NBA playoffs: Celtics complete sweep of Nets; Raptors top 76ers; Mavericks rout Jazz
Jayson Tatum scored 29 points, Jaylen Brown had 22 and the Boston Celtics completed a four-game sweep of the Brooklyn Nets, becoming the first team to reach the second round of the playoffs with a 116-112 victory Monday night.
Marcus Smart added 20 points and 11 assists for the No. 2-seeded Celtics, who made easy work of what was thought could be a tough series. Boston will wait for the winner of the series between Milwaukee and Chicago. The defending champion Bucks hold a 3-1 lead in that series.
Kevin Durant had 39 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, breaking free after the Celtics had defended him well in the first three games. But he couldn’t get the Nets the win they needed to extend what instead goes down as a massive failure of a season.
Expected to be an NBA Finals contender, the Nets needed a strong finish just to grab the No. 7 seed.
Seth Curry scored 23 points for the Nets. Kyrie Irving, whose unavailability for home games much of the season because he isn’t vaccinated against the coronavirus contributed to the Nets performing so far below expectations, had 20 points.
The Celtics were under .500 at the midpoint of their season but went 31-10 from there, with Tatum emerging as the scoring star on one of the NBA’s best defensive teams.
That defense limited Durant to just 19-for-52 shooting with 17 turnovers through the first three games and made it tough for him, even as he finally got more shots to drop Monday. He was only 13 of 31 from the field, three for 11 behind the arc.
Raptors 103, 76ers 88
PHILADELPHIA — Pascal Siakam scored 23 points, Precious Achiuwa had 17 and the Toronto Raptors forced a return home for Game 6 in their Eastern Conference first-round series against Philadelphia, beating the 76ers 103-88 on Monday night.
Yo, Canada! Once holding a 3-0 series lead, the 76ers are headed back north.
The Raptors have won two straight in the series and jumped all over injured Sixers center Joel Embiid and ineffective James Harden to make Thursday night’s game a necessity.
Embiid had 20 points and 11 rebounds playing with a thumb injury. Harden scored 15 points on four-for-11 shooting.
Sixers coach Doc Rivers is dragging the weight of ignominious NBA history with him through customs. Rivers, who led Boston to the 2008 championship, is the only coach in NBA history to blow three 3-1 series leads. The Magic lost to Detroit in the 2003 Eastern Conference first round; the 2015 Clippers blew the series to Houston in the Western Conference semifinals; and in 2020, the Clippers lost to Denver in the West semifinals.
The next season, Rivers was in Philly — and the Sixers lost three games at home as the No. 1 seed and were eliminated in the second round.
The nerves in Philly are suddenly as tight as the rims.
The Sixers had a miserable first half. They finished with 10 turnovers and shot 35% from the floor. Philly’s last bucket in the first quarter was one for the blooper reel: Matisse Thybulle’s missed shot bounced off the rim and was accidentally tipped in by Achiuwa.
Maybe it sparked something for the Raptors. They opened the second quarter on a 12-0 run to take control all while the Sixers missed their first nine shots. The Sixers didn’t score until 6:51 was left in the half. Scottie Barnes scored eight points in the quarter and the Raptors took a 54-41 lead at the break.
The 76ers were booed off the court, their play a bleak reminder of some recent postseason flameouts.
“We’ve generated really good shots most of the series,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before the game. “We haven’t shot very well yet. I told the guys today, today would be a good day to go ahead and start making some of those open shots.”
The Raptors listened, hovering around 50% for most of the game. They also controlled the boards and scored 20 points off turnovers.
Harden could have used the shooting tip.
Harden played the same night the All-Star he was traded for, Ben Simmons, was inactive for Brooklyn. Harden was barely more visible and missed six of eight shots through three quarters, scoring nine points.
Embiid continued to play with a ligament tear in his right thumb. He looked gassed at times in the third quarter as the Raptors kept attacking the MVP finalist for tough buckets, notably Achiuwa’s driving layup that made it 73-60.
Mavericks 102, Jazz 77
DALLAS — Luka Doncic had 33 points and 13 rebounds in his first home playoff game coming off a calf injury and the Dallas Mavericks routed the Utah Jazz 102-77 on Monday night for a 3-2 lead in their first-round playoff series.
Doncic made his series debut in Game 4 at Utah, when the Jazz scored the last five points in the final 31 seconds for a one-point win that evened the series.
After the first four games were decided by eight points or fewer, Game 5 was never really close, thanks to Utah’s nearly six-minute scoreless drought in the second quarter that fueled a 22-4 Dallas run on the way to a 52-36 halftime lead.
Game 6 is Thursday night in Salt Lake City, with the Jazz regaining their formidable home-court edge, but facing the long odds of just 18% of teams winning a series after dropping the fifth game when the teams split the first four.
The Mavericks haven’t advanced in the postseason since winning the 2011 championship. Utah is in the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year, but hasn’t gone past the second round.
Jordan Clarkson scored 20 points and Rudy Gobert added 17 points and 11 rebounds in the lowest-scoring game for the Jazz since they lost by 50 at Dallas (118-68) on Nov. 14, 2018. They were three for 30 from three-point range (10%) and shot 38% overall.
Donovan Mitchell, who averaged 30 points in the first four games, scored just nine and missed all seven of his three-pointers before limping to the locker room holding the area around his left knee in the fourth quarter. He will get an MRI on Tuesday.
The frustration boiled over for Utah when Hassan Whiteside was ejected following a hard foul on Doncic in the fourth quarter.
Whiteside was assessed two technical fouls after shoving Dorian Finney-Smith and going nose-to-nose with Reggie Bullock as coaches from both sides frantically tried to keep players separated. Finney-Smith and Bullock also got technicals, and Bullock was ejected because it was his second of the game.
Jalen Brunson, who carried most of the offensive load for Dallas when Doncic was sidelined, scored 24 points. Finney-Smith added 13, and Dwight Powell got the crowd going early with all eight of his points on four-for-four shooting in the first.
Doncic, his left calf covered in a black wrap under white leggings, kept a raucous crowd rolling with several nifty moves and high-arcing three-pointers.
The first highlight came late in the first half when Doncic drove all the way to the rim with Gobert guarding him, stopped and faked the 7-foot-1 center several times before turning his back to the basket and spinning a reverse layup off the glass and in as Gobert fouled him.
The exclamation point was in the third quarter, when Doncic hit consecutive threes for a 74-46 lead, doing a shimmy in front of the fans to his left after the second one went in. The 23-year-old sensation swished another three for a 79-46 lead right after blocking Jordan Clarkson’s shot from deep.
Doncic left to a standing ovation after committing a foul on purpose to stop the game with a 29-point Dallas lead in the fourth quarter.
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