NBA playoffs: Celtics beat Nets on last-second Jayson Tatum layup

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum grapples with Nets forward Bruce Brown for control of the ball.
Celtics forward Jayson Tatum grapples with Nets forward Bruce Brown for control of the ball during the first half Sunday in Boston.
(Steven Senne / Associated Press)

BOSTON — Jayson Tatum made a spinning layup at the buzzer on a pass from Marcus Smart to give the Boston Celtics a dramatic 115-114 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in the Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series Sunday.

Tatum scored 16 of his 31 points in the second half, the final two after a poised Boston possession in the frantic final seconds. Jaylen Brown dribbled toward the middle and swung the ball out to Smart, who fired it to a cutting Tatum, who spun around a defender and dropped in his layup just before time expired.

Brown added 23 points. Al Horford had 20 points and 15 rebounds, and Smart finished with 20 points, including four three-pointers.


Kyrie Irving finished with 39 points and Kevin Durant added 23 for the Nets, but he shot just nine of 24 from the field, including a last miss that set up the Celtics’ final possession.

Boston charged out of halftime with a 23-8 run to open a 82-69 lead, sparked by Smart’s dead-eye shooting from beyond the arc.

The Celtics also seemed to tweak their approach to guarding Durant in the half court, fronting him and sending help over the top to limit his driving ability.

Durant and Irving still found ways to score at times, but they had to exert increased energy to get off their attempts. It didn’t last.

With Boston leading early in the fourth, Irving got Brooklyn back in the mix with two straight three-pointers and a layup to trim Boston’s advantage to 98-97 with just more than nine minutes left. Then, following an empty trip by Boston that saw Brown and Horford fail to convert in the lane, Durant calmly drained a three-pointer on the other end to put the Nets in front.

Brooklyn increased its lead to 107-102 when Irving made a three-pointer. Brown found space two possessions later for Celtics and connected on a three-pointer from the wing. The Nets turned it back over on a offensive foul by Durant. Smart slid underneath Irving on Boston’s ensuing trip and tied it with a layup.


The score was tied again at 109 with less than two minutes left when Durant got a friendly bounce on a baseline jumper to put Brooklyn ahead. Horford’s follow shot then tied it. But Irving was good from deep on the next time down the floor to give the Nets a 114-111 cushion.

Brown pulled the Celtics to within 114-113 coming out of a timeout with 38.9 seconds left, and after a Durant miss on a three-pointer with 15 seconds left, it set up Boston to win it on Tatum’s late basket.


Miami Heat 115, Atlanta Hawks 91

MIAMI — Duncan Robinson set a franchise playoff record with eight three-pointers, and the Miami Heat forced Trae Young into matching the worst shooting game of his career on the way to a 115-91 win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference first-round playoff series Sunday in Miami.

Robinson scored 27 points on nine-of-10 shooting from the field for the Heat, eight of nine from three-point range. Jimmy Butler scored 21, P.J. Tucker added 16 and Kyle Lowry had 10.

Young made only one of 12 shots, matching his effort against Chicago on Jan. 23, 2019.

Danilo Gallinari led Atlanta with 17 points. De’Andre Hunter scored 14 for the Hawks and John Collins added 10.


Game 2 is Tuesday in Miami.

Robinson broke the record of seven three-pointers that he previously shared with Damon Jones and Mike Miller.

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While Robinson couldn’t miss, the Hawks couldn’t make a shot.

Young missed all seven of his shots from three-point range and finished with a season-low eight points. Bogdan Bogdanovic missed all eight of his shots, and the Hawks never led outside of the opening minutes.

Butler revealed the Heat game plan when it comes to defending Young: “Just make it physical on him, challenge every shot, keep him off the free-throw line and make him pass,“ he said.


Milwaukee Bucks 93, Chicago Bulls 86

MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 27 points and 16 rebounds, and defending champion Milwaukee recovered after blowing a 16-point lead to beat Chicago in Game 1 of its first-round playoff series.

Jrue Holiday sank a go-ahead three-pointer with 5:03 left as part of an 8-0 run that gave the Bucks an 85-78 edge. The Bulls got the margin down to one but could never regain the lead, as Zach LaVine missed a potential tying 3-pointer from nearly 30 feet away with 29 seconds left.


The Bucks have won 17 of their last 18 meetings with the Bulls, including all five matchups this season. The Bulls’ lone victory during this stretch came in the 2020-21 regular-season finale when the Bucks rested all their starters.

Milwaukee kept that pattern going Sunday by holding Chicago to the lowest single-game point total of any Bucks opponent this season. But the Bucks also continued their habit of struggling in opening games of series.

The Bucks won last year’s title despite dropping Game 1 in three of their four series. They had lost the opening game in five of their last six playoff series before Sunday, the exception coming when Khris Middleton made a three-pointer in the final second of overtime against the Miami Heat last season.

Brook Lopez scored 18 points, Holiday had 15, Khris Middleton had 11 and Bobby Portis added 10. Portis also had 12 rebounds.

Nikola Vucevic had 24 points and 17 rebounds for the Bulls, making their first playoff appearance in five years. LaVine had 18 points and 10 rebounds. DeMar DeRozan had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists.


Phoenix Suns 110, New Orleans Pelicans 99

PHOENIX — Chris Paul scored 19 of his 30 points during a brilliant fourth-quarter shooting display and Phoenix won in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series.

The top-seeded Suns needed Paul’s big finish despite dominating most of the game. The Pelicans shook off a slow start, cutting a 23-point deficit to 79-71 by the end of the third.

New Orleans kept hitting shots in the fourth, but that’s when Paul took over, hitting three 3-pointers and a layup in 2 1/2 minutes in a flurry that kept the Pelicans chasing. The ageless veteran will turn 37 later in these playoffs if the Suns advance far enough, but once again looked a decade younger.

Paul has never won a championship, falling just short with the Suns last year when they lost to the Bucks in six games in the Finals. He’s fond of saying he never takes postseason basketball for granted and his 130th career playoff game was among his best.

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Phoenix.

The Suns were 47-0 in the regular season when leading after three quarters. Now they’re 1-0 in the playoffs.


Paul shot 12 for 16 from the field, including 4 of 6 on 3-pointers.