winning streak, while the Nuggets have won back-to-back games.

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  • 'They tried to embarrass us' – Jimmy Butler on the Boston Celtics' statement-making Game 2 blowout 'They tried to embarrass us' – Jimmy Butler on the Boston Celtics' statement-making Game 2 blowout

    Jimmy Butler said the Boston Celtics "whipped our tail on our home floor" in their 127-102 beatdown of the Miami Heat in Game 2.

    The return of Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart from a foot injury ignited the Celtics on the offensive end just as much as defensively, with the team hitting a red-hot 20-of-40 from three-point range.

    Boston's five that played at least 30 minutes – Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Grant Williams, Al Horford and Smart – shot 17-of-29 from long-range, and combined for 23 assists, which was two more than Miami had as a team.

    Speaking to post-game media, Butler said the Celtics "tried to embarrass us", but pointed out that they were always going to be facing an uphill battle against such an outlier shooting performance.

    "You do have to move on, but I don't like to move on from this. It has to hurt," he said.

    "They tried to embarrass us – they did embarrass us. I think we got to realise that, or use it as fuel, but realise that the game can get out of hand when you're playing against a really good team like them that can score the ball and get stops.

    "They made shots that they missed last game. That's just what it is.

    "It's going to be hard to beat anybody when they shoot 50 per cent from the field and 50 per cent from three. They were the more physical team overall, and they got one on the road.

    "Overall, we just have to be better. We've got a tough job to do to go over there and win, but if they did it, we can do it as well."

    He added: "I look at it as 'it can't get too much worse'. They whipped our tail on our home floor.

    "I guess if they do it on their home floor it's supposed to happen, but I don't see us doing that again. 

    "The first half has been brutal for us in both of these games, we just got to come out and play harder from the jump and be ready, because they be throwing some haymakers in the first half."

    Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said he did not feel like his side played poorly – but that it felt like the Celtics wanted revenge for Game 1.

    "You definitely have to credit Boston," he said. "It's not just that they came in with great urgency and physicality – they did have that, for sure – they also played well. They played really well on both ends.

    "We know what they're capable of defensively – they've done this to some very good offenses. I'm sure they were not happy with us putting up 118 in Game 1, and they came out very disruptive. 

    "They got us out of our normal rhythm and flow, and the shot-making on the other end was very tough to overcome.

    "You get to this point – in the Conference Finals – you just have very good teams. Teams without many weaknesses, it's great competition.

    "This only counts as one, and that's what the experiences players and staff in the locker room understand. We don't like it, but they played extremely well."

  • Udoka: Celtics responded to being 'punked' against Heat with Game 2 win Udoka: Celtics responded to being 'punked' against Heat with Game 2 win

    Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka believes his side responded well to being "punked" by the Miami Heat, claiming a 127-102 win in Game 2 of their playoff series on Thursday.

    A 39-14 third quarter in the Heat's favour effectively decided Game 1 as the Celtics collapsed on the road, but bounced back, cutting down turnovers and putting four quarters together to split the first two games in Miami.

    Marcus Smart and Al Horford's returns to the line-up were critical for the Celtics as they claimed home-court advantage against the Eastern Conference's first seed, but it was a collective effort with 28 assists off 43 made field goals.

    Udoka praised his side's mental toughness in responding against a side that came at them in the opening game of the series.

    "I think we were upset with how that third quarter went, specifically how we got out-toughed," Udoka said post-match. "Wasn't a lot of schemes or defensive or offensive changes, they just came at us and kind of punked us in that third quarter.

    "We looked the other three quarters and how well we had done in winning those quarters, and knew if we just matched their physicality, we could be better. It kind of reminded us of Milwaukee a little bit – the first game – and didn't want to get caught off-guard again.

    "I think our guys have bounced back really well all year, especially the second half of the year. Haven't lost two games in a row in a while, and obviously having Marcus and Al back gave us a little boost as well."

    Smart was an important figure in his return from a foot injury, filling the stats sheet and finishing with 24 points, 12 assists, nine rebounds and three steals.

    Horford provided a little bit of everything meanwhile, ending the game with 10 points, three assists and rebounds as well as a steal and a block.

    Udoka commended the returning duo, allowing the team to capitalise on positive aspects from the first game.

    "It was great to have the vets back, obviously," he said. "A calming presence there. We didn't get off to our best start, we were a little slow to start but we fought right back into it.

    "After, I guess, the first five or six minutes we held them down scoring-wise, but it was a good overall effort. I felt we didn't play as poorly as the last game showed.

    "Like I said, we won three quarters and had a very bad third quarter, it was hard to overcome but we saw a lot of positives and areas we could attack."

  • Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart ignite Game 2 blowout of Miami Heat Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart ignite Game 2 blowout of Miami Heat

    The Boston Celtics rebounded from a disappointing Game 1 to thrash the Miami Heat 127-102 in Game 2 on Thursday.

    With the win, the Celtics have tied the series at 1-1 and snatched home-court advantage, with Game 3 and Game 4 to take place in Boston.

    In arguably their best half of the season, the Celtics were nearly flawless to open the game, shooting nine-of-11 from three-point range in the first quarter on the way to putting up two consecutive 35-point frames, leading 70-45 at half-time.

    The Heat threatened to make things interesting in the third period as Jimmy Butler piled on 16 of his game-high 29 points but the Celtics had an answer every time, shooting 20-of-40 from three for the contest, including 17-of-29 from the five Boston players to play more than 30 minutes each.

    Jayson Tatum finished with a team-high 27 points on eight-of-13 shooting with five rebounds and five assists, while Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart had 24 on eight-of-22 shooting with nine rebounds, 12 assists and three steals.

    Jaylen Brown chipped in an efficient 24 points on nine-of-17 shooting, and Grant Williams was excellent once again for the Celtics with 19 points off the bench, shooting five-of-seven from the field, and was +37 in plus/minus over his 32 minutes. Only Payton Pritchard finished with a higher plus/minus, finishing plus +39 in his 23 minutes, scoring 10 points with two assists in Derrick White's absence.

    After dominating the 2020 Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics, averaging over 20 points per game on 60 per cent shooting, Bam Adebayo had his second straight disappointing showing. After posting 10 points and four rebounds in Game 1, he followed it up with just six points and nine rebounds. 

    Adebayo is averaging 14 points and seven rebounds in the playoffs thus far, significantly down from his season averages of 19 points and 10 rebounds.

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