Tagged in: Game 1

Warriors answer in Game 2, top Celtics 107-88 to even Finals

Just like in Game 1, the Golden State Warriors took command with a big third quarter. Unlike Game 1, they finished the job.

The NBA Finals are now tied, after the Warriors turned a close match into a rout with a third-quarter masterpiece. Stephen Curry scored 29 points, Jordan Poole connected from just inside of midcourt to cap the pivotal period and the Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics 107-88 on Sunday night in Game 2.

“I thought everybody was more engaged,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after his team improved to 5-0 after a loss in these playoffs.

“It’s pretty obvious. Just our level of force and physicality was ramped up quite a bit, and it had to be.”

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Poole concluded with 17 points for the Warriors, who outscored Boston 35-14 in the third quarter to turn a two-point halftime lead into a 23-point edge. And when the Warriors then scored the first six points of the fourth, the Celtics waved the surrender flag and emptied their bench.

“We said we needed to play with desperation,” Curry said. “That’s what we did.”

Golden State also got 12 from Kevon Looney on 6-for-6 shooting, and 11 apiece from Andrew Wiggins and Klay Thompson.

Jayson Tatum scored 21 of his 28 points in the first half for Boston. Jaylen Brown added 17 for the Celtics, but fought through a 5-for-17 shooting night, and Derrick White scored 12.

Just like in Game 1, a huge run decided everything.

The Celtics went on a 48-18 run in the second half to decide the opener.

The Warriors didn’t wait that long in Game 2, going on a 43-14 burst from late in the first half until early in the fourth quarter to turn a tie game into an absolute runaway. Game 3 is Wednesday in Boston.

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Spoelstra, Udoka have Heat and Celtics ready for East finals

There is enormous respect between those men, who have known one another for decades and have deep ties. Spoelstra coaches the Miami Heat, Udoka is in his first season coaching the Boston Celtics, and one of them will be representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.

Game 1 of the East title series is Tuesday night, the top-seeded Heat playing host to the second-seeded Celtics.

“We have great respect for what they’ve done during the regular season, to develop the right habits,” stated Spoelstra, now in his 14th season after taking over as Miami coach for Hall of Famer Pat Riley. “And like I said, this is the way it should be — the two teams that played most consistently at the top of the East for most of the year, and we’re meeting in the conference finals to figure it out.”

The Heat needed five games to get past Atlanta in Round 1, then six games to oust Philadelphia in the East semifinals. Boston swept Brooklyn in Round 1, then ended Milwaukee’s reign as NBA champions by finishing off a seven-game series victory in the other East semi that ended Sunday.

It’s a rematch of the 2020 East finals, held in the restart bubble at Walt Disney World, when Miami topped Boston 4-2 to earn a berth in the NBA Finals. That was the third East finals loss in a four-year span for members of the Celtics — and many of the players from some of or all those defeats, like Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, are Boston’s core today.

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“This is the group I feel like is poised enough to get it done,” Brown said. “I feel like everything that we’ve overcome — all these battles and challenges and adversity we’ve been through this season, as well as the challenge that we just had overcoming the defending champions — I think that we are prepared. I think we’re ready to take that next step. We’ve just got to go out and take it.”

For its part, Miami — seeking a seventh trip to the NBA Finals and what would be a sixth in the last 12 seasons — isn’t looking back at the bubble win or much of anything else, All-Star forward Jimmy Butler insisted.

“We just want to focus in on today, right now, the group of guys that we get to go to war with every single day,” Butler said.

So, players might not look back.

It’s a little different for the coaches.

Udoka remembers meeting Spoelstra when he was a kid — at 44, Udoka is seven years younger than Spoelstra — and watching him play in pro-am runs alongside other Portland basketball legends like Damon Stoudemire.

Udoka played against Spoelstra-coached Heat teams four times before becoming a coach, spending the bulk of his years as an assistant under Gregg Popovich in San Antonio.

Hence, the Olympic ties they share: Popovich was USA Basketball’s coach in the last Olympic cycle, and asked Udoka and Spoelstra to be part of his circle of confidants for that journey.

“He’s always had success,” Udoka said of Spoelstra. “One of the best coaches in the league, in my opinion. It’ll be a task for us because he has his team well-prepared, hard-fought, Heat Culture mentality. I got to know him on a more personal level in that time spent in Tokyo in preparations for the Olympics, but I’ve known Erik for a while.”

They’ll know each other a little better after the next couple weeks.

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Brown scores 30, Celtics beat Bucks 109-86 to even series

There was a moment during the Celtics’ series-opening loss to the Bucks when it seemed as if Jaylen Brown would never make a shot.

Early in Game 2, it felt like he might not miss.

Brown scored 25 of his 30 points in the first half, and Boston beat Milwaukee 109-86 on Tuesday night to even the Eastern Conference semifinals at one game apiece.

“It’s the playoffs. That’s it,” Brown said. “We can’t let one game kind of dictate how this series goes. We wanted to be aggressive from the gate.”

Brown shook off a dismal shooting night in Game 1, going 9 for 10 in the first half, including 5 for 5 from the 3-point line. Jayson Tatum added 19 points and eight assists. Grant Williams concluded with 21 points. Al Horford had 14 points and 11 rebounds. “We wanted to come and play like our season was on the line and we did,” Brown said.

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The series doesn’t resume until Game 3 on Saturday in Milwaukee.

Boston finished 20 of 43 from beyond the arc and scored 24 points off 16 Milwaukee turnovers.

“We wanted to match their physicality and punch back tonight,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “A big message was show them who we are.”

They did that.

The Celtics played without Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart after he was ruled out before the game with a bruised right thigh he sustained in Game 1. 

Derrick White took his place in the starting lineup, making his first start in a playoff game since 2019 when he was with San Antonio.

“The ship’s got to keep going. Everybody got to do a little bit more,” Tatum said.

Even without Smart, the Celtics clamped down on Giannis Antetokounmpo after his triple-double in the series opener, limiting him to 28 points — mostly in the third quarter — nine rebounds and seven assists. Jrue Holiday added 19 points and seven assists. Bobby Portis chipped in 13 points and eight rebounds.

Antetokounmpo said the Celtics are doing a lot to make it tough for him inside.

“Strong bodies, being active, being physical —- that’s pretty much it,” he said. “It’s gotten tougher to find your teammates.”

With Smart watching in street clothes from the bench, the Celtics scored the game’s first seven points on their way to taking an 18-3 lead and forcing a quick timeout by the Bucks.

Boston scored from a variety of different spots on the court during the run – attacking both at the rim and inside the paint. It also included 12 points from the 3-point line, where the Celtics struggled for most of Game 1.

“It’s not Wilt Chamberlain down there (in the paint),” Udoka said. “We can get downhill and attack.”

Antetokounmpo missed his first six shots before ultimately getting on the scoreboard via a dunk with less than a minute left in the opening period.

It didn’t stop Boston from banking a 32-21 lead heading into the second quarter, boosted by 17 points from Brown –a career playoff-high for a quarter.

The Celtics continued to share and kept Milwaukee’s defense in chase mode, eventually taking a 65-40 edge into the half.

The Bucks cut into what had been a 26-point Celtics lead in the third quarter. Antetokounmpo keyed the charge with 18 points in the period. A 10-0 Milwaukee run, aided by a more than five-minute Celtics scoring drought, trimmed Boston’s lead to 72-56 late in the third quarter.

Milwaukee kept nibbling away and got it down it to 94-82 on a pair of free throws by Antetokounmpo. But Tatum made a 3-pointer and Boston pulled away again.

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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 star Giannis Antetokounmpo returns from knee injury in Game 1 loss

As the Milwaukee Bucks played their first NBA Finals match in nearly half a century Tuesday night versus the Phoenix Suns, they did so with superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo in the starting lineup.

Antetokounmpo, who suffered a hyperextended left knee on an awkward and ugly-looking fall in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals a week ago against the Hawks in Atlanta, played 35 minutes in the opener and battled throughout. He concluded with 20 points, 17 rebounds and four assists, but the Suns took a 1-0 lead via a 118-105 victory.

Antetokounmpo was listed as doubtful for Games 5 and 6 of the East finals, and he was ruled out early in the afternoon before each of those games. On Tuesday, however, Antetokounmpo was upgraded from doubtful to questionable on the league’s initial injury report, which is released at 1:30 p.m. ET.

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Then about two hours before the game, Antetokounmpo was on the court testing out his knee, going through some shooting and dribbling drills to see if it would feel good enough to go versus the Suns.

During his pregame media availability, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer declined to get into specifics regarding where Antetokounmpo was at in his recovery.

Antetokounmpo, 26, who averaged 28.2 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists in the 15 postseason games leading into the Finals, is coming off a third straight first-team All-NBA season and fifth straight All-Star campaign for the Bucks.

The two-time league MVP signed a five-year supermax contract extension with Milwaukee in December to remain with the franchise for the foreseeable future, a move that came in the wake of the Bucks sending several future first-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for star guard Jrue Holiday.

The Bucks are in the Finals for the first time since 1974 and hoping to win their first NBA championship since 1971, when Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were starring for Milwaukee. The Suns, on the other hand, have never won an NBA title and are in the Finals for the first time since 1993, when Charles Barkley’s team lost to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in six games.

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Young scores 48 points, Hawks beat Bucks 1116-113 in Game 1

Trae Young scored 48 points, Clint Capela converted a go-ahead putback with 29.8 seconds left and the Atlanta Hawks defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 116-113 on Wednesday night to open the Eastern Conference finals.

The Hawks improved to 6-2 in road playoff games this year and handed the Bucks their first home loss of the postseason.

“I felt we’ve built ourselves to be able to play on the road,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “I’ve told them that. They’re built for this.”

Game 2 is Friday night in Milwaukee.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 34 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists for the Bucks. Jrue Holiday added 33 points and 10 assists.

Young was two points off his career high. “We keep fighting,” Young said. “It’s been fun playing with this group. We just keep fighting to the end, no matter what the score is. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to keep fighting.”

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John Collins added 23 points and 15 rebounds for the Hawks. Capela had 12 points and 19 rebounds.

Khris Middleton missed a potential tying 3-pointer in the closing seconds.

Although Middleton scored 15 points, he shot 6 of 23 and missed all nine of his 3-point attempts.

“Offensively, it didn’t seem like we moved very well,” Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer stated.

Antetokounmpo scored the first six points in a 9-0 run that turned a 98-96 deficit into a 105-98 advantage with 4:18 left. Holiday capped that spurt by sinking a 3-pointer after Antetokounmpo got the rebound on his own missed free throw.

But the Hawks scored the next five points, and the game went back and forth from there.

Middleton missed a pull-up jumper with about 43 seconds left with Milwaukee up 111-110. Young missed a driving layup attempt, but Capela grabbed his 19th rebound and scored to put the Hawks ahead for good.

After Milwaukee’s Pat Connaughton shot an air-ball on a 3-pointer, Young made two free throws with 17.3 seconds left. Antetokounmpo made a pair of free throws with 5.3 seconds left, but Young brought the lead back to three and closed the scoring by sinking two free throws of his own with 4.6 seconds remaining.

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Booker has first triple-double, Suns beat Clippers 120-114

Devin Booker’s first exposure to playoff basketball continues to be a revelation.

Not necessarily for him, but for the rest of the NBA.

Booker had 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for his first career triple-double and the Phoenix Suns overcame Chris Paul’s absence to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers 120-114 on Sunday in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

“I don’t understand why everyone’s acting surprised at this point,” Suns forward Jae Crowder said about Booker’s big day. “This is his first time on this stage but he’s capable. He’s more than capable. He’re more than ready. He prepares like no other.”

Paul sat out because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard missed his third consecutive game because of a sprained right knee.

Tied at 93 to start the fourth, the Suns went on a 12-2 run and pulled ahead 105-95 on Cam Johnson’s dunk with 8:08 left. The Clippers wouldn’t go away, though, cutting a 10-point deficit in the final two minutes to 116-114 when Terance Mann hit a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left.

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But that’s where the rally stopped for Los Angeles.

“I have no excuse,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “I thought we played hard and competed. A little credit — they were making shots and we didn’t. But I loved our fight. I loved what I saw.”

Booker scored on a dunk on the next possession to seal Phoenix’s eighth straight triumph, getting a free lane to the basket on the blown defensive coverage.

The sixth-year guard was a surprising omission from the All-NBA teams released a few days ago but he certainly looked the part on Sunday.

He wasn’t worried about where this game ranks among his best performances.

Game 2 is on Tuesday night in Phoenix.

Booker continues to cement his superstar status and was productive and efficient in one of the best games of his career. He shot 15 of 29 from the field, carving apart a defense that had to play just 36 hours after closing out the Utah Jazz on Friday night.

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Phoenix Suns’ Chris Paul, aided by improving shoulder, takes over in 4th quarter to close out Game 1 win against Denver Nuggets

There are many things Chris Paul is good at, but one of his most crucial skills is sensing a moment. It’s never about how he starts; it’s how he finishes.

And in Game 1 of the Phoenix Suns’ Western Conference semifinal series versus the visiting Denver Nuggets, Paul started slowly, hitting just two of his eight shots through three quarters. But as the Suns grabbed hold of the contest, so did Paul, going 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter as Phoenix cruised to a 122-105 win.

“It’s in his hands, man,” Suns center Deandre Ayton said. “He’s made us comfortable … just knowing that he’s got it.”

Paul’s command of the match was on full display, with him methodically asserting himself early in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 consecutive points for the Suns as they widened their lead.

He concluded with 21 points, 11 assists and 6 rebounds in 36 minutes, and while his grip on the fourth quarter separated Phoenix, the team showcased its impressive balance and depth throughout.

All five starters finished in double figures, scoring at least 14 points.

The Suns are the first team since the 2013 Golden State Warriors (Game 2 in Round 1) with four 20-point scorers on 55% shooting from the floor in a playoff game.

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“That’s what I’ve said all season long: We have a team,” Paul said. “If you try to take one of us out or whatnot, we make the right play. Who you gonna leave open? Mikal [Bridges] is cash. Jae [Crowder] is cash. Cam [Johnson]. I could keep going on and on, and that’s the benefits of having a team.”

For Paul, better health was part of his fourth-quarter output, as he is now two weeks past his initial shoulder injury sustained in Game 1 versus the Los Angeles Lakers. It’s something he is still dealing with, but as Paul already gets better the longer the game goes on, his shoulder also does.

“It definitely loosens up,” Paul said. “One thing about it is you don’t get no practice time. The only way you get a chance to see how it is is during the game. It was good. It was fun to get out there and be involved. That last series was, that was tough. I’m glad to be back helping the team.”

Paul scored or assisted on 20 of the Suns’ final 34 points. It’s his ninth career playoff game with 20 points, 10 assists and one or fewer turnovers, passing LeBron James for the most in the league with that line since turnovers were first tracked in 1977-78.

At 36 years old, Paul is the oldest player in NBA history with 20 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds in a playoff game; only four other players — James (six times), Elgin Baylor, John Stockton and Dennis Johnson — have put up that stat line at age 35 or older.

“Man, it’s a different game for him these days from when I was watching him play,” Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon said of Paul.

“He was a lot more explosive back in the day, getting to the cup. He’s always been really smart, and he just keeps getting smarter. He’s a maestro out there orchestrating them. He really has uplifted that whole Phoenix team.

“Just how he talks, how he communicates with them out on the floor; you can tell that he just gives the entire team confidence.”

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Without Embiid, 76ers roll past Wizards and into 2nd round

Ben Simmons challenged Seth Curry during an afternoon “Call of Duty” session to score 30 points and send the 76ers into the next round of the playoffs. With Joel Embiid hurt, Simmons told Curry he would do his part and get a triple-double.

Maybe there’s something to this pregame gaming hobby.

“Clearly Seth listens to Ben so we’re going to use Ben as a translator for Seth from this point forward,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers stated.

Fire up the console for another round.

Curry scored a playoff career-high 30 points and Philadelphia defeated Washington 129-112 on Wednesday night to end the Easter Conference series in five games, overcoming Embiid’s absence because of a knee injury.

Atlanta awaits after beating New York in Game 5 later Wednesday. Game 1 is Sunday in Philadelphia.

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Sixers fans couldn’t wait, chanting “We want Brooklyn!” as the seconds ticked off in Game 5.

Embiid gets a few extra days of rest.

With an NBA title still in sight, the 76ers will need their injured franchise center — healthy and ready to roll — in the second round versus Atlanta.

“Jo’s been huge for us all year. It’s only right we give him as much time as he needs to get right and come back and help us win it all,” Curry said.

Tobias Harris added 28 points and teamed with Curry and Simmons to carry the offensive load with Embiid out. Simmons had 19 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds to keep the top-seeded 76ers in the hunt for their first championship since 1983.

Embiid is day to day with a small lateral meniscus tear in his right knee and he was reduced to Philadelphia’s biggest cheerleader as the Sixers put the misery of last season’s first-round sweep behind them.

Embiid gave a sneak peek that the injury suffered in a Game 4 loss might not keep him out very long.

The NBA MVP candidate had the crowd going wild when he hit the court for pregame warmups. He shot jumpers around the perimeter, fadeaways, even some free throws — all without any sort of noticeable knee brace under his white leggings —- and put on a show that proved his absence might not last beyond Game 5.

Rivers, in his first campaign, said he expected Embiid to return in the postseason.

“I don’t know when or how early,” he said. “I’m hopeful. I think that’s a better way of putting it.” Sixers fans broke out “Trust the Process!” chants over the final minutes and the laborious rebuilding plan that brought the franchise Embiid and Simmons will surely need both of them to finish the job.

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Los Angeles Dodgers tab Clayton Kershaw to start Game 1 of World Series

Clayton Kershaw, who avoided an emergency relief appearance over the last two matches of the just-completed National League Championship Series, will start Game 1 of the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced on Monday.

Kershaw, who will be making his fifth career World Series start, will oppose Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Tyler Glasnow on Tuesday (first pitch from Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, is 8:09 p.m. ET).

Walker Buehler, who pitched on Saturday, will be pushed back to Game 3 for the Dodgers, giving him five days of rest and still lining him up to start a potential Game 7.

The Rays have tabbed left-hander Blake Snell as their Game 2 starter, but the Dodgers are still unclear, manager Dave Roberts said. His other three starters — Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and Julio Urias — all pitched in Sunday’s Game 7, and some might be counted on out of the bullpen in the World Series opener.

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Kershaw was initially scratched from Game 2 of the NLCS

Due to back spasms Kershaw was initially scratch but was able to recovered in time to start Thursday’s Game 4, permitting one run through the first five innings before running into trouble in the sixth.

The 32-year-old left-hander made himself available out of the bullpen for Games 6 and 7, but Roberts wanted to avoid using Kershaw in hopes of saving him for a potential World Series opener.

Cody Bellinger is expecting to play behind Kershaw even though his right shoulder popped out of its socket during an emphatic celebration with Enrique Hernandez after his game-winning home run in Sunday’s seventh inning.

The Dodgers’ center fielder said he feels “pretty good” and expects to be ready by Game 1, but Roberts said Bellinger’s shoulder was “still a little bit sore” during Monday’s optional workout.

Bellinger has experienced something similar at least three other times, he said, and Roberts said it’s more of a concern hitting than it is playing defense.

“It was an exciting time, it was pure adrenaline — a thing where you just black out,” Bellinger said of his celebration. “Obviously I wish I didn’t do it, but it was such a cool moment for me. It was just pure excitement.”

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