Tagged in: lead

Booker scores 28, Suns rout Mavericks 110-80 for 3-2 lead

Devin Booker scored 28 points, Deandre Ayton added 20 and the Phoenix Suns defeated the Dallas Mavericks 110-80 on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Suns used a huge third quarter to turn a tight game into a comfortable victory. Phoenix opened up the second half on an 11-4 run, highlighted by Booker’s two 3-pointers, for a 61-50 lead.

Mavs coach Jason Kidd called for a timeout, but it did little to stop the onslaught. The Suns led 82-60 going into the fourth with Booker pouring in 12 points during the third.

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While the Suns were finally finding some offensive continuity, the Mavs completely lost theirs, scoring just four points in the first six minutes of the third.

At times, the Dallas offense regressed to mostly watching Luka Doncic try and work magic, but he couldn’t do it all by himself.

The Mavs had 12 turnovers during the third quarter.

The top-seeded Suns bounced back after dropping the previous two matches and can win the series in Game 6 on Thursday in Dallas.

Doncic finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Jalen Brunson added 21 points. The Mavs shot just 38% from the field.

The Suns took a hard-fought 49-46 lead into halftime. Booker scored 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Doncic countered with 18 points, though it was a little less efficient after making 7 of 16 shots.

The Mavericks led for a majority of the first half before Booker’s baseline jam tied it at 40-all with 3:47 before halftime. Mikal Bridges had a nifty steal and then scored on a fast-break layup for a 44-42 lead.

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Grayson Allen sinks Chicago Bulls amid boos as Milwaukee Bucks take commanding 3-1 lead

In the days leading up to the team’s first road playoff games in Chicago, the Milwaukee Bucks used every chance they could to shower Grayson Allen with boos.

They booed Allen when he walked onto the team bus. They booed him when he arrived in the lobby of their team hotel. They even booed him during film sessions and when Allen touched the ball in practice.

So when Allen set back-to-back playoff career highs in Games 3 and 4 this weekend to help Milwaukee take a commanding 3-1 series lead over Chicago, the Bucks bench enjoyed booing him all the way.

“They have so much fun doing it,” Allen said with a laugh after scoring 27 points off the bench in the Bucks’ 119-95 victory Sunday afternoon. “I think it’s honestly hilarious. They’ve kind of turned it into a fun thing. It makes hearing it out there during the game a lot easier too because they think it’s so funny.”

Game 5 will be Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

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The Bucks started jeering their own teammate earlier this season once they heard the reaction Allen received every time he touched the ball during the team’s first game in Chicago back in March. Allen became public enemy No.1 to Chicago basketball fans after his flagrant foul on Bulls guard Alex Caruso during a game on Jan. 21 resulted in a fractured wrist for Caruso, forcing him to miss two months.

Allen stated Sunday that he had attempted to reach out to Caruso to apologize after the incident, but the two never connected.

The Bulls downplayed any lingering animosity toward Allen leading up to the series, but fans at the United Center have not let it go as easily, responding with loud boos each time Allen approached the scorer’s table or touched the ball on offense each game this season.

Even if he has gained a reputation as a villain in Chicago, Allen insisted after the game Sunday that he does not feed off such a negative reaction.

“It’s not naturally comfortable for me,” Allen said. “I am to the point now, anytime I go out and play basketball, I just remind myself to go out and have fun with this. … My personality is naturally uncomfortable with the attention, the booing, the heckling. It’s not something I feed off of. I’m not going out searching for it.”

That hasn’t stopped Allen’s teammates from having fun with it.

Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo suggested Allen frame a photo from Game 3 in which the Bucks bench is in the background booing Allen as he heads to the free throw line after a converted and-1.

Allen went 10-of-12 from the field on Sunday, including 6-of-7 from 3-point range, to outscore Chicago’s bench all by himself 27-17. He became the first Bucks player to score 25 points and knock down six 3s in a playoff game in team history and first Bucks player with at least 25 points off the bench since Tim Thomas in 2003, according to research by ESPN Stats & Information.

Allen even made plays on defense, collecting three steals and holding Chicago to 3-of-8 shooting when he was the primary defender.

Allen rebounded after going 0-for-4 from 3 to start the series in the first two games. His performance this weekend helped the Bucks withstand the loss of forward Khris Middleton, who will miss the rest of this first-round series with a sprained MCL in his left knee. Chicago had waited five years for a home playoff game here, and the fans’ reward was a weekend of uncompetitive basketball.

The Bulls were outscored by a combined score of 230-176 in the two games on their home floor and must win on Wednesday in Milwaukee to extend their season.

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Mavericks beat Jazz 126-118 to take 2-1 series lead

Jalen Brunson scored 31 points playing with a bruised back and the Dallas Mavericks — without the injured Luka Doncic — defeated the Utah Jazz 126-118 on Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in the first-round playoff series.

Spencer Dinwiddie scored 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter for Dallas, Maxi Kleber had 17 points and Dorian Finney-Smith added 14 points, hitting a 3-pointer with 1:56 left for a 10-point lead.

Doncic has missed all three of the matches in the series with a strained calf, with signs pointing to his return for Game 4 on Saturday in Salt Lake City.

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Donovan Mitchell scored 28 of his 32 points in the second half for Utah. Bojan Bogdanovic added 24 and Mike Conley had 21. The Jazz had won 11 in a row at home versus Dallas.

Conley got the Jazz to 103-102, but Dinwiddie made two baskets and Brunson scored six points on three consecutive possessions to make it 113-104.

Brunson appeared to hurt his back midway through the second quarter when Royce O’Neale hit him full-speed from behind.

He moved gingerly, rubbed his lower back and earned a technical on his way off the court complaining about a cheap shot.

But he shook it off and toyed with Jazz on a variety of drives to the baskets against several different defenders. Brunson now has 96 points in the three games of the series.

Once the Jazz finally matched the Mavericks and played without a center, the court opened up for Utah. Mitchell (18) and Bogdanovic (12) scored at will in the third quarter against a leaky Dallas zone.

The Jazz made 14 of 18 shots and trimmed the lead to 97-91 entering the final period. The game was physical and chippy at times, featuring 60 fouls.

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LaVine nets 32, Bulls overcome DeRozan’s absence, top Denver

The Chicago Bulls found out they had to get by without DeMar DeRozan, then showed they have enough to keep winning, even when they’re missing one of their best players.

It sure is a welcomed change for Zach LaVine after years of losing.

“No idea, brother,” he said, laughing.

LaVine scored 32 points and the Bulls overcame DeRozan’s absence to beat the Denver Nuggets 109-97 on Monday night.

The Bulls took a big hit a few hours before tipoff when DeRozan, their leading scorer, entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Even without the four-time All-Star, they dominated down the stretch and tied Brooklyn for the Eastern Conference lead.

It’s just another sign of how far the Bulls have come. After four consecutive losing seasons, they hope to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

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The Chicago Bulls found out they had to get by without DeMar DeRozan, then showed they have enough to keep winning, even when they’re missing one of their best players.

It sure is a welcomed change for Zach LaVine after years of losing.

“No idea, brother,” he said, laughing.

LaVine scored 32 points and the Bulls overcame DeRozan’s absence to beat the Denver Nuggets 109-97 on Monday night.

The Bulls took a big hit a few hours before tipoff when DeRozan, their leading scorer, entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Even without the four-time All-Star, they dominated down the stretch and tied Brooklyn for the Eastern Conference lead.

It’s just another sign of how far the Bulls have come. After four consecutive losing seasons, they hope to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017.

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Giants hold NL West lead, top Rockies; Belt’s hand injured

The San Francisco Giants moved closer to a division title with a clutch victory. Now they hope their home run leader can be help them capture the crown.

Brandon Crawford homered to cap a four-run ninth inning and the Giants held their lead in the NL West, defeating the Colorado Rockies 6-2 on Sunday but lost first baseman Brandon Belt to a hand injury.

The Giants, who have won 15 of 19, have a two-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers, who defeated Arizona 3-0 on Sunday. San Francisco now heads home to Oracle Park with a chance to clinch their first division title since 2012.

Belt left the game in the seventh inning after getting hit on the left hand with a pitch while squaring to bunt. Giants manager Gabe Kapler said a scan was inconclusive and Belt will get X-rays back in San Francisco. “It’s not time to reflect on us losing Brandon Belt,” Kapler said. “We’re just not there yet.”

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Crawford was optimistic Belt wouldn’t be out long.

“It’s scary when it’s a fastball or a hard pitch either close to his hand or on his hands,” he said. “There are so many little bones that can break. From talking to him, he seems like he should be all right, not miss too much time.”

San Francisco had to work for its sixth consecutive win at Coors Field, and its 102nd victory overall — its most since winning 103 in 1993.

It was 2-all when reliever Daniel Bard (7-8) walked Steven Duggar and Wilmer Flores, and pinch-hitter Tommy La Stella lined an RBI single with one out.

Rockies manager Bud Black turned to Tyler Kinley to keep it close instead of allowing Bard to face Crawford.

“Bardo’s been out there a little bit the last five days and you could tell he wasn’t hitting his spots,” he said. “The walk to Duggar and the base hit to La Stella, I thought Kinley would give us a better chance against Crawford.”

Crawford spoiled the strategy with his 23rd of the season.

“Craw’s been good in those moments all season long. No surprise,” Kapler said. “He got a pitch he could drive.”

Camilo Doval (5-1) pitched the eighth inning for the win.

San Francisco starter Kevin Gausman struck out 11 in six innings but was left with a no-decision when Colorado tied it in the seventh.

Gausman retired 13 straight after Garrett Hampson’s single to lead off the first inning. C.J. Cron ended the streak with his 28th homer with one out in the fifth that cut San Francisco’s lead to 2-1.

Gausman, who entered Sunday with a 5.33 ERA in five September starts, said he made a mechanical adjustment that helped him.

“For me today was a big step forward. I could just tell from the get-go that I was my normal self and back to when I was going good,” he said. “That confidence just came back and I felt like I could throw any pitch when I needed to.”

Giants reliever Zack Littell committed a balk in the seventh to put runners on second and third. Cron, who led off with a single, scored on a grounder when he beat the throw home from second baseman Donovan Solano that tied it at 2.

San Francisco scored its first run on a groundout in the second inning and added another in the fifth. Belt reached on a bloop double with two outs and scored on Kris Bryant’s single.

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Russell Henley shoots lowest round in 2 years to lead Wyndham Championship

Russell Henley shot an 8-under 62, his lowest round in more than two years, to take the lead Thursday in the suspended first round of the Wyndham Championship.

Henley birdied three of his last four holes for a 2-stroke lead over Sung Kang, Ted Potter Jr., Chris Kirk, Hudson Swafford, Scott Piercy and Michael Thompson in the PGA Tour’s final regular-season event. Adam Hadwin also was 6 under but had two holes left when darkness ended play.

A storm halted play for 2 hours, 7 minutes, with 22 players unable to finish.

Past champion Webb Simpson and Kevin Kisner led a group of 10 another stroke behind at 65 at Sedgefield Country Club, where many competitors are scrambling to make it into top 125 to advance to the playoffs that start next week at the Northern Trust.

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Henley, at No. 46 in the standings, had no worries about the postseason but came out fast with a bogey-free round in chasing his first PGA Tour triumph in four years.

He moved in front with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 15th before closing with birdies on 17 and 18, the last with a 20-foot putt. He had with his lowest round on the tour since a career-low 61 at the John Deere Classic in 2019.

Henley has played some solid golf of late.

He was tied for the 36-hole lead at the U.S. Open in June, then had two straight top-20 finishes before missing the cut at the British Open. He returned this week, hoping he can carry his strong play to the end.

“I haven’t won in years, so I feel like as well as I’ve been playing, I feel like I’ve underachieved a little bit,” he said.

“My mindset,” Henley continued, “is I feel if I can play my game, play my normal game, then I can maybe give myself a chance, and that’s kind of where I’m at.”

There are several big names competing to keep their season’s alive. Adam Scott, who started at No. 121, and Matt Kuchar, at No. 124, both had strong starts at 66.

“I would like to play well this week and get a chance to play next week and keep getting my game into place,” Scott said.

Rickie Fowler, who came in at 130th and needing a good week, didn’t help himself with a 71. Justin Rose, the Payne Stewart Award winner this week, has to finish in the top 10 to advance after coming in 138th. He opened with a 66, tied for 19th.

Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama was at 69, tied for 89th.

Olympic medalists Rory Sabbatini and C.T. Pan also are playing after the Tokyo Games. Sabbatini, who took silver for Slovakia behind U.S. gold medal winner Xander Schauffele, started with a 66.

Pan, from Taiwan, won a seven-man playoff for the bronze. He shot a 68.Louis Oosthuizen, the only top-10 player in the FedEx standings entered, withdrew due to a neck injury.

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Without Giannis, Bucks beat Hawks 123-112 for 3-2 lead

Brook Lopez scored a playoff career-high 33 points and the Milwaukee Bucks withstood Giannis Antetokounmpo’s absence to defeat the Atlanta Hawks 123-112 on Thursday night for a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

The Bucks are one victory away from reaching the NBA Finals for the first time since 1974. They won their lone NBA title in 1971.

Four of their starters had at least 22 points: Lopez, Khris Middleton (26), Jrue Holiday (25) and Bobby Portis (22). Middleton also had 13 rebounds and eight assists. Holiday had 13 assists and six rebounds.

Game 6 is Saturday in Atlanta, with the winner of the series facing the Phoenix Suns in the NBA Finals. Each team was missing its biggest star as Antetokounmpo dealt with a hyperextended left knee and Atlanta’s Trae Young sat out a second consecutive game due to a bone bruise in his right foot.

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Young got hurt when he accidentally stepped on an official’s foot along the sideline in Milwaukee’s 113-102 Game 3 victory. 

Antetokounmpo landed awkwardly after trying to block Clint Capela’s dunk attempt in Atlanta’s 110-88 Game 4 triumph.

Just as the Hawks’ role players stepped up with Young sidelined in Game 4, Antetokounmpo’s teammates came through Thursday to help the Bucks overcome the loss of their two-time MVP.

Bogdan Bogdanovic led the Hawks with 28 points. Atlanta also got 19 points each from John Collins and Danilo Gallinari, and 17 from Lou Williams.

Portis took Antetokounmpo’s spot in the starting lineup and had the Fiserv Forum fans chanting “Bobby! Bobby!” on multiple occasions, continuing something that started during Milwaukee’s Game 2 blowout victory. Portis’ 22 points were a playoff career high.

The Bucks never trailed and led by as many as 20 in the first quarter, making most of their shots and getting second-chance opportunities on their rare misses. The game was nearly eight minutes old by the time Cam Reddish got Atlanta’s first defensive rebound.

Milwaukee led 36-22 after a first quarter in which the Bucks outscored the Hawks 28-8 in the paint. Bogdanovic’s 13 first-half points helped the Hawks close the gap to 65-56 at the break.

The Bucks needed that edge in the paint because they again couldn’t connect from range, continuing a problem that has hounded them the entire postseason. After making their first two 3-point shots, they missed their next 12 attempts from beyond the arc.

Atlanta cut the lead to 65-59 when Bogdanovic hit a 3-pointer to open the third-quarter scoring, but that’s as close as the Hawks would get in the second half. This marked the second consecutive game in this series without any lead changes. The Hawks never trailed in Game 4.

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Phoenix Suns take 3-1 series lead, inspired to get Chris Paul first trip to NBA Finals

Just one victory away from the NBA Finals, Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul said he will not allow himself to consider quite yet what it will be like to compete on basketball’s biggest stage for the first time in his 16-year career.

“Not until the job is done. Not until the job is done,” Paul said after the Suns’ gritty 84-80 win over the LA Clippers on Saturday to go up 3-1 in the Western Conference finals. “We can talk about all that then, but right now, it’s just laser focus.

“Three wins don’t win the series, so right now, we did what we came here to do. We wanted to get one of these, and now we got to stay focused and be ready to go back to our crowd.”

Paul, of course, has been here before. In 2018, his Houston Rockets were up 3-2 in the Western Conference finals versus the Golden State Warriors, before the defending champions stormed back to win the final two games, with Paul hobbled by a hamstring injury.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Paul said, looking back on the disappointment from three years ago. “Don’t dwell on things, you always remember, but I’m here now, excited about this opportunity, and all I can worry about right now is Game 5.”

Paul guided Phoenix to its victory in Game 4, playing all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, when he scored seven of his 18 points and dished out two of his seven assists, despite struggling to shoot the ball.

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Paul was 1-for-7 from the field in the fourth — and just 6-for-22 for the game — though he did go 5-for-6 from the free throw line in the closing period.

“I was mad I missed [midrange shots] that could have put us up by five or seven, but it’s so crazy when I went to the free throw line I thought about my son,” Paul, 36, said of his trip to the stripe with 3.9 seconds remaining, and the Suns up by two, when he split the pair of attempts. “I talk to my son all the time about the importance of shooting free throws.

“I seriously went to the free throw line and I was like, ‘How the hell I’m going to tell him to stay poised if I don’t do it my damn self?'”

It would appear Paul’s son is learning from his dad just fine, judging by how Paul’s younger teammates rave about the example he is setting for them.

Deandre Ayton, who lived up to his “DominAyton” nickname with 19 points, 22 rebounds, four blocks and three assists in Game 4, exuded praise for the man who is 14 years his senior.

“I love CP, man,” said Ayton, 22. “That’s really the only teammate that really pushed me. Like big-bro-type push.

“I think he was the best thing that happened to my career. I can say that every day.”

Ayton said he would like to repay Paul’s investment in him by helping Phoenix to at least one more win this postseason so Paul can finally get a taste of the Finals.

“I’m going to try my best,” Ayton said. “I’m going to try my best. … I know how it is as an older player and being in the league and stuff like that. So, when you have an opportunity like this, you can’t take it for granted. And he let us know. He let us know, and we know the task at hand.”

Devin Booker, who ditched the face mask protecting his broken nose to score a team-high 25 points before fouling out, said that he grew up watching Paul.

“I’ve been a fan of his for a long time, and I’ve learned so much from him this year, and I always talk about off the court how he carries himself, and he’s just a true professional at every level at all times,” Booker, 24, said. “I have a lot of respect for him as a man, not even as a basketball player, just understanding how bad he wants this and how much time he’s put into it … 16 years, that’s a long time.

“We know how bad he wants it. … We definitely have his back.”

Suns coach Monty Williams, who coached Paul in the playoffs when they were both with New Orleans a decade ago, gave him a compliment of the highest order when asked how he feels about Paul controlling the action down the stretch.

“He’s not afraid of those moments,” Williams said. “It’s all about winning for Chris.” One more win. One more win and Paul will experience winning in a way he never has before.

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Nuggets eliminate Trail Blazers in Game 6 with 126-115 win

Nikola Jokic had 36 points and the Denver Nuggets eliminated the Portland Trail Blazers in six matches with a 126-115 triumph Thursday night.

Michael Porter Jr. added 26 points, including 22 in the opening quarter, for the third-seeded Nuggets. They await the outcome of the first-round series between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers.

Denver advanced to the Western Conference semifinals for the third consecutive season.

Damian Lillard finished with 28 points and 13 assists for the sixth-seeded Blazers. They led by 14 points in the third quarter but couldn’t stave off elimination. Monte Morris hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to close Denver to 101-98 heading into the last period. Jokic hit a 3-pointer to put Denver ahead 108-106 and Denver stretched it to 117-108 on Austin Rivers’ 3 with 3:52 left.

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Portland tired to catch up, getting to 121-115 on CJ McCollum’s layup, but Aaron Gordon hit a 3-pointer that all but sealed it for Denver with less than a minute to go.

The Nuggets took a 3-2 lead in the series with a 147-140 double overtime victory in Denver on Tuesday night.

It spoiled Lillard’s epic playoff performance: He had 55 points, including 12 3-pointers, and 10 assists. It was the most 3-pointers ever in a playoff game.

The Blazers needed big man Jusuf Nurkic to stay out of foul trouble. Tasked with defending Jokic, he fouled out in three of the first five matches.

Nurkic didn’t have a foul in the first half, but then had four quick fouls in the third quarter and had to head to the bench.

Porter had six 3-pointers in the first quarter alone, tying an NBA playoff record for most 3s a quarter. Lillard hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Blazers a 68-61 lead at the half. He raised his arms to encourage the crowd as he headed off the floor.

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Nets get 7 3s from Harris, rout Celtics 130-108 for 2-0 lead

Brooklyn is more than just its Big Three. There’s also Joe Harris and his 3s.

Even if a team can hold Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, it still has to stop the NBA’s most accurate 3-point shooter.

That’s a lot of problems to solve, and Harris understands why teams don’t make him the priority.

“I think it’s just sort of, this is the reality of the matter,” Harris said. “I mean, we have three of the best offensive players that really have ever played.”

Harris tied a franchise playoff record with seven 3-pointers, Durant scored 26 points and the Nets routed the Boston Celtics 130-108 on Tuesday night for a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Harris had a career playoff-high 25 points and Harden added 20 as the Nets unleashed their lethal offense after winning Game 1 largely with defense.

“Different games it’s going to be different guys,” Harden said. “Tonight it was Joe, next game, Game 3 it could be somebody else. So we’re just all locked in, we’re all on the same page and whatever it takes to win, we’re willing to do.”

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Game 3 is Friday in Boston, where the Nets will try to build on their first 2-0 lead in a series since they swept the New York Knicks in the first round in 2004.

This one might be headed toward the same result, with the Celtics unable to do much scoring in Game 1 or stop the Nets from doing tons of it in Game 2.

“We’ve got to be way better,” coach Brad Stevens said, listing a number of defensive problems the Celtics have to address.

“They exposed that because they were really good, but I was disappointed in how we played versus the other night.”

Marcus Smart scored 19 points and Kemba Walker had 17 for the Celtics. Leading scorer Jayson Tatum had only nine points on 3-for-12 shooting before leaving after just 21 minutes when he was poked in the right eye.

After the Nets scored just 16 points in the first quarter of Game 1, Harris had that by himself in the opening quarter of this one while going 4 for 4 behind the arc.

The Nets had started slowly in Game 1 and in the only game their Big Three played together late in the regular season, and on Monday coach Steve Nash stated he thought it might be a while before his three stars could walk on the court and be firing on all cylinders.

It was only a day later for Harris, who led the NBA in 3-point percentage at 47.5% this season.

Harris made three straight 3-pointers to extend a three-point lead to 25-13 and there was a little gasp from the crowd when he then stole the ball and dribbled down on a breakaway, as if he might pull up behind the arc. Instead, he went all the way for the layup and a 14-point lead.

It was 40-26 after one period and Harden made consecutive 3s to open the second. That made it a 20-point game and it was never close from there.

Walker said the Celtics have to look at the film to find opportunities they are missing.

“I know I missed a lot of passes myself that I could’ve made personally that I would definitely like to be better at,” he said. “So we’ve just got to be better.” Irving had 15 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Nets, who made 17 3-pointers.

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