Tagged in: elite

Jayson Tatum’s layup at buzzer gives Boston Celtics win over Brooklyn Nets in Game 1 of first-round playoff series

Jayson Tatum has been adamant he didn’t view the Boston Celtics’ matchup with the Brooklyn Nets as a chance to prove anything opposite two of the league’s elite scorers.

His finish in Game 1 said otherwise.

Tatum made a layup at the buzzer on a pass from Marcus Smart to give Boston a dramatic 115-114 victory on Sunday in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series.

“When he took that dribble, we just kind of made eye contact,” Tatum said of Smart. “He made a great pass. It doesn’t get any better than that. A buzzer-beater in a playoff game at home.”

Tatum scored 31 points, the last two on the first buzzer-beater of his career. It was Boston’s first in the postseason since Paul Pierce’s in 2010 against the Miami Heat.

Tatum’s bucket came during a poised Boston possession in the frantic final seconds. After Kevin Durant missed on the other end, the Celtics rebounded and raced up the court, electing not to call a timeout.

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Jaylen Brown dribbled toward the middle and swung the ball out to Smart. He then fired it into a cutting Tatum, who spun around and dropped in his layup just before time expired.

“I’ve always been told you have more time than you realize you have,” Smart said. “I was about to throw it to Al [Horford] off the dribble, and I saw JT cut at the last minute.”

All five Celtics touched the ball on the possession.

“I think that’s kind of a microcosm for our season, guys moving the ball being unselfish,” Boston coach Ime Udoka stated.

Dating back to last postseason, Tatum has four consecutive 30-point games in the playoffs, matching Larry Bird in 1987 for the longest such streak in Celtics history.

Brown added 23 points. Horford had 20 points and 15 rebounds. And Smart finished with 20 points, including four 3-pointers.

Kyrie Irving put up 39 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter. But the Celtics forced the ball out of his hands the last time Brooklyn had it, and Durant missed a jumper with a one-point lead that set up the Celtics’ final possession.

Durant added 23 points but shot just 9-of-24.

“They did a good job of forcing me away, then helping in the paint,” Durant said. “I just got to be more fundamental in my moves. I feel like some shots went in and out for me.”

Boston charged out of halftime with a 23-8 run to open a 82-69 lead, sparked by Smart’s deadeye 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, but they had to exert increased energy to get off their attempts.

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Milwaukee Bucks stomp Golden State Warriors, keep ‘building good habits’ vs. elite teams

The Milwaukee Bucks delivered another statement victory Thursday night with a 118-99 thumping of the Golden State Warriors, continuing their trend of being at their best this season when matched up versus other likely title contenders.

The Bucks blitzed the Warriors from the start, jumping out to a 39-point halftime lead, Golden State’s largest halftime deficit since the franchise moved from Philadelphia.

In the past week, the Bucks have won handily against the Warriors and Brooklyn Nets — whom they also beat on opening night in Milwaukee — a pair of teams they could see on the path to attempt to repeat as NBA champions.

“I don’t know why we play well in big games, but at the end of the day we’ve got to just keep building good habits moving forward,” said Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 30 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in 30 minutes.

“Big games with big excitement or even games nobody watches, nobody cares about, we have to keep building good habits, so we can be good in May and June.”

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Milwaukee had coach Mike Budenholzer back on the sideline after clearing health and safety protocols but was playing without guard Jrue Holiday, its best perimeter defender, who missed his fourth consecutive game with an ankle. Still, the Bucks were able to contain Warriors star Stephen Curry with a smothering defensive effort.

Curry was 4-of-11 shooting in the game (2 for 6 from 3) for 12 points. He has shot less than 50% from the field in eight consecutive games, the longest streak of his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Golden State finished 3-for-14 from the field with three turnovers and seven points when the Bucks sent a double team at Curry.

“Milwaukee is a good team. They obviously have championship DNA now,” Curry said, “and present some challenges in terms of putting pressure on the interior end and spacing. We just got off to a terrible start where everything went wrong.”

The Warriors have dropped four of their past five games overall and Curry is mired in one of the worst shooting slumps of his career, but they were not panicking about their recent skid.

“To be honest, I’m not that concerned,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr stated after the game. “I know we just got our butts kicked. We’re just in a rough patch in our season. Happens to every team, every year pretty much, with very few exceptions. We’re in a little bit of a rut. We played a team that was ready and played great … And so we’re a little out of sorts, and we just got to get back on track.”

Golden State will play the Bulls in the second half of a back-to-back on Friday night in Chicago. Klay Thompson, who scored 11 points on 3 of 11 shooting in 21 minutes, is not expected to play as the Warriors ease him back into action after missing more than two years because of injuries.

The Bucks, meanwhile, have continued to roll against some of the stiffest competition in the league because of dominant performances by Antetokounmpo.

On Thursday, Antetokounmpo finished a perfect 9-for-9 inside the restricted area with four dunks. He scored on four different primary defenders, (including 4-for-4 against Andre Iguodala) and hit all seven of his wide-open shots.

Even when the Warriors forced him into a pass, he routinely made the right read — the Bucks shot 11 of 16 (30 points) off Antetokounmpo’s passes, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

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