The Boston Celtics kept their terrific season rolling on Monday when they utilised a dominant third quarter to defeat the Toronto Raptors 116-110 away from home.

Boston were led by Jayson Tatum, who finished with 31 points on 11-of-24 shooting, hitting five of his 10 three-point attempts while adding 12 rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block in his 39 minutes. He helped his side outscore the Raptors 35-18 in the third period, turning around a six-point deficit at halftime.

The 24-year-old is enjoying the best season of his career, averaging a career-high 30.7 points per game while shooting a career-best 48.1 per cent from the field, all while attempting a career-high 9.3 three-pointers per game.

Tatum was supported well by running-mate Jaylen Brown, who chipped in 22 points (nine-of-22 shooting), eight rebounds and eight assists, while reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart posted 18 points (seven-of-14) and seven assists.

While the Celtics were the best defensive team in the league this past season when they went to the NBA Finals, this campaign it has been all about their offense.

Scoring 120 points per 100 possessions, they are two-and-a-half points clear of the second-ranked Phoenix Suns (117.5), and they are getting it done by shooting a league-best 40.2 per cent from the three-point line.

Their win against the Raptors was their 21st game with at least 110 points, helping them to a league-best record of 20-5, while no other team has more than 17 wins.

Harden's rough return to Houston

Playing against his former team, James Harden returned for the Philadelphia 76ers after five weeks on the sidelines, but had a rough outing in a 132-123 double-overtime loss to the Houston Rockets.

Harden, who won the 2017-18 league MVP while playing for the Rockets, scored 21 points, dished seven assists, snagged four rebounds and plucked two steals, but he shot a dismal four-of-19 from the field.

His step-back three-pointer tied the game at 108-108 with 90 seconds remaining in regulation, ultimately forcing overtime, before back-to-back MVP runner-up Joel Embiid fouled out in the first extra period, leaving the 76ers short-handed for the second overtime.

Last year's second overall draft pick Jalen Green was strong for the Rockets, scoring 27 points on nine-of-20 shooting with seven assists, while this year's third overall pick Jabari Smith Jr added 16 points and 11 rebounds.

Gilgeous-Alexander carries the Thunder

Arguably the breakout star of the season so far, Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was the best player on the floor yet again in a 121-114 win on the road against the Atlanta Hawks.

The 24-year-old is currently third in the NBA in scoring at 31.1 points per game, and that figure got a bump after he put up 35 points against the Hawks, hitting 10-of-22 from the field and all 15 of his free throws.

Of the four other players averaging at least 30 points per game this season (Luka Doncic, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jayson Tatum) none are attempting fewer than Gilgeous-Alexanders 3.0 three-pointers per game, and none are shooting better than his 92.4 per cent from the free throw line.

Trae Young made it clear he is not happy that details about friction between himself and Atlanta Hawks head coach Nate McMillan became public, but insisted things were "all good".

A report from The Athletic's Shams Charania detailed an incident where McMillan had not approved Young's decision to skip a team shootaround to focus on treatment for his minor shoulder injury.

It is said to have resulted in an ultimatum, with McMillan telling Young he would have to come off the bench if he wanted to play against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, with the 24-year-old two-time All-Star instead deciding to not show up altogether.

The Hawks officially attributed Young's absence to his shoulder injury, before the report brought new information to light, prompting McMillan to call the whole fiasco a "miscommunication".

The report also included a line citing anonymous sources saying "it's the latest situation that has caused many people within the Hawks to question Young's leadership approach" – pointing to similar friction between Young and former head coach Lloyd Pierce as a main factor behind his departure.

In his first media appearance since the news broke, Young said he was frustrated it all became public.

"It's hard for people who don't know the full situation to understand it," he said on Monday. "Like I said, it's a private matter made public, which was unfortunate. If it stayed private it probably wouldn't have been as big of a deal. 

"It's unfortunate. My job and my goal is to win a championship, and that's all I'm focused on.

"When you're an outside guy like [reporters] are, and you don't understand a private matter and private situation, you should probably stay on the outside.

"It's unfortunate that everybody has to understand and know a little bit of the details that went on inside. I mean, inside here we're all good. 

"If you've got any more questions about that you can talk to somebody else about it. That's all I've got to say about it."

The Hawks ended up with an impressive win against the Nuggets, with rookie A.J. Griffin taking advantage of his opportunity in the starting line-up to score a career-high 24 points.

Atlanta Hawks head coach Nate McMillan has clarified Trae Young's absence from Friday's 117-109 win over the Denver Nuggets as down to a "miscommunication" amid reports of a feud.

The Hawks had claimed that the All-Star's absence for the game was due to right shoulder soreness, but The Athletic's Shams Charania has since reported that the coach and player had engaged in a heated exchange at Friday's shootaround.

It is reported that McMillan and Young disagreed on whether the 24-year-old point guard would participate in shootaround or receive treatment. McMillan subsequently handed him an ultimatum to play off the bench or not show up at all, with Young opting for the latter.

The Hawks coach labelled the issue as a "miscommunication" when asked on Sunday, as Young trained normally, putting him in line to play on Monday against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Atlanta, who lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs last season, hold a 13-10 record and sit fourth in the East, but there have been reports of simmering tensions.

McMillan took over as Hawks coach in March 2021 on an interim basis from Lloyd Pierce. He went on to guide them to the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals, earning the job permanently in July 2021.

Two-time All-Star Young is averaging 27.8 points on 41.1 per cent field goal shooting with 9.6 assists this season.

Joel Embiid had an injury scare late as the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers charged home but ultimately fell short in a 112-109 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday.

Embiid appeared to roll his left ankle when he tripped over teammate Georges Niang with 5:53 remaining in the fourth quarter. He writhed in pain on the ground and was attended to by a trainer before hobbling to the bench at Wells Fargo Center.

The Sixers center played the game out but limped throughout yet nailed a three-pointer to make it 105-102, before Timberwolves top scorer Anthony Edwards steadied it with his second triple of the game.

Embiid finished with 32 points, including making 18-of-20 from the free-throw line, with nine rebounds, six assists and three steals for the Sixers, who were without James Harden and Tyrese Maxey due to foot injuries.

Shake Milton added 27 points, while De'Anthony Melton made five three-pointers in his 19-point haul. Melton's three with 29.1 seconds remaining moved the 76ers within one point, before he missed a lay-up and Edwards iced the game from the stripe. The Sixers had trailed by 20 points but rallied with a 25-15 fourth quarter.

For the winners, Edwards had 25 points with five rebounds and five assists, while point guard D'Angelo Russell scored 19 points with seven assists.

French center Rudy Gobert scored eight points with 13 rebounds and Karl-Anthony Towns added 12 points with eight rebounds.

The result leaves both sides with 8-8 records, with the Timberwolves having won three straight. Embiid's 32 points means he is averaging 41.25 across his past four games.

Trae shines as Hawks win with OT buzzer-beater

Trae Young fed A.J. Griffin under the basket for a buzzer-beating two-pointer in overtime as the Atlanta Hawks defeated the Toronto Raptors 124-122.

Young took an inbound pass with 3.8 seconds remaining in overtime with scores tied, racing clear as Griffin - who is the son of Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin - got behind the defense, allowing the Hawks guard to find him wide open for a routine lay-up in the nick of time.

Atlanta hauled in a seven-point deficit with 2:36 to go in the fourth quarter, led by Young, who finished with 33 points on 12-of-21 shooting with 12 assists. Scottie Barnes had a season-high 28 points for injury-hit Toronto, who only dressed nine players.

George hurt as Clippers blow out Spurs

Paul George hit three first-half three-pointers before being ruled out with knee soreness at half-time while Kawhi Leonard's impact was limited again but the Los Angeles Clippers blew out the San Antonio Spurs 119-97.

George played 15 first-half minutes, scoring 21 minutes on five-of-eight three-point shooting, while Leonard played 22 minutes for 11 points with four assists in his second game back after stiffness in his surgically repaired knee.

Norman Powell came off the bench to score a game-high 26 points, with five-of-seven three-point shooting, as the Clippers improved to 9-7. The Clippers hit 13 first-half triples and finished with 21 for the game on 53.8 per cent three-point shooting.

The trusty Atlanta Hawks duo of Trae Young and Clint Capela controlled the show in a 104-95 home win against the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday.

It was not Young's most efficient scoring performance, as he finished with an equal game-high 26 points on seven-of-21 shooting, hitting all 10 of his free throws.

However, Young's pick-and-roll combination with Capela proved nearly unstoppable, with the Swiss center converting seven-of-10 field goals for 18 points and a game-high 20 rebounds. 

Three of his seven field goals were alley-oop dunks off Young assists, and one was an offensive rebound off a Young miss as Capela's defender came over to help.

Of the Hawks' five starters, only Young and Capela finished with a positive plus/minus, meaning their most effective lineup was that duo with three bench players.

With James Harden out for at least the next couple of weeks, Joel Embiid was again asked to carry a massive offensive burden, and he struggled against Capela's defense.

While he finished with an efficient 26 points (nine-of-18 shooting) and 12 rebounds, he posted a season-high seven turnovers.

The Hawks are now 8-4, and have won four of their past five games, while the 76ers have lost three of their past four to sit at 5-7.

Butler ignites the Heat in overtime win

Miami Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler flirted with a triple-double as he starred in a 117-112 overtime win over the Charlotte Hornets.

Playing a season-high 42 minutes as the Heat kept their rotation down to eight players, Butler eclipsed 30 points for the first time this season on his way to 35 on 11-of-19 shooting (13-of-15 free throws). He also added 10 rebounds, eight assists and two steals in a complete performance.

Five of his Heat teammates reached double figures, led by center Bam Adebayo with 18 points (six-of-15 shooting) and 14 rebounds to snap their third two-game losing streak of the young season, moving to 5-7.

Doncic struggles in Mavericks loss

After starting the season with nine consecutive 30-point performances, Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic had his second tough outing in a row as his side lost 113-105 to the Washington Wizards.

Doncic shot just nine-of-29 in Wednesday's loss to the Orlando Magic, and followed it on Thursday by shooting eight-of-21 for his 22 points, although he added nine rebounds and six assists.

With both Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis missing for the Wizards through injury, it was Kyle Kuzma stepping up with 36 points (14-of-26 shooting), 11 rebounds and six assists.

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.

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."

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.

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.

 

Despite Trae Young shooting three-for-13 from the field in the first half of the Atlanta Hawks' win against the Charlotte Hornets, head coach Nate McMillan loved what he saw from his superstar point guard.

With the 132-103 blowout win, the Hawks earned a chance to play against the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference eighth seed on Friday.

Young's shot was not falling early, but his team still put up 60 points in the first half as De'Andre Hunter, Clint Capela and Danilo Gallinari shouldered more of an offensive load.

Speaking to post-game media, McMillan said he was proud of the way Young navigated his early struggles before going on to finish with 24 points and 11 assists.

"I thought [Young] did a really solid job of getting off the ball when [the Pelicans] put two on him, and he got his teammates involved," he said.

"I thought later in the game they went away from that, and he was able to get loose and get some looks at the basket.

"But a real solid job by Trae running the team, managing those guys on the offensive end of the floor, and really getting us organized and attacking."

McMillan admitted his assistant coaches were imploring him to pull the Hawks stars late in the fourth quarter, with a big lead and the win almost assured, and looked forward to the matchup against the Cavs.

"The coaches were yelling at me, screaming at me to get the [starters] out, so that we could get them a rest in," he said. "But it's time to play – it's game time – and we should be ready when we go to Cleveland.

"We don't know if [Jarrett Allen] will be back on Friday – but the size-factor – they do a good job of taking advantage of their size, and their ability to pound you in the paint with post-ups, rebounding and a lot of length.

"[Darius] Garland is an All-Star, playing great basketball for them, so they're a really good team. We'll have our work cut out for us on Friday."

The Atlanta Hawks avoided elimination from the NBA Play-In Tournament on Wednesday, comfortably defeating the Charlotte Hornets 132-103, despite a poor shooting night from Trae Young.

The Hawks shot 52.1 per cent collectively even with Trae Young's eight-of-24 from the floor, with all five starters scoring in double-digits along with Bogdan Bogdanovic from the bench, who added 13 points.

Young started slow with three-of-13, matching LaMelo Ball for the first half, but was able to find his teammates early, particularly getting easy buckets for Clint Capela out of high pick-and-roll action.

Finishing with 31 assists for the night, the Hawks moved the ball fluidly in comparison to the Hornets, who could not generate clean looks on the way to 37.8 per cent shooting from the floor and 22 assists collectively.

Ball and Terry Rozier shot a combined 15-of-47, while the former went four-of-14 from three-point range despite eight assists and five rebounds.

Atlanta will now face the Cleveland Cavaliers, with the winner earning a Playoff matchup against the Eastern Conference's first seed, the Miami Heat.

McCollum leads Pelicans past Spurs

C.J. McCollum was the star of the show as the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the San Antonio Spurs 113-103 to earn a chance at the Western Conference eighth seed.

McCollum was on fire early, particularly in the second quarter, where he went a perfect six-for-six from the field to score 19 points in the period, on his way to final figures of 32 points (12-of-23 shooting), seven assists and six rebounds.

He was supported in style by Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas, who combined for 49 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists, while rookie defensive sensation Herb Jones had two steals and two blocks.

Jones also did a great job on Spurs All-Star Dejounte Murray, holding him to five-of-19 shooting for his 16 points.

With the win, the Pelicans will play the Los Angeles Clippers in a game where the victor will earn a seven-game series against the Phoenix Suns in round one of the Playoffs.

 

The Brooklyn Nets showed how they plan to approach their playoff rotation in a 118-107 home win against the Cleveland Cavaliers to leapfrog into the seven seed with one more game to play. 

In a game considered a must-win for the Nets to avoid the much more difficult Play-In Tournament setup for teams who finish ninth and 10th, Brooklyn cut their rotation down to eight players while Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Bruce Brown all played at least 39 minutes.

Seth Curry and Andre Drummond filled out the starting five, while Kessler Edwards, Patty Mills and Nic Claxton came off the bench, with LaMarcus Aldrige, Blake Griffin and rookie Cam Thomas out of the mix.

Durant went on to finish with a game-high 36 points on 11-of-20 shooting (four-of-six from long range, 10-of-10 from the free throw line) to go with five assists, five rebounds, two steals and a block, while Brown had 10 rebounds, eight assists and four blocks to go with his 18 points (six-of-12 shooting).

With the win, Brooklyn is now in position to host their first Play-In Tournament game – likely against the Cavaliers – with the winner entering the playoffs as the seven seed, while the loser gets another chance to play for the eight seed.

Most Improved Player contender Darius Garland was spectacular for the Cavs, scoring 31 points on 12-of-24 shooting, but the loss means his side has now lost eight of their past 10, and have been sputtering without injured center Jarrett Allen.

Overall, the Cavaliers are 43-38 this season, but just 8-17 in games Allen has missed.

No stoppin' Obi Toppin

It was a career night for New York Knicks cult figure Obi Toppin as he scored a career-high 35 points in his side's 114-92 away win against the Washington Wizards.

In only his eighth start of the season, the former first-round pick shot 14-of-22 from the field, including six-of-nine from deep, while fellow fan-favorite Immanuel Quickley was terrific off the bench, scoring 23 points (nine-of-18 shooting) with 10 assists.

 

Siakam shines, Heat hang on

Pascal Siakam seems destined to receive All-NBA honors this season after another great performance lifted his Toronto Raptors to a 117-115 win against the Houston Rockets.

In his past 10 games, Siakam is averaging 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists while shooting 53 per cent from the field, and improved those numbers with 29 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists against the Rockets.

Meanwhile, the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks played their shortened playoff rotations, and Trae Young's 35 points and eight assists was not enough as the top-seeded Heat prevailed 113-109 at home.

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