Jrue Holiday is happy to do things the hard way occasionally after helping the Boston Celtics survive a fightback from the Indiana Pacers.

The Eastern Conference-leading Celtics battled to a 129-124 victory at TD Garden on Tuesday to go 37-11 for the season.

Indiana rallied from 20 points down late in the first half to make it 127-124, but big back-to-back stops kept the Celtics' lead intact.

Holiday saw out the victory for his side with two free throws and has no complaints about being made to sweat for the win.

"We've got to be able to fight through everything," he said. "Fight through expectations, fight through being up 20.

"Fight through somebody having a great third quarter and finishing games. If it was easy the whole time, what's the fun in that?"

Jayson Tatum scored 30 points and came up with two blocks in the final 30 seconds as the Celtics made it five wins in six games.

Jaylen Brown also impressed with 25 points, while Derrick White added 24 for Boston, who claimed the season series with Indiana 3-2.

"You have to be able to win games with your defense," coach Joe Mazzulla said.

"It's a tough balance for us because we always talk about how the game's connected. You can't have one without the other.

"But there's moments when they both have to be elite. We had really good defense down the stretch and made some winning plays."

Aaron Nesmith had 26 points and 12 rebounds and Pascal Siakam added 23 as Indiana, who had won three in a row, fell short of a comeback.

"We got outplayed in the second half, for sure," Brown said. 

"But when it came down to it in the wire, fourth quarter, we were able to nudge out and win just by matching the physicality. 

"We rebounded better in the fourth quarter, a lot better than we did all game, and then that just helped us win."

The Celtics, boasting the best record in NBA, face the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday. The 27-21 Pacers meet the New York Knicks the same day.

Jayson Tatum had no regrets after being ejected for the second time in six weeks on Saturday, being pulled up for back-to-back technical fouls as the Boston Celtics crushed the Houston Rockets.

Tatum had 27 points and eight assists in support of Jaylen Brown's 32 points as the Celtics stayed perfect at home, claiming a 145-113 victory over their former coach Ime Udoka and the Rockets.

League-leading Boston are now up to 30-9 and are 19-0 at TD Garden, having never previously started a season with more than 17 straight home wins.

The game ended on a slightly sour note for the Celtics, though, as Tatum was removed for two technicals in quick succession. 

Having received his first for complaining about a non-call when his arm was clearly struck during an attempted dunk with just over 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Tatum continued to berate the officials then shouted at referee CJ Washington after being ejected.

Tatum has no regrets over his behaviour, however, suggesting he chose the right moment to air his grievances as Boston closed in on a blowout win.

"I'm a pretty self-aware person. I understand the time and score of the game, Tatum said. "The game was pretty much over. I've got to stand up for myself. I was frustrated. 

"At some point throughout the course of the night, you've got to stand up for yourself. This is not something I do every game or every night. Tonight, I just had to let them know how I felt.”

Boston coach Joe Mazzulla echoed those sentiments, saying: "In the NBA you have that space of having to defend yourself, and for me having to defend my guys. 

"There's a time and a place for everything, and you've just got to pick and choose your spots."

Asked about the non-call which led to Tatum's first technical, Mazzulla said: "When it comes to stuff like that, I try not to have an opinion."

Saturday's win – Boston's 10th in their last 13 games – came just 48 hours after a 33-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, and Brown recognised the importance of bouncing back.

"Last game we didn't feel like we were at our best," Brown said. "Today we wanted to come out and make sure we stayed undefeated on our home court."

Jayson Tatum scored 26 of his season high-tying 45 points in the fourth quarter and overtime and the Boston Celtics remained unbeaten at home with a 127-120 victory Wednesday over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Jaylen Brown added 35 points and 11 rebounds to help the Celtics improve to 18-0 at home for the first time in franchise history. They have won 25 consecutive regular-season home games, dating back to last March.

Anthony Edwards scored 29 points and Karl-Anthony Towns had 25 with 13 rebounds for the Western Conference-leading Timberwolves, who trail only Boston overall.

Tatum scored the game’s final nine points after Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s 3-pointer with 2:44 left in overtime gave Minnesota a 120-118 lead.

Tatum made a pair of free throws, a driving layup and sank a 3-pointer to make it 125-120 with 51 seconds to play. His two free throws with 13 seconds remaining capped the scoring.

Wembanyama has triple-double in Spurs’ win

Victor Wembanyama notched his first NBA triple-double with 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to lead the San Antonio Spurs to a 130-108 win over the Detroit Pistons in a matchup of two of the league’s worst teams.

Wembanyama achieved the milestone in just 21 minutes, going 6 of 16 from the field while missing all four of his 3-point attempts.

In NBA history, only Russell Westbrook had a triple-double in fewer minutes (20) for Oklahoma City in 2014.

San Antonio had eight players score in double figures, including Keldon Johnson (17) and Devin Vassell (16), to snap a five-game slide.

Jalen Duren had 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Pistons, who dropped their sixth in a row since breaking their NBA record-tying 28-game losing streak.

Pelicans start fast in win over Warriors

Jonas Valanciunas had 21 points and nine rebounds and Zion Williamson added 19 points, seven assists and five rebounds to lead the New Orleans Pelicans to a 141-105 win over the Golden State Warriors.

The Pelicans had eight players score in double digits in their sixth win in seven games. They scored 46 points in the first quarter and led by 25 midway through the second.

Moses Moody scored 21 points off the bench for the Warriors, who have lost six of eight.

Golden State's 36-point loss was its largest at home since a 37-point defeat to San Antonio on March 26, 2007. 

Jayson Tatum poured in 38 points with a season-high eight 3-pointers and Jaylen Brown added 31 points to help the Boston Celtics snap the Indiana Pacers’ six-game winning streak, 118-101 on Saturday.

Tatum, who also had 13 rebounds and six assists, combined with Brown for 27 of Boston’s 46 baskets on a night they never trailed.

Bennedict Mathurin scored 20 points and Tyrese Haliburton had 17 points, seven assists and six rebounds and five steals. Indiana was held to a season-low point total and lost the rebounding battle, 70-42.

The Pacers were within 84-81 entering the fourth quarter, but the Celtics went up 100-85 on Tatum’s 3-pointer with 7:30 remaining.

Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis played only six minutes due to an eye laceration.

Rockets survive Antetokounmpo’s 48 points

Alperen Sengun had 21 points and the Houston Rockets overcame 48 points and 17 rebounds from Giannis Antetokounmpo to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks, 112-108.

Antetokounmpo shot 16 of 25 from the field for his seventh straight double-double but teammate Damian Lillard shot 5 of 16, including 1 for 8 from long range, and missed a season-high three free throws on 10 attempts.

Jalen Green scored 16 points and Fred VanVleet added 14 with seven assists for Houston, which has won three of four following a three-game skid.  

Randle leads Knicks over Wizards

Julius Randle scored 39 points and Jalen Brunson had 33 as the New York Knicks won their fourth straight game, 121-105 over the Washington Wizards.

Isaiah Hartenstein grabbed 19 rebounds as New York showed no letup following an impressive 128-92 rout of the 76ers a night earlier.

Kyle Kuzma had 27 points and Deni Avdija added 23 for Washington, which has lost four in a row and seven of eight.

Tyrese Haliburton and the Indiana Pacers savoured "a very special" night after they saw off the Boston Celtics in the closing stages of a dramatic in-season tournament quarterfinal.

Indiana has reached the final four stage in Las Vegas and will face the winner of Tuesday's game between the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks in the semifinals.

The Pacers won 122-112 on Monday, spurred on by a tiebreaking four-point play from Haliburton with 1:33 left, which delighted an electric home crowd and sparked a decisive 9-0 run.

Haliburton had 26 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds to record his first career triple-double at the perfect time, putting his team two wins away from NBA Cup glory.

He had missed Saturday's win over the Miami Heat with a respiratory infection and conceded he felt "dead" in a first half where he struggled with his breathing, but after using an inhaler at halftime the 23-year-old was able to produce a memorable second-half performance that led his team to a famous victory.

Haliburton was thrilled to upset the odds against Boston, who blew out Indiana 155-104 in November and came into the quarterfinal with a league-leading 15-4 record.

"We have wanted to be in this situation all year – and here we are," Haliburton said, per ESPN.

"Now it's not just about being here. It's about winning.

"It feels good to win, especially in a game where nobody expected us to. The atmosphere was crazy.

"It means the world to me to represent Indiana and this organization. I don't even know if it was as much about what was at stake, as it was about what they did to us the last time. I think that left a bad taste in our mouths."

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle felt the tournament clash was like a playoff game.

"The thing about the in-season tournament is that as you advance, you're going to play two more games – win or lose in the quarterfinals – against better opponents," he said. 

"And so this is something that's great for us because we need high level competition. 

"It really is another thing that is a simulator of playoff basketball. So it really helps us. And so, coming out with the win was big for a lot of reasons that I mentioned.

"But I know this is very special to Tyrese as well."

Center Myles Turner has been with the Pacers since 2015 so is well qualified to put the atmosphere and occasion into context.

"I haven't heard it like this here in like three or four years, probably since Victor Oladipo was here," he said after scoring 17 points and adding 10 boards.

"The energy was just incredible. I think this city really started rallying around this team. The story, the backstory of it all makes it the most special.

"And the fact that he [Haliburton] got his opportunity, he is able to take it and run with it ... I mean, it's just dope to see where this franchise, where I started with to what it's becoming and what it potentially can become from the same level. 

"It's honestly, like I said, it goes back to the atmosphere. I haven't heard MVP chants, maybe when Oladipo was here, but Ty's really come in and taken over and it's fun stuff."

Jayson Tatum had 32 points and 12 rebounds for Boston, while Jaylen Brown scored 30 points and added nine boards.

But those efforts were still not enough to prevent elimination as Boston played without injured All-Star Kristaps Porzingis.

The defeat left Tatum disappointed to miss out on the Las Vegas showpiece as the in-season tournament continues to gain momentum and popularity.

"We got to just be more connected defensively," he said. "But, I mean, it's the NBA. Sometimes guys are going to make plays.

"He [Haliburton] hit some tough shots. So it's kind of two fold. Guys get paid a lot of money to play basketball, and they're pretty good.

"Yeah. I wanted to go to Vegas, I didn't want to go home. I wanted to go Vegas, so yeah, I'm mad. Next year, I guess."

Indiana's semifinal will be on Thursday, a day before Boston hosts the loser of the New York-Milwaukee quarterfinal in their next game.

James Harden's anticipated first game as a Los Angeles Clipper ended in a loss, as the New York Knicks spoiled the former NBA MVP's debut with his new team with Monday's 111-97 win.

Julius Randle had 27 points and 10 rebounds and RJ Barrett added 26 points in his return from injury as the Knicks handed the star-studded Clippers their second straight defeat following a 3-1 start to the season.

Harden took the court for the first time since being traded to Los Angeles by the Philadelphia 76ers last week. The 10-time All-Star had 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting along with six assists as a part of a starting lineup that included three other accomplished veterans in Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russell Westbrook.

The dynamic guard scored five straight points late in the third quarter to give the Clippers a 76-73 lead, but the Knicks countered with a 16-3 run to take an 89-79 advantage with under 9 1/2 minutes left and never trailed thereafter.

Barrett scored 11 points in the fourth quarter after missing New York's previous two games with a sore left knee, while Mitchell Robinson finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds to help the Knicks snap a two-game losing streak.

 

Edwards sparks overtime win as Wolves hand Celtics first loss

Anthony Edwards scored eight of his 38 points in overtime as the Minnesota TImberwolves handed the Boston Celtics their first loss of the season with a 114-109 victory.

Edwards added nine rebounds and seven assists to help Minnesota overcome an off night from fellow star player Karl-Anthony Towns, who managed just seven points in 28 minutes before fouling out in overtime.

Jaden McDaniels hit a game-tying 3-pointer late in regulation and finished with 20 points for Minnesota, which also received 14 points and 12 rebounds from Rudy Gobert en route to its third straight win.

Boston entered the game as the NBA's lone remaining unbeaten team following a 5-0 start. The Celtics got 32 points and five steals from Jayson Tatum and 26 points from Jaylen Brown, but shot just 28.2 per cent from 3-point range as well as a season-low 39.1 per cent overall. 

The Celtics held a 105-103 lead after Tatum hit two free throws with 3:56 left in overtime, but Minnesota's Mike Conley buried a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession before Edwards capped a pivotal 9-0 run with three consecutive baskets that put the Timberwolves up for good at 112-105 with 1:30 remaining in the extra session.

 

Adebayo's triple-double propels Heat past Lakers

Bam Adebayo delivered a massive performance with 22 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Miami Heat overcame a late scoring drought to hold on for a 108-107 win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Adebayo became the first Heat player to record a triple-double with at least 20 rebounds, and Miami received 28 points from Jimmy Butler and 22 from Tyler Herro to record its second straight win following a four-game losing streak.

The Heat prevailed despite nearly blowing a 10-point lead with four minutes to play and not making a field goal over the final 4:15 of the contest.

The Lakers scored the game's final nine points and had a chance to win in the final seconds, but Cam Reddish was off the mark with a jumper and Butler grabbed the rebound right before time expired.

LeBron James finished with 30 points on 13-of-23 points to pace the Lakers, while Austin Reaves just missed a triple-double after compiling 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

Los Angeles has now dropped the first two outings of its current four-game road trip and played the entire fourth quarter without star forward Anthony Davis, who sustained a groin spasm during the game and was limited to nine points in 25 minutes. 

 

 

Jaylen Brown was bullish about the Boston Celtics' quality after their convincing win over the Washington Wizards.

Brown had 36 points and Jayson Tatum added 33 as the Celtics cruised to a 126-107 win on Monday.

It brought up Boston's third straight win to start the season.

Not that Brown is at all surprised, given the quality the Celtics possess.

"We've got a lot of talent. We're going to be more talented than a lot of teams. We just try to take advantage of all of our opportunities," he said.

"It's nights like tonight where it's easy to take your foot off the gas, but if you want to do what you say you want to do, we've got to come out and play the game the right way."

With the Celtics leading by 37 midway through the third quarter, coach Joe Mazzulla was able to rest his star players for the final stretch.

And making fast starts is crucial to Boston's gameplan.

"We think it's something we can control, the way we come out and start games," Mazzulla said.

"We just have too many good players and we have a chance. We're really trying to make sure we come out with the right mindset the whole game.

"It doesn't mean it's going to go our way. I really liked our approach."

Kristaps Porzingis, who set a franchise record with his 30 points on debut last week, enjoyed a winning return to Washington, having switched to the Celtics in June.

"This was home for a year-and-a-half," said the Latvian, who finished with 15 points against his former team. "So definitely some good, good memories here."

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum grabbed 69 points between them as the Boston Celtics cruised to a third straight win with a 126-107 victory over the Washington Wizards.

Brown scored 36 points and Tatum 33, Kristaps Porzingis adding 15 on his return to Washington after an off-season move between the clubs.

It is the second successive season the Celtics, who reached the Eastern Conference finals last time out, have begun with three straight wins.

Their efforts were eclipsed by Dejounte Murray, who matched his career-best haul with 41 points as he helped the Atlanta Hawks come from 19 points down at half-time to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 127-113.

Steph Curry shrugged off the absence of Klay Thompson with a knee injury as he inspired the Golden State Warriors to a 130-102 win at the New Orleans Pelicans.

Curry scored 42 points, opening with a pair of three-pointers from 25 feet and wrapping his scoring up from 31 feet.

The Dallas Mavericks remain unbeaten as Luka Doncic grabbed a triple-double with 35 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists in a 125-110 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.

Nikola Jokic also recorded a triple-double – his second of the season – with 27 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds as the Denver Nuggets saw off the Utah Jazz 110-102.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points for the Milwaukee Bucks as they avenged being eliminated by the Miami Heat in last year’s play-offs with a 122-114 win, despite 35 points from Tyler Herro.

Cam Thomas scored 33 points as the Brooklyn Nets beat the Charlotte Hornets 133-121 for their first win of the season, while Nikola Vucevic inspired the Chicago Bulls as they came from behind late to inflict a first defeat on the Indiana Pacers, 112-105.

The Portland Trail Blazers also claimed their first win, Jerami Grant scoring 22 points as they beat the Toronto Raptors 99-91, while 32 points from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander lifted the Oklahoma City Thunder past the Detroit Pistons.

Jaylen Brown may not even be considered the best player on his own team, but he is now the highest-paid player in NBA history.

Brown agreed to terms on a five-year supermax contract worth up to $304million with the Boston Celtics on Tuesday.

The deal, which is fully guaranteed and includes a trade kicker that would further increase Brown's salary if he's traded, surpasses the $264million contract signed by two-time league MVP and NBA champion Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets last summer.

Brown is a two-time All-Star and was named to the All-NBA second team this past season - his first such honour.

He averaged career highs of 26.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists - ranking second on the Celtics in all of those categories to Jayson Tatum, who was named to his second consecutive All-NBA first team following this past season.

The Celtics have reached the conference finals in five of Brown's seven pro seasons - including a trip to the 2022 NBA Finals in which they lost to the Golden State Warriors in six games.

Brown averaged 24.6 points on 54.1 per cent shooting and 47.1 per cent from 3-point range in Boston's first two playoff series this past season, but struggled with his shot in the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat and the Celtics were eliminated in seven games.

Against the Heat, he averaged 19 points on 41.8 per cent shooting and connected on just 16.3 per cent of 43 3-point attempts. He misfired on 8 of 9 3-pointers in Game 7.

The third overall pick by Boston in the 2016 NBA Draft, Brown has career averages of 17.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists.

 

Boston Celtics hero Derrick White said "It just had to be won" after his buzzer-beating tip-in forced the Eastern Conference finals to Game 7, as Jayson Tatum added: "That s*** was crazy!"

From 3-0 down against the Miami Heat, the Celtics have fought back to 3-3 in the series, and are now just one win away from making history.

White grabbed and then sank the rebound from Marcus Smart's failed three-pointer with 0.1 seconds remaining to seal a 104-103 victory in Miami on Saturday.

The Celtics are now on the brink of the greatest comeback in NBA playoffs history, needing a win at home in Game 7 on Monday to become the first team to win a series after losing the first three games.

Boston are only the fourth NBA team to erase a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series to force a deciding game.

Reflecting on the game-winning moment, Tatum told reporters: "I'm still, like, in disbelief. That s*** was crazy.

"That felt like the longest 10 seconds ever waiting for confirmation if he made it or not."

White told TNT: "It had to be won. Whatever it takes, our backs against our wall, it just had to be won.

"We're a resilient group. We pick each other up, we bond for each other.

"The job isn't done yet, we've got a tough one Game 7, we've got to find a way to get one more win."

White had tears sparkling in his eyes, but explained: "I'm just happy. So far, so good."

It is just the second time in league history that a player has hit a buzzer-beater when his team was down and facing elimination, after Michael Jordan's legendary "The Shot", way back in 1989.

"Derrick White, like a flash of lightning, just came out of nowhere and saved the day, man," team-mate Jaylen Brown added. "An incredible play."

The Heat can only lick their wounds as they head to Boston for Monday's winner-takes-all matchup.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said: "It's a seven-game series. There's nothing better than Game 7s.

"I don't know how we're going to get this done, but we're going to go out there and get it done, and that's what the next 48 hours is about.

"There's been nothing easy about this season for our group, and so we just have to do it the hard way."

Jimmy Butler did his best for Miami, with 24 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

"We've got to go on the road and do something special, but we've got a special group," Butler said.

Jaylen Brown hailed the Boston Celtics' unity after they beat the Miami Heat 110-97 to force Game 6 in the Eastern Conference finals.

Having staved off elimination with a win in Game 4, the Celtics never trailed in Game 5 on Thursday as they cut Miami's lead to 3-2.

Boston will now aim to level the series in Miami on Saturday. Should they complete a remarkable turnaround, they will be the first team in NBA history to rally from a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series, after 150 previous sides failed to do so.

Brown, who contributed 21 points to Celtics' total, explained the team could not have been at a lower ebb after losing the first three games of the series.

"Our back has been against the wall. Obviously, we didn't imagine being in this position, being down 3-0, but when adversity hits, you get to see what a team is really made of," he said.

"It couldn't get worse than being down 3-0, but we didn't look around, we didn't go in separate directions. We stayed together."

Only three teams have managed to take a series to Game 7 after losing the opening three games, the last of which was the Portland Trail Blazers in 2003.

"For some odd reason, even last year, we always seemed to make it a little bit tougher on ourselves," added Jayson Tatum, who had a double-double of 21 points and 11 assists.

"What I do know is that you can see the true character of a person, of a team, when things aren't going well, and our ability to come together, figure things out when it's not necessarily looking good for us.

"It's unlike any team I've been on this year and last year, just the core group of guys being able to respond.

"I think that's just a testament to our togetherness, obviously how bad we want it, and we've got a room full of determined, tough guys that push comes to shove, you look to the left and the right of you, believe that the guy next to you is going to do whatever it takes and go down fighting if it doesn't work out."

Looking ahead to Game 6, Brown is under no illusions of the scale of the task at hand.

"It's going to take everything," he said.

"It's going to be a dogfight. I imagine those guys will play better than they played tonight, and they're going to come out aggressive. We've got to be ready to take their punch at home. We've got to be ready to be resilient and come out and do what we're supposed to do."

Jaylen Brown described the Boston Celtics as "embarrassing" after they were blown out by the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, who has faced criticism throughout the series, blamed himself for the 128-102 loss, as Boston fell to the eighth-seeded Heat for a third straight game.

No team in NBA history has recovered to win a seven-game playoff series when trailing 3-0 and Miami has its first chance to wrap up the series at home on Tuesday.

In a road game the Celtics felt they had to win after two shock home losses, Miami's lead grew to as much as 33 points in the third quarter.

Jayson Tatum led Boston with just 14 points while finishing 6 of 18 from the field and Brown was held to 12 points on 6-of-17 shooting. The two All-Stars were a combined 1 of 14 from 3-point range.

"I don't even know where to start," said Brown after the game, per ESPN. "It's an obvious letdown. I feel like we let our fan base, organization down. 

"We let ourselves down. And it was collective. We can point fingers, but in reality, it was just embarrassing.

"To their credit, they’re playing well above their means.They’re ballin’ right now and I’ve got to give them respect.

"Gabe Vincent, Martin, Strus, Duncan Robinson, guys that we should be able to keep under control are playing their [butt] off.

"The series isn't over yet. It's looking bad, but you come out, have some pride about yourself."

The Celtics were favourites to win the NBA Championship before the series began but now look like a team in crisis just seven days on from their big Game 7 win over the Philadelphia 76ers in round two.

"I just didn’t have them ready to play," said Mazzulla, who is in his first season as head coach.

"Whatever it was, whether it was the starting lineup or an adjustment, I have to get them in a better place, ready to play. That’s on me.

"I think some of the defensive identity has been lost and we have to get that back."

While a comeback to reach the Finals from here would be miraculous, Tatum insists Boston has to first and foremost recover some pride.

He said: "It was tough. From the beginning of the game, we were turning the ball over. We didn't shoot the ball well, they shot extremely well and it felt like we never recovered.

"As tough as tonight was, we just got to try to move on. Prepare, get ready, practice, film and stuff for tomorrow.

"Obviously we're in a tough position but we've got to have some pride, bounce back and just be better come Tuesday."

Jimmy Butler has proven inspirational for the Heat in the postseason far but in Game 3 Miami showcased its roster depth.

Gabe Vincent scored a career-high 29 points and Duncan Robinson added 22 off the bench, propelling the Heat to a lopsided victory that puts coach Erik Spoelstra on the brink of a sixth NBA Finals appearance with the team.

The Western Conference finals also look like they are set to reach an earlier than expected conclusion, with the Denver Nuggets enjoying a 3-0 lead over the Los Angeles Lakers ahead of Game 4 on Monday.

Nikola Jokic scored 17 of his 29 points during the decisive third quarter and the Denver Nuggets gained the upper hand in their Western Conference semifinal series with a 118-102 rout of the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.

Jokic followed his 53-point performance in Game 4 with another stellar display, adding 13 rebounds and 12 assists for his 10th career playoff triple-double, breaking a tie with Wilt Chamberlain for most by a center in NBA history.

Bruce Brown scored 25 points, one shy of his playoff career high, and Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray added 19 apiece as Denver improved to 6-0 at home this postseason for a 3-2 series lead.

The Nuggets turned a 52-49 halftime lead into a 91-74 advantage with a dominant third quarter in which Jokic made seven of eight shots, while Devin Booker scored three points on 1 of 8 from the field.

Booker finished with 28 points but missed 11 of 19 shots, Kevin Durant had 26 points and Deandre Ayton added 14. No other Suns player reached double figures.

Denver can earn a trip to the west finals with a win at Phoenix on Thursday in Game 6.

Visiting 76ers cruise past Celtics

Joel Embiid scored 32 points and Tyrese Maxey added 30 with six 3-pointers to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a surprisingly easy 115-103 victory over the Boston Celtics and a 3-2 lead in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.

Philadelphia led by as many as 21 points in the fourth quarter as the home fans showered the Celtics with boos.

James Harden had 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds, Tobias Harris chipped in 16 points and 11 boards and little-used Danuel House Jr. contributed 10 points and five rebounds.

The 76ers can close out the series and advance to the East finals for the first time since reaching the NBA Finals in 2000-01 with a win at home in Game 6 on Thursday.

Jayson Tatum had 36 points but missed all five of his first-quarter attempts and made 11 for 27 from the field. He was part of a poor shooting effort by the Celtics, who shot under 40 percent overall and misfired on 26 of 38 from long range.

Boston cut the deficit to 92-81 with under 10 minutes remaining but Maxey and Embiid responded with consecutive 3s. After Jaylen Brown hit a layup, baskets by House Jr. and Maxey stretched Philadelphia's advantage to 104-88, effectively ending any hopes of a comeback.

The Boston Celtics must take pride in their Game 2 display against the Philadelphia 76ers, and embrace the challenge of a hostile road game, says Jaylen Brown.

Joel Embiid's return from injury could not inspire the 76ers on Wednesday as Boston cruised to a 121-87 victory to tie the series.

Brown top scored with 25 points, as Embiid and James Harden, who scored 45 points in the 76ers' Game 1 win, were kept under wraps.

Next up is a trip to Philadelphia for Game 3, but Brown believes the Celtics have nothing to fear.

"I think we've just got to take more pride in ourselves. That's it," Brown told the media.

"I just feel like we underperformed last game. We wanted to come out and play to the best of our ability, and that's what we did.

"Hostile environment. But it should be fun. We should all be excited to embrace that challenge."

Coach Joe Mazzulla was blunt in his assessment of his team's reaction to their defeat in Game 1.

"They were angry, frustrated," he said. "Angry and p*****. Yes [I liked that]."

While Jayson Tatum struggled to make too much of an impact, Malcolm Brogdon added 23 points from the bench for Boston, tying a playoff record for the Celtics in the process as he sunk six three-pointers.

"Our strength is our depth," Brogdon told reporters.

"The way the roster is constructed, we got guys like me, Derrick [White], Grant [Williams] that are playing behind our two superstars and ready to [contribute] when we can."

Celtics guard Marcus Smart, meanwhile, credited Brown's on-court leadership.

"We've got to tip our hats to him, he started that whole momentum for us," Smart said. "We just had to follow his lead.

"When you've got one of your best players setting the tone like that, it's hard for you not to follow. Our defense has been slipping and we wanted to come out and get back to what we do best."

Jayson Tatum would not be drawn on talk that the Boston Celtics are the new NBA title favourites after clinching their first-round playoffs series against the Atlanta Hawks with Thursday's 118-110 win.

The Celtics clinched the series 4-2, setting up a date in the Eastern Conference Semifinals with the Philadelphia 76ers who swept the Brooklyn Nets 4-0.

The shock exit of the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, who boasted the league's best regular-season record at 58-24, to the Miami Heat has opened up the playoffs.

Boston made last year's NBA Finals and finished second in this regular season in the East behind the Bucks with the second-best record in the NBA at 57-25.

"Not looking past nobody," Tatum told reporters when asked about the Celtics being title favourites. "Taking it one game, one series at a time.

"We just had six tough games against the Hawks. Closed it out tonight, now it's time to get some rest and get ready for Philly.

"Not looking past them. It's going to be tough. They've had some time off. It starts with Game 1."

The 76ers benefitted from their sweep, having closed that series out on Sunday, allowing time for MVP candidate Joel Embiid to rest a sprained knee that kept him out of Game 4 against the Nets. The 76ers-Celtics series is due to commence on Monday.

Jaylen Brown, who scored 32 points against the Hawks in Game 6 alongside Tatum's 30, expected a tough test against their old rivals.

"We know they're going to bring the fight," he said. "Philly is a tough environment to win. Their crowd gets involved in the game. It's going to be fun.

"We already know they've got some great players, Joel Embiid, James Harden and company. It's going to be a test again. We've got to be ready to fight and I can't wait for it."

The Celtics were pushed all the way by the Hawks in not only Game 6, but the whole series. Boston needed a final-quarter 11-0 run, which Brown called "winning time", to pull away and punch their ticket into the next round.

"Winning time, I guess," Brown said. "Adrenaline, just that will and perseverance to finish the game. It was close and both teams was exchanging blows, we were both tired.

"And we didn't want to be the team going back home with an 'L.' So we just found a way to win."

Meanwhile, Hawks guard Trae Young was enthused by his side's end to their season after Nate McMillan was axed in February, before an admirable recovery under new coach Quin Snyder.

"Quin is the future," Young said. "I believe with him here, this city's going to win a championship."

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