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Boston, carried by a phenomenal Jayson Tatum, author of 50 points, defeated Brooklyn in the snatch, to close the gap in their series of the 1st round of the play-offs, the Clippers also managing to revive in Dallas, thanks to a great Kawhi Leonard.
After two defeats auguring a “sweep” (sweep) in four matches, as the gap seemed large between the two teams, the Celtics managed to remove a first success on their floor (125-119) against Nets.
Tatum, who had only accumulated 31 points (9/32 on shots) in the first two confrontations, responded impressively with 50 entries (16/30, 7 assists, 6 rebounds). The 11 he scored in the last four minutes of the 3rd quarter made the difference, Boston entering the final quarter leading 96-84.
“I just tried to be better. I had two difficult matches so I tried to redeem myself and do whatever I can to win,” commented the 23-year-old winger, now the third youngest player in history to score at least 50 points in the play-offs, behind Rick Barry (1967) and Michael Jordan (1986).
At his side, Tristan Thompson struggled in the racket (19 pts, 13 rebounds), Marcus Smart was efficient behind the arc (5/8, 23 pts), just like Evan Fournier (4/7, 17 pts ).
Opposite, the “Big3” was two-thirds: James Harden scored 41 points (10 assists) and Kevin Durant added 39 (9 rebounds, 4 interceptions). Insufficient however, because Kyrie Irving did not have a good evening (16 pts, 6/17 on shots).
The leader, who did not leave an unforgettable memory during his two years in Boston, had energized the fans of the C’s two days ago, speaking of “the subtle racism” which they can show according to him. The Garden obviously responded to him with boos and a few bird names whenever he had the ball.
The hall was only 25% full (4,700 fans). Sunday it will be full, and the already electric atmosphere will only increase tenfold. Irving and the Nets are warned.
The Clippers were back to the wall after two losses on their floor and they were able to react to that of Dallas (118-108), despite a still masterful performance from Luka Doncic (44 pts, 9 assists, 9 rebounds).
The Slovenian prodigy started off strong, scoring 11 of the Mavs’ first 14 points, including three three-pointers. With 19 lengths behind in this first quarter, L.A. however quickly stopped the bleeding in the wake of Kawhi Leonard, terribly skillful and who finished with 36 points (13/17, 8 rebounds).
Paul George (29 pts, 7 rebounds) supported him well, while opposite Doncic did not have the usual support of Kristaps Porzingis (9 pts) or Tim Hardaway Jr (12 pts).
“We had no choice but to re-mobilize, to stay strong and together. We are still down 2-1 and we have to keep fighting,” said Paul.
Two days after the episode of the spit that hit him in the back at Madison Square Garden, Atlanta star Trae Young found himself in a much more favorable environment for his very first home play-off match, concluded with a victory (105-94) for the Hawks who now lead 2-1 in their series.
The leader managed 21 points (14 assists) and said “he had prepared all his life to live such moments.”
In its wake, the Hawks, who widened the gap in the 2nd quarter by inflicting a 22-5 to NY, shone with their three-point address, planting 16 banderillas on 27 attempts.
Opposite, as a little too often in this series, only Derrick Rose was effective offensively (30 pts, 13/21 on shots), Julius Randle being contained at 14 points (11 rebounds) and the team shooting at 35% of success only.