Former NBA player and Michigan State star Adreian Payne has died at the age of 31 after being shot in Orlando. 

The Orange County Sheriff's Office confirmed on Monday that Payne was transported to hospital following reports of a shooting at 01:34 local time and was later pronounced dead. 

Payne was a first-round pick in the 2014 draft and played 107 NBA games, averaging 4.0 points and 2.9 rebounds across spells with the Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic. 

He played professionally with Lithuanian side Juventus Utena earlier this year and has also previously represented sides in Turkey, France, Greece and China. 

A male has been arrested for the shooting on a first-degree murder warrant. 

Victor Oladipo reflected on the difference a year can make as the injury-plagued star inspired the Miami Heat to the victory they needed to close out their first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks.

It has been a luckless period for Oladipo, who has appeared in just 96 of a possible 309 regular-season NBA games over the past four years due to a combination of knee and quadriceps issues.

This season alone Oladipo has featured in only eight regular-season matches for the Heat but with Kyle Lowry (hamstring) and Jimmy Butler (inflammation in the right knee) both absent for Game 5, he stepped up to help the Heat to a 97-94 triumph and 4-1 series victory.

Oladipo had a game-high 23 points along with three assists and three steals. It was the first time he had contributed 20 points in a playoff game since playing against the Heat back in the NBA bubble in 2020 when featuring for the Indiana Pacers.

Speaking after the game, Oladipo reflected on his journey saying in quotes reported by ESPN: "A year ago today I was expecting and waiting for my next surgery. 

"I remember a year ago today, around this time last year, I was sitting in a dark room by myself and just broke down. 

"Not because I quit, but because I was at the lowest point I could be at. And now, God has put me in this position today so I just made the most of it.

"I could have done two things. I could have stopped. Or I could have ran right through it and I'm still running through it."

Speaking to NBA TV, Oladipo added his belief this is just the beginning for him.

"There's nothing I can't handle," he said. "At the end of the day, I feel like I can come back and get through anything. 

"So, when they told me I needed to start tonight, I just stepped up to the plate and did everything I could to help my team win.

"I credit my coaching staff and my teammates for believing in me, my family, my God in heaven for getting me through. It's only the beginning."

It was a real team effort for the Heat with Max Strus putting up 15 points, including a special personal 10-0 streak from 2:29 in the second quarter to 1:22.

Bam Adebayo also had 20 points on the back of 7-for-11 shooting and pitched in with 11 rebounds.

"Everybody that played had their fingerprints on this. We clearly had some adversity in this game not having Kyle or Jimmy, and our group doesn't even blink," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.

"That's not even something we have to address. We just pivot and put in the game plan and everybody gets ready and tapes their ankles and gets out there and competes."

The Heat can now look forward to an Eastern Conference semi-final match up against either the Philadelphia 76ers or the Toronto Raptors – the former leading the latter 3-2 in that series.

Ja Morant produced a dazzling fourth-quarter display and game-winning lay-up to earn the Memphis Grizzlies a 3-2 series lead in their first round playoffs against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday.

The Grizzlies triumphed 111-109 over the Timberwolves, led by Morant with 30 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists.

Morant made the decisive contribution with a play with 3.7 seconds left with scores at 109-109, bucketing a left-handed lay-up from Dillon Brooks' inbound.

Memphis had trailed by 11 points in the last quarter before their rally, with recently crowned NBA Most Improved Player Morant scoring 18 points in the fourth. Morant had sparked after a massive third-quarter dunk.

Desmond Bane added 25 points for the Grizzlies, while Karl-Anthony Towns was excellent with 28 points including five three-pointers and 12 rebounds.

Heat seal series win over Hawks

The Miami Heat completed a 4-1 series victory over the Atlanta Hawks with a 97-94 win, despite the absences of Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry.

The Hawks failed to get a shot away in the final play in the dying seconds to force over-time as the Heat triumphed led by Victor Oladipo (23 points) and Bam Adebayo (20 points and 11 rebounds).

Trae Young struggled again with 11 points on two-of-12 shooting from the field, finishing the five-game series with 30 turnovers.

Bridges guides Suns into 3-2 lead

Mikal Bridges produced a 24-point second half as the Phoenix Suns won 112-97 over the New Orleans Pelicans to move ahead 3-2 in their first round series.

Bridges finished with 31 points for the game while Chris Paul had 22 points, 11 assists and three steals for the Suns who were without Devin Booker (hamstring).

The Suns, who came into the playoffs with the best record in the NBA, led from start to finish. Brandon Ingram top scored for the Pelicans - who had six turnovers in the first quarter - with 22 points.

Jimmy Butler was ruled out of Game 5 between the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday due to a knee injury. 

The Heat took a 3-1 lead in the Eastern Conference first-round series on Sunday, with Butler contributing 36 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. 

However, the six-time NBA All-Star joined Kyle Lowry (hamstring) in missing out as the series returned to FTX Arena. 

Butler has impressed against the Hawks, becoming just the third player in franchise history – after LeBron James and Dwyane Wade – to post 45 points, five rebounds and five assists in a playoff game in Game 2. 

Trae Young acknowledged feeling smothered by the Miami Heat's defensive schemes after another poor showing in the Atlanta Hawks' 110-86 defeat in Game 4 on Sunday.

Despite hitting the game-winning shot in Game 3, Young went six-of-14 from the floor and it was more of the same on Sunday, going three-of-11 from the floor for nine points and only one attempt from two-point range.

Notably in the second half, Young had as many turnovers as shot attempts with four, as Heat coach Erik Spoelstra threw numerous looks at him.

Either forcing the ball out of his hands or denying him entry into the paint, Young concedes he has not been regularly guarded in such a manner at professional or collegiate level.

"I haven't been guarded like this in a long time," Young said post-game. "Obviously you're guarded like this every now and then, but [not] consistently since like, high school.

"And it's way better competition. It's harder for me to score through the double-teams and faceguards at this level.

"I have to learn how to fight through it and make it easier for myself and my teammates. I'll figure it out."

Hawks coach Nate McMillan has been just as paralysed by the Heat's defensive attention for Young, who has gone 20-of-57 from the floor and averaged six turnovers a game for the series.

Without a legitimate second ball-handling option, Atlanta have had to persist with the 23-year-old carrying the ball up instead of working off screens.

"There's a guy in Trae's face as soon as the ball goes to him," McMillan said. "They're basically playing a box and one and switching, committing two or three guys to him."

The Denver Nuggets narrowly avoided a series sweep on Sunday, coming up big on both ends in the final seconds to beat the Golden State Warriors 126-121.

Down 17 points at one stage and nine to start the fourth quarter, the Warriors were able to claw their way level through Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, who combined for 55 points for the game and on 22-of-43 shooting from the floor.

The Warriors could not seize the opportunity to lead with scores tied at 121 however, when Andrew Wiggins missed a tip-dunk off a Thompson miss, an open catch-and-shoot three in the corner.

A Monte Morris floater gave the Nuggets the lead with 33.5 seconds remaining, and Austin Rivers' steal from the consequent Otto Porter Jr. inbound effectively settled the result. Will Barton's corner three from a Nikola Jokic feed was punctuation mark.

Jokic was exceptional with Denver's season on the line, coming up with 37 points on 14-of-21 shooting, eight rebounds and six assists.

Pels level series against Suns

The New Orleans Pelicans have managed to level the series with the first-seeded Phoenix Suns, comfortably winning Game 4 118-103.

The combination of the Pels' defensive flexibility and length combined with the Suns' continued struggles in injured star Devin Booker's absence has made this a series.

While Deandre Ayton was able to provide a presence under the basket with 23 points and eight rebounds, Chris Paul and Mikal Bridges shot a combined six-of-19 from the floor.

Jonas Valanciunas came up with important buckets down the stretch on his way to 26 points and 15 rebounds.

Heat and Bucks take commanding leads in East

The Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks now have the chance to advance in the playoffs on their home floors, defeating the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls respectively. 

The Heat defeated the Hawks 110-86 to take a 3-1 series lead, with the latter held to just 15 points in the second quarter.

It was a particularly tough night for Trae Young after his game-winner in Game 3, taking only four shots in the second half and committing as many turnovers.

The Milwaukee Bucks also took a 3-1 series lead on Sunday, claiming a big 119-95 win over the Chicago Bulls.

Grayson Allen provided crucial minutes off the bench with 27 points off 10-of-12 shooting, including six-of-seven from beyond the arc, as well as three steals.

It was a doubly painful night on Friday for Miami Heat point guard Kyle Lowry, limping out of Game 3 against the Atlanta Hawks with a hamstring injury, before seeing the Hawks win it late on.

Lowry pulled up in the third quarter of the 111-110 defeat for the Eastern Conference's number one seeds at State Farm Arena.

The Hawks win brought the series margin back to 2-1, but it required some late-game heroics from Trae Young to get the job done.

Trailing by one point with 12 seconds to go, Atlanta did not call a timeout, which enabled Young to put his side up by one with less than five seconds on the clock.

Not hiding his feelings post-game, Lowry told ESPN: "I'm pissed the f*** off," before referring to himself as the X-Men character "Wolverine," famous for his ability to heal quickly.

The 36-year-old suffered the injury with around two minutes left in the third quarter and with Miami leading by 13 points, before Atlanta produced a fine comeback to steal it at the death.

"All I know right now is it's a hamstring," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "But I do not know the severity of it and we'll find out more tomorrow."

Lowry made just two of seven field goal attempts on the night, and two of six from beyond the arc, as well as registering four rebounds and five assists before his game came to a premature end.

Heat team-mate Jimmy Butler added: "I know we love that guy as our point guard. If he's with us, yippee-ki-yay. If he's not, somebody has got to step in and do his job.

"It's very, very hard to do. But we got enough in that locker room to try to bring to the table what Kyle does. He'll get his treatment and we'll see where he's at."

Game 4 takes place on Sunday in Atlanta.

Trae Young said he had no doubts that his game-winning shot would go in, and gave a special mention to the role players who ignited the Atlanta Hawks' 111-110 win against the Miami Heat.

The crucial win pulled the series margin back to 2-1, avoiding a dreaded 3-0 lead for the Heat, but it required some late-game heroics from Young to get the job done.

Trailing by one point with 12 seconds to go, Atlanta did not call a timeout, instead opting to live or die with Young's decision making. Weaving through the defense, Young got to his floater and made no mistake, putting his side up by one with less than five seconds on the clock.

Speaking with post-game media, Young broke down what was going through his mind on that crucial last shot.

"I didn't have any doubt that if I shot it that I was going to make it, but I was really just trying to make the right read," he said.

"I was driving to the middle and waiting to see if somebody helped, and to be honest I was going to hit a shooter if they helped, or if they didn't I was going to go to the basket like I did.

"We just didn't give up. We didn't stop fighting, or stop playing. In the NBA, teams are going to make runs.

"They made their run in that third quarter, and got going, and it was about our time to make a run too."

He went on to finish with 24 points and eight assists, shooting six-of-14 from the field and 10-of-12 from the free throw line, but he was just one of seven Hawks to score at least nine points in the contest.

The All-NBA point guard made a point of shouting out the three-man group of Bogdan Bogdanovic, Delon Wright and Onyeka Okongwu, who played a massive role in coming back from a 94-80 deficit with less than 10 minutes to play.

"[The chemistry] was great," he said. "It started on the defensive end for Delon and 'O' [Okongwu].

"They really helped us get out in transition and push the ball – and when 'Bogey' [Bogdanovic] gets hot like that, he's one of the best shooters in this league. He got going tonight and it really sparked our offense.

"This was a total team effort, and a total team win, so it was a great job by our whole team tonight."

With the Hawks' season on the line, and coming off a Game 2 in which he had 10 turnovers, Young touched on the adjustments he made coming into Friday's game.

"I didn't think I took care of the ball in Game 2, so I wanted to come here and take care of the ball, and at least give our team a shot on the offensive end," he said. "I just wanted to play the right way.

"I think in the first two games [of the series] – having to really battle to get into the position we were in [through the play-in tournament] really wore on us. 

"I think tonight showed that when we've got our guys [fresher] and we take care of the ball, we can play. 

"It's only one game, so I've got to do it again."

Trae Young hit a dramatic game-winner with less than five seconds remaining in the Atlanta Hawks' 111-110 home win against the Miami Heat.

The win is the Hawks' first of the series, keeping things alive at 2-1 with Game 4 remaining in Atlanta, while Kyle Lowry may be missing for the Heat after leaving Friday's game with a hamstring complaint.

Momentum switched hands throughout the contest, with Atlanta putting up 39 points in the second quarter to lead 61-54 at half-time, before the Heat came out on fire in the third, winning the frame 31-16 to take an eight-point lead into the last.

Miami extended their lead to 94-80 with 9:06 to play in the fourth quarter, when Bogdan Bogdanovic and Onyeka Okongwu began to drag the home side back into the game.

Bogdanovic hit a trio of three-pointers in less than three minutes, while Okongwu had seven points down the stretch and was the Hawks' primary defensive presence on the interior, more than holding his own against Bam Adebayo and Jimmy Butler.

But after a P.J. Tucker three-ball put the Heat up 110-109 with 54 seconds to play, only one man was going to have the final say for the Hawks.

When Butler missed a jump shot with 12 seconds left, the Hawks opted not to call a time-out, letting Young make his way up the court quickly, weaving his way into the lane for one of his trusty floaters, getting the friendly home-rim roll.

He finished with 24 points on six-of-14 shooting, also dishing nine assists. Bogdanovic had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and De'Andre Hunter scored 17, including some important buckets when the Hawks were sputtering.

Butler's desperation three on the buzzer fell short, but he played well, scoring 20 (eight-of-20 shooting) with 10 rebounds and eight assists, while Tyler Herro led the Heat in scoring with 24 off the bench and Max Strus had 20, hitting five-of-10 from three-point range.

Paul, Ayton carry Phoenix

The duo of Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton led the top-seeded Phoenix Suns to a crucial Game 3 114-111 win against the New Orleans Pelicans to take a 2-1 lead in the series.

With Devin Booker absent for at least this game and the next, Paul had to take on a greater offensive burden than usual, but he did it in style, racking up 14 assists and scoring 28 points on 10-of-18 shooting.

He needed someone to get hot with him, and Ayton rose to the occasion, scoring 28 points on 13-of-20 shooting and grabbing 17 rebounds, with three steals and a block. The performance demonstrated the ability to be an offensive focal point that was envisioned when he was selected number one overall in the 2018 NBA Draft.

It was far from smooth sailing for the Suns, as the Pelicans kept it close throughout, and even poked their head in front at 93-92 with less than six minutes to play.

But the Suns as has been the story of the Suns' season, they have been the best clutch team in the NBA, and once again showed why. Paul's surgical precision on the offensive end, and a sea of swarming length and physicality on the defensive end, was too much for a young Pelicans team that played three rookies in the fourth quarter (Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III and Jose Alvarado).

Brandon Ingram had 34 points on 11-of-19 shooting in a strong performance for New Orleans, and C.J. McCollum also contributed 30 points (11-of-23 shooting), but no other Pelican could score more than a dozen.

Bucks cruise without Middleton

The Milwaukee Bucks were shot out of a cannon and never allowed the Chicago Bulls a foothold into the game, winning 111-81 to take a 2-1 series lead.

With extended minutes due to Khris Middleton's knee injury, Grayson Allen set the tone to close the first quarter, scoring three consecutive three-pointers in just 62 seconds on his way to a game-high tally of 22 points.

With 1:15 to play in the first half, the Bucks opened up their lead to 60-37 as they dominated both ends of the floor.

Giannis Antetokounmpo only needed to play 29 minutes before getting an early rest, scoring 18 points (seven-of-12 shooting) with seven rebounds and nine assists, and the Bucks were plus 36 during his time on the floor.

After only playing six minutes in the Game 2 loss, Bobby Portis made his case for his playoff value with 18 points and 16 rebounds, hitting four of his eight three-point attempts.

Jimmy Butler became only the third Miami Heat player to have three 40-point playoff games with a big performance in Tuesday's Game 2 win against the Atlanta Hawks.

The six-time All-Star finished with 45 in a 115-105 win to give the Heat a 2-0 lead in the first-round series.

Only LeBron James (also three) and Dwyane Wade (seven) have previously had as many 40-point games for the Heat in the postseason as Butler.

Indeed, only James (26.9) and Wade (22.6) have averaged more points per game for the Heat in the postseason than Butler (21.9).

And coach Erik Spoelstra, who led a Heat team containing James and Wade to titles in 2012 and 2013, considers Butler worthy of comparison to the latter.

"It actually is a good comparison," Spoelstra said. "If you get in those pressure moments and the moments of truth, if you're on the other side, would you ever want to just give Dwyane Wade an open three?

"You would not, because he's a killer. He's going to seize that moment.

"And Jimmy has a lot of those same qualities. You can say whatever the percentage is – throw those all out when it becomes about winning. He'll find a way to kill you."

Butler's latest display was unlike anything previously seen by a Heat player, though.

At the start of the week, no player had finished with 40-plus points, five-plus rebounds, five-plus assists, no turnovers and no fouls in a playoff game since turnovers became an official statistic in 1977-78.

Butler became the second player to achieve such a stat line in two days, following in the footsteps of breakout Dallas Mavericks star Jalen Brunson.

The two previous 40-point playoff games from Butler had come in the 2020 run to the NBA Finals, which played out in the 'bubble' in Orlando.

But Butler, now paired with point guard Kyle Lowry, feels he is "a different player" in 2022.

"I am a different player now than I was then," he said. "I just always want to play basketball the right way and do whatever it takes to help this team, this organisation win. That's why they brought me here.

"I'm not as ball-dominant as I was in the bubble. We've got a point guard, and that's Kyle, and I love him being a point guard.

"I just get to go out there and try to score. And if I can't score, pass the ball. We're a different team; I'm a different player."

The Phoenix Suns lost Devin Booker to a hamstring injury as they were stunned 125-114 by the New Orleans Pelicans who squared up their first-round playoffs series.

Brandon Ingram scored 37 points, including 26 in the second half, with 11 rebounds and nine assists, while CJ McCollum added 23 points including six three-pointers.

But the hamstring injury to Suns All-Star guard Booker was the major talking point, leaving the Western Conference's top seed severely weakened if he is out for an extended period.

The Suns were leading 61-56 at half-time with Booker having scored 31 first-half points including shooting seven-of-11 from three-point range, before he left the game in the third quarter and did not return.

Chris Paul could not lift the Suns in Booker's absence, finishing with 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Mikal Bridges added 19 points.

 

Butler on fire as Heat win

Jimmy Butler scored 45 points with 15-of-25 shooting from the field as the Miami Heat claimed a 2-0 lead in their series against the Atlanta Hawks with a 115-105 win.

The Heat went on an 11-0 run the third quarter to open up the game-winning lead led by Butler while Tyler Herro (15 points) and Max Strus (14 points) contributed well.

Trae Young, coming off a playoff career-low display, managed 25 points for the Hawks with Bogdan Bogdanovic landing five triples in his 29-point haul.

 

Grizzlies claim franchise-best playoff win

The Memphis Grizzlies overcame a Ja Morant injury scare as they levelled their series against the Minnesota Timberwolves with a 124-96 victory.

Morant left the court in the third quarter after copping a knee to his left leg but returned, finishing with 23 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists. That was Morant's third career playoffs double-double.

The victory was the Grizzlies' largest in their franchise playoff history, despite Anthony Edwards' best efforts with 20 points and six rebounds for the Timberwolves.

Jayson Tatum's buzzer-beating layup gave the Boston Celtics a dramatic 115-114 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in their series opener on Sunday.

Tatum scored 16 of his 31 points in the second half, along with adding eight assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal. His final two points came in the frenetic final seconds, cutting towards the basket off Kevin Durant for Marcus Smart, spinning past Kyrie Irving and finishing with as time expired.

Smart particularly showed poise, forcing the closeout from Bruce Brown and Nic Claxton before dishing, along with adding 20 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.

While Irving scored a game-high 39 points for the Nets, Durant put up 23 points but went nine-of-24 from the floor, including some open, trailing looks in transition. One miss at 102-98 would have made it a three-possession game in Brooklyn's favour midway through the fourth quarter, but a miss leading to a Jaylen Brown dunk brought it back to one.

It was also at that point where Boston were zero-for-seven for the quarter from the floor, and momentum suddenly shifted.

Giannis yields Bucks win in opener

Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 26 points and 17 rebounds as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Chicago Bulls 93-86.

The defending NBA champions blew a 16-point lead, but recovered with a Jrue Holiday triple that triggered an 8-0 run.

The Bulls still had their chances, with Zach LaVine missing a game-tying three-pointer with 29 seconds remaining in what was a rough shooting night. LaVine and DeMar DeRozan shot a combined 12-of-44 as the team connected on only 32.3 per cent of field goal attempts.

Red-hot Robinson gives Heat opening victory

Duncan Robinson set a franchise playoff record with eight three-pointers in a catch-and-shoot clinic, leading the Miami Heat to a 115-91 win against the Atlanta Hawks in their series opener.

Robinson scored 27 points on nine-of-10 shooting for the Eastern Conference's first seed, who had three players see over 20 minutes of game time off the bench.

Trae Young had his worst-ever shooting night for the Hawks, making one field goal out of 12 attempts, as well as committing six turnovers.

CP3 takes over for Suns

Chris Paul scored 19 points in a brilliant fourth quarter, as the Phoenix Suns secured a 110-99 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

As the Pelicans cut a 23-point deficit to single digits to two possessions, the Suns needed the 36-year-old, who eventually finish with 30 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and three steals.

Despite 25 points from CJ McCollum, the Pelicans finished with the unusual statistic of a better three-point field goal percentage (39.1) than total field goal percentage (37.9).

Trae Young knew he just needed to stay aggressive in the second half of the Atlanta Hawks' 107-101 play-in win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, and said he expects a fun series against the Miami Heat.

It was a tale of two halves for the Hawks' All-NBA point guard, as he struggled with six points in the first, before exploding with 32 after half-time.

Bogdan Bogdanovic was crucial off the bench for Atlanta, hitting six-of-eight shots for 19 points and three steals in his 29 minutes, while Onyeka Okongwu invigorated his side after Clint Capela went down with an injury, finishing with a plus/minus of plus 21 while Capela was minus 21.

Speaking to post-game media, Young said he was always looking to score, despite how tough the Cavaliers were making it for him early.

"Early in the game, they were making some reads and making some switches, and I was trying to get my teammates involved," he said. 

"I missed a couple shots, but I needed to stay aggressive, and that's all I did in the second half. We just took care of business.

"The team we beat tonight definitely deserved a playoff spot, but this year it's so tough. They weren't able to make it. It's just a testament to our team that we kept fighting."

Young then touched on the upcoming series against the Heat, saying he is looking forward to the playoff atmosphere when they head to Miami on Sunday.

"I mean, [Miami have] been clicking on all cylinders, especially recently, [and] they've got a little bit more rest than we have, so we got to be ready to bring it," he said.

"We know the crowd is going to be crazy, and the environment is gonna be fun, so [we have] got to be ready to be locked in and take care of business."

Hawks coach Nate McMillan was inspired by his team's fight, and his point guard.

"This team is built for moments like this," he said.

"Trae has a great deal of confidence in his game, his ability and he continued to believe. I didn't see any panic in his play. 

"He came out in the second half [and] remained aggressive. Those shots started to fall, the same shots that he was taking in the first half, they started to fall in the second half."

A Trae Young masterclass in the second half of the Atlanta Hawks' play-in clash against the Cleveland Cavaliers led his side to a 107-101 victory.

After only scoring six points in the first half, Young had 32 in the second, finishing with 38 points on 13-of-25 shooting (four-of-11 from deep) to go with nine assists.

It was a gutsy comeback from the Hawks, who trailed 28-14 in the first quarter and 49-61 with 30 seconds to play in the first half.

Overall, the Hawks outscored the Cavaliers 56 to 40 in the last two quarters, and after committing seven turnovers in the opening frame, cleaned things up significantly and only committed six more across the next three quarters.

Cleveland's Darius Garland had a difficult shooting night, finishing nine-of-27 from the field for his 21 points, but he showed excellent command of his side throughout, dishing nine assists, snatching three steals and finishing with a plus/minus of plus three in his 43 minutes. This means in the five minutes Garland was sitting on the bench, the Cavs were outscored by eight.

With the win, the Hawks have earned a seven-game series against the top seed of the Eastern Conference – the Miami Heat.

Pelicans survive Clippers comeback

The New Orleans Pelicans survived a massive second-half surge from the Los Angeles Clippers to fight back and win on the road 105-101. 

Through the first half, it looked like it would be smooth sailing for the Pelicans as they jumped out to a 56-42 lead with one minute to play in the second quarter.

Los Angeles were without star Paul George after it was announced he had tested positive for coronavirus and had to adhere to health and safety protocols, but they found a second wind to start the third period.

The Clippers started the second half on a 20-to-two run, flipping a 56-46 deficit to a 66-58 lead as Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris started to catch fire.

After being outscored 38-18 in the third term, the Pelicans began the final period trailing 84-74, but it would be their turn to make a run, rallying to tie the game at 88-88 with 7:35 to play.

Brandon Ingram was the star of the show, finishing with 30 points (14-of-21 shooting) with six assists and six rebounds, but the clutch long-range shooting from rookie Trey Murphy III was the catalyst for their surge down the stretch.

Murphy came off the bench and finished with a game-high plus/minus of plus 26 in his 24 minutes, hitting four-of-six threes, including three of them in the last 10 minutes.

Jackson and Morris finished with 27 points each for the Clippers, while the former also added eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals.

The win means the New Orleans Pelicans will face the Phoenix Suns in a best-of-seven series, beginning on Sunday.

 

Jarrett Allen could be a possible inclusion for the Cleveland Cavaliers when they face the Atlanta Hawks on Friday.

The Athletic's Shams Charania reported Allen, who has been out since March due to a fractured finger, has not been ruled out for Friday despite being listed by Cleveland as questionable.

Following their 115-108 loss to the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday in their opening play-in game, the Cavaliers now face a must-win situation to keep their season alive.

The 23-year-old All-Star averaged 16.3 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game and held a career-best net rating of +26 before the injury, sustained in March against the Toronto Raptors, with the Cavs ending the regular season with a 7-11 record from that point.

Allen's inclusion would give Cleveland renewed flexibility with their rotation, using Lauri Markkanen and Evan Mobley in different defensive matchups on the back of Allen's rim protection.

With a win on Friday, JB Bickerstaff's side would secure a first-round playoff matchup against the Miami Heat, the Eastern Conference's first seed.

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