Celtics beat Warriors 116-100, take 2-1 lead in NBA Finals

Throughout the postseason, the Boston Celtics had played their best basketball away from home.

Not anymore.

Jaylen Brown scored 27 points, Jayson Tatum added 26 and the Celtics rode the energy of a raucous TD Garden crowd to beat back another third-quarter onslaught by Golden State in a 116-100 victory Wednesday night that gave them a 2-1 lead in the NBA Finals.

Marcus Smart added 24 points and helped fuel a defensive effort that held the Warriors to 11 points in the fourth quarter — third-fewest in a finals game in the shot clock era.

“Game 2, they brought the heat to us,” Smart said. “For us, that left a bad taste in our mouth because what we hang our hat on is effort on the defensive end and being a physical team. It definitely woke us up a little bit.”

Tatum said the fact the Celtics didn’t hang their heads after the Warriors’ third-quarter flourish is something they didn’t always do in the regular season. “I think that’s when we are at our best when we respond to tough situations. We respond to teams going on runs and things like that,” he said. “I think we did that several times tonight.”

Boston improved to 6-4 at home, compared to 8-3 on the road this postseason. The Celtics haven’t lost two straight games since the end of March.

Stephen Curry led Golden State with 31 points and six 3-pointers. He had 15 points in a 33-25 third quarter by the Warriors but was hurt late in the fourth after Al Horford rolled into his leg on a loose ball. Curry said it was similar to a play during the regular season in which Smart dove into Curry’s legs while chasing a loose ball but “not as bad.”

“I got caught — obviously in some pain, but I’ll be all right,” Curry said. “See how it feels tomorrow and get ready for Friday.” Klay Thompson broke out of a finals slump and finished with 25 points and five 3s. But the …

Boston Celtics survive wild Miami Heat comeback to win Game 7, advance to NBA Finals

The Boston Celtics held on for dear life against the relentless Miami Heat in Game 7 and survived.

Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart — the core of a team that had lost two previous chances together to win the Eastern Conference finals — combined for 74 points in a 100-96 victory to advance to the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. Boston won for the third time in four games in Miami.

“The road that we took to get here, not a lot of people believed in us,” Tatum said on the court after slaying Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Miami in successive rounds. “We took the toughest route, and it worked out.”

Tatum won the NBA’s first-ever Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP award after scoring 26 points in Sunday’s win-or-go-home game. Brown and Smart each added 24. The trio also combined for 25 rebounds and 17 assists. Al Horford grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots in a dominant defensive effort.

“We stayed with it. We believed in each other. We made a commitment on the defensive end,” Horford, who reached the Finals for the first time in 141 playoff games, said as he accepted his team’s trophy. “That was the biggest thing, defending, and that was going to be our identity — and that’s what’s carried us this far.”

Jimmy Butler scored 35 points, playing all 48 minutes for the Heat in defeat. Bam Adebayo added 25 points. Miami’s two bright stars shot 56% from the field. Their teammates had 36 points on 28% shooting.

Once the Celtics took a 98-85 lead with 3:35 remaining, the Heat rallied on an 11-0 run, and Butler saw a wide-open transition 3-point attempt that would have given them their first lead with 16 seconds left, but he fired it off the front rim. Smart connected on a pair of free throws on the other end to prevent a collapse.

The Celtics pushed the pace in the first quarter and played lockdown defense, taking a 32-17 advantage with …

Golden State Warriors advance to their 6th NBA Finals in 8 years with a win against the Dallas Mavericks

Klay Thompson shimmied his way to 32 points, and the Golden State Warriors advanced to their sixth NBA Finals in eight seasons by beating the Dallas Mavericks 120-110 in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals Thursday night.

Thompson scored 19 points in the first half, including a 3-pointer that he punctuated with teammate Stephen Curry’s signature shake as the Warriors raced out to a 17-point halftime lead and coasted the rest of the way.

Andrew Wiggins added 18 points and 10 rebounds, Draymond Green scored 17 points and Curry had 15 points and nine assists for the Warriors.

Luka Doncic overcame a slow start to score 28 points for the Mavericks. Spencer Dinwiddie added 26.

After missing the playoffs in 2020 and ‘21 in back-to back injury-plagued seasons, the Warriors are returning to a familiar stage. They are the first team to make six finals appearances in an eight-year span since the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls had a pair of three-peats from 1991-93 and 1996-98.

The Warriors will host the winner of the Eastern Conference finals between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat on June 2 in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Celtics hold a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 at home Friday.

The Warriors followed their pattern from the first two rounds by bouncing back after squandering a chance to end a series on the road by winning at home. The Warriors are 9-0 at the Chase Center this postseason, tying the 2017 team for the the most consecutive home wins in a single postseason in NBA history.

The star this game was Thompson, who sat out the last two seasons with injuries but showed flashes of his old self in this clincher.

After making just seven 3-pointers in the first four games of the series, Thompson had eight. He gave the Warriors a 13-point lead in the first half when he hit one from the corner before dancing and added two early in the third quarter for a 23-point lead.

The Mavericks cut a …

Jaylen Brown leads Celtics’ second-half turnaround as Boston beats Miami Heat

The Celtics found themselves trailing the Heat by five, on the road, at halftime of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals Wednesday night.

And yet, the Celtics felt just fine. They couldn’t have played much worse in the first half, committing 10 turnovers and giving up nine offensive rebounds to Miami — which allowed the Heat to take 14 extra shots.

“We weren’t playing our best, in a lot of ways,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “Sometimes, all it takes is one guy getting back to his average game.”

No one was playing worse than Jaylen Brown. He went 2-for-7 from the field and committed four turnovers — all in the first quarter. Then the second half started. And as it played out, Brown wound up being the face of the team’s turnaround.

Brown’s 19-point, 0-turnover second half — coupled with an 18-point second half from Jayson Tatum — allowed Boston to finally break open what was a rock fight in the first half, as the Celtics went on to win 93-80 over the Heat, moving Boston to within one victory of its first trip to the NBA Finals in 12 years.

“Same player,” Brown said from the first half to the second. “Just had to get settled in. That’s it. As the game wears on, some of that energy, some of that intensity starts to wear off, so the game opens up a little bit. The game opened up for me in the second half.

“I didn’t want to get down. I didn’t want to look into the past, think that this game was over. My team needed me to come out and respond.

“First half was s—. Threw it away. [Just] come out, play basketball in the second half.”

It was unclear whether Boston was going to be able to follow through on Brown’s instructions after yet another ugly stretch of basketball in this series for the Celtics in the first half of Game 5. The difference from the other periods when Boston has gone off the …

Boston Celtics’ ‘sense of urgency’ from start to finish propels Game 4 blowout of Miami Heat to even East finals

When things have gone poorly for the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, it has been when they’ve lost focus and allowed Miami to speed them up and turn them over, leading to fast-break points — the one consistent way the Heat have scored in this series.

That was the formula Miami used to fuel its victories in Games 1 and 3. And so, heading into Game 4, Boston knew that in order to even this series at two wins apiece, it would have to avoid falling into those same bad habits once again. Mission accomplished.

The Celtics were utterly dominant at both ends from start to finish on Monday night. Boston scored the first eight points and never looked back, cruising to a wire-to-wire 102-82 victory in front of a sellout crowd at TD Garden to send this series back to the shores of Biscayne Bay for Game 5 on Wednesday, with both teams two wins away from a trip to the NBA Finals.

“Urgency,” said Jayson Tatum, who led all scorers with 31 points, when asked to describe Boston’s mindset entering Game 4. “That was a focal point coming into this game, to just have a sense of urgency on both ends of the floor, from start to finish. Really starting the game better, obviously, than we did last game. That’s something that we talked about and something that we executed tonight.”

In a series that has seen each game swing wildly from one direction to the other, it took about 10 seconds to realize Game 4 would follow a similar pattern. Boston immediately jumped out to an 8-0 lead before Miami scored a single point; and the Celtics eventually took an 18-1 lead before the Heat finally made their first field goal with 3:22 remaining in the first quarter when Victor Oladipo buried a 3-pointer.

By then, Miami had missed 14 consecutive shots to open the game, setting a tone for all that was to come over the final 40 minutes. The Heat simply never got …

Celtics dominate Heat in Game 2 to tie series

It shouldn’t come as shocking, but the return of Marcus Smart and Al Horford paid dividends for the Celtics. Both players missed Game 1 of the series, with Smart dealing with a foot sprain and Horford in protocols. Their presence in this game was felt immediately, and they both made a big impact in the box score. Smart played 40 minutes, finishing with 24 points, nine rebounds, 12 assists, three steals, one block, and five triples. He started off slow with his shooting, but he was able to shoot 6-for-11 in the second half, including four of his triples. Smart’s control of the game helped Boston lower their turnovers from 16 in Game 1 to just nine in Game 2. Obviously the Defensive Player of the Year’s impact doesn’t always show up in the stat sheet (though it did in this game). He made even more plays that made a huge difference in the game that won’t appear in a box score. Horford has been a steady veteran for the Celtics all year, and that proved to be a factor in this game. He didn’t shine with his numbers (10/3/3/1/1 line on 4-for-4 FGs), but Horford did play a critical role in this game on both ends. We’ve seen him fill it up throughout the postseason, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see bigger numbers from him as the series progresses.

Derrick White missed this game due to the birth of his child (big congrats!), but Boston’s bench didn’t miss a beat. Grant Williams returned to a bench role, which didn’t slow his production in the slightest. He finished with 19 points on 5-for-7 shooting with two triples and four rebounds. He also finished as a +37, which was second on the team to Payton Pritchard, who finished as a +39. Pritchard finished with 10 points and two triples in 23 minutes.

Boston’s pair of star wings didn’t disappoint. Jayson Tatum finished with a 27/5/5 line with four triples, while shooting 8-for-13 from the floor. After turning it over seven …

Golden State Warriors Sail Past the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals

The Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks kicked off their Western Conference Finals series in San Francisco for Game 1 on Wednesday night and after a slow start, the Warriors were definitely the better team on the night.

The Warriors were not one of the favorites to come out of the West at the beginning of the season, but a hot start to their 2021-22 campaign ensured they returned to their status as one of the most feared teams as Steph Curry also found some of his MVP form.

Curry did not have his best shooting night against the Mavs, but finished with 21 points and a game-high 12 rebounds as the Dubs cruised to a 112-97 win to take a 1-0 lead.

The Mavericks learned pretty quickly in this game that they will need to learn to defend space better as the Warriors are a much better 3-point shooting team than the Phoenix Suns.

Luka Doncic, who has almost single-handedly willed his team to this stage of the playoffs, had an off-night, ending Game 1 with 20 points (6-of-18 from the field) and seven rebounds. The Warriors held him to just 16.7 percent shooting on contested field-goal attempts – a career playoff low for the Slovenian.

Only one game separated the teams in the regular season, and it’s because of the Warriors’ 53-52 edge in wins — rather than the Mavericks’ 3-1 triumph in the season series — that Golden State has earned the home-court advantage in this best-of-seven series.

Mavs’ coach Jason Kidd will have a couple of days to figure out what adjustments he needs to make to get Doncic back in his groove, and to help his team (hopefully) steal a win at Golden State before heading back to Dallas.

The Sporting News tracked all of the action from Game 1.

Warriors vs. Mavericks score

Game 1 Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Warriors 28 26 34 24 112
Mavericks 18 27 24 18 87

Warriors vs. Mavericks series schedule

Here is the full schedule for the …

Jimmy Butler scores 41 as Miami Heat take Game 1 from short-handed Boston Celtics

Jimmy Butler scored 41 points, and the Miami Heat turned things around with a huge third quarter on the way to beating the short-handed Boston Celtics 118-107 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night.

Tyler Herro scored 18 and Gabe Vincent added 17 for the Heat, who outscored Boston 39-14 in the third quarter. Butler had 17 alone in the third, outscoring the Celtics by himself over those 12 minutes.

Max Strus scored 11 and Bam Adebayo added 10 for Miami.

Jayson Tatum scored 29 for the Celtics, who were without starters Marcus Smart (foot) and Al Horford (health and safety protocols). Jaylen Brown added 24 for Boston, which got 18 apiece from Robert Williams III and former Oregon Ducks star Payton Pritchard.

Game 2 is Thursday.

Boston led by 13 in the first half and took a 62-54 lead into halftime. Whatever Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said during intermission clearly worked.

A 22-2 run was how Miami started the second half, the run punctuated by steals that led to baskets on three consecutive possessions. Strus had one, the next two by Butler pushed the lead out to 76-64, and the Heat were off and running.

The lead reached 96-76 when Herro was fouled on a three-point try and made all three free throws early in the fourth.

Boston had a run left; a 10-0 spurt cut the deficit in half, and a three-pointer from Tatum made it a nine-point game — outcome still very much in doubt — with 7:35 left.

But the Heat had a response. PJ Tucker answered Tatum’s three with one of his own. Brown then connected from deep to get Boston within single digits again, only to have that one answered by a three from Strus.

Some of the plans that both sides had for Game 1 were thrown away about 3½ hours before game time, when the Celtics revealed that Smart and Horford wouldn’t be playing. Smart’s absence was somewhat expected because of a mid-foot sprain he suffered in Game …

Milwaukee stuns Boston late to steal Game 5 on road

It took all of 10 minutes for the Celtics’ playoff fortunes to change Wednesday night.

Boston led the Milwaukee Bucks by 14 points with 10 minutes remaining in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at TD Garden and appeared on its way to a 3-2 series lead.

The Bucks came storming back, however, outscoring Boston 33-14 down the stretch en route to a stunning 110-107 victory.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (40 points, 11 rebounds) and Jrue Holiday (24 points, eight rebounds, eight assists) played key roles in Milwaukee’s comeback, while Bobby Portis’ put back layup with 11.4 seconds remaining proved to be the difference.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined to score 60 points (34 and 26, respectively) for Boston, while Marcus Smart added 15 points on 6-of-11 shooting.

Here are our takeaways from a defeat that puts the Celtics one loss from playoff elimination entering Game 6 in Milwaukee on Friday night.

Defense wins championships

The Celtics played well offensively for most of the night, but the Bucks put the clamps on Boston late to engineer their comeback.

Holiday in particular was a defensive menace, his signature play a block on Smart with 8.7 seconds remaining and his team up by one point.

Holiday then picked Smart’s pocket on Boston’s final possession to seal Milwaukee’s victory.

After committing five turnovers total over the first three quarters, the Celtics had five turnovers in the fourth quarter alone. Their offense looked stagnant, as Tatum settled for midrange jumpers and the team didn’t attempt a single 3-pointer.

Boston still misses Time Lord

If there’s one area where Milwaukee had the clear advantage in Game 5, it was on the offensive glass. The Bucks racked up 17 offensive rebounds to Boston’s five, none more important than the late put back by Portis, who had seven offensive boards.

Milwaukee also won the overall rebounding battle 49-36, taking advantage of Robert Williams’ absence to dominate in the paint.

The Celtics managed to win Game 4 without Williams and should have won without him Wednesday night. But …

Grizzlies rout Warriors to avoid elimination, force Game 6

The Memphis Grizzlies fought off elimination with the highest-scoring performance in their franchise’s postseason history.

And with All-Star guard Ja Morant cheering from the bench. Then Morant upped the ante by chanting “Grizz in seven!”

Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane and Tyus Jones each scored 21 points and the Grizzlies routed the Golden State Warriors 134-95 on Wednesday night to force a sixth game in their Western Conference semifinal.

“We’ve exceeded expectations ever since I’ve been here,” Bane said. “It almost seems whenever someone thinks we can’t do something, we end up doing it. So I never want to put a limit on this team on what we can do because anything’s possible.”

Dillon Brooks added 12 points for Memphis. Ziaire Williams and Brandon Clarke had 11 apiece and De’Anthony Melton 10. Steven Adams had 13 rebounds, six offensive as Memphis outscored Golden State 24-5 on second-chance points. The Grizzlies never trailed, turning in their best performance of this series to pull within 3-2 even with Morant out a second straight game because of a bone bruise in his right knee. They improved to 4-11 when facing elimination.

“We knew what was at stake,” Jackson said. “We didn’t change anything, though. We just calmed down, looked at the film, understand what we had to take away from the last game and just went out there and executed.”

Memphis scored 77 points in the first half, the most in franchise postseason history. The Grizzlies pushed their lead to 55 in the third quarter, threatening the three biggest postseason blowouts in NBA history. Their 52-point lead after three tied for the largest in a playoff game in the past 70 years.

“Obviously, this was a very impressive win for our group, great bounce-back for sure,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said.

When Memphis fans chanted “Whoop That Trick! Whoop That Trick!” early in the fourth, Stephen Curry laughed on the court while Draymond Green swung a towel in unison with the crowd. Green said he doesn’t respect people who only bring energy when …

Heat demolish Sixers to take 3-2 series edge

Jimmy Butler and the Heat move within a win of advancing to the Eastern Conference finals

Seven players scored in double figures for the Heat as Miami blasted the visiting Philadelphia 76ers, 120-85, to grab a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series on Tuesday night, May 10 (Wednesday, May 11, Manila time).

Jimmy Butler scored a game-high 23 points for the Heat, but unlike losses in Games 3 and 4 when he was their only consistent source of offense, he had plenty of help.

Miami’s Max Strus produced his first double-double of the postseason with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Gabe Vincent added 15 points, while Victor Oladipo came off the bench for 13. Bam Adebayo (12), Tyler Herro (10) and PJ Tucker (10) also hit for double figures.

Butler added 9 rebounds and 6 assists while hitting 9-of-15 field goal attempts. Strus was 7-of-13 from the floor, including 4-of-10 from three-point range.

Joel Embiid scored 17 points to pace Philadelphia, while James Harden added 14 and Tobias Harris netted 12 points. However, the 76ers made just 36.5% of their field goal attempts and were outrebounded 46-36.

The Heat hit 53.6% from the field, including 13-of-33 (39.4%) from beyond the arc. The 76ers wound up 9-of-32 (28.1%) from long distance, with Georges Niang missing all six of his three-point attempts and finishing scoreless in 16 minutes.

Game 6 is Thursday night in Philadelphia, where the 76ers try to stave off elimination. The road team hasn’t won yet in the series.

Miami set an immediate tone, rattling off 12 straight points for a 21-10 lead at the 5:16 mark of the first quarter. Strus drained consecutive three-pointers to cap the run.

The Heat stretched the margin to 18 in the second quarter before settling for a 56-44 halftime lead. Butler had 14 first-half points to lead all scorers.

Miami pushed the advantage to 20 less than four minutes into the third quarter on Vincent’s three-point play.…


The Suns used a huge third quarter to turn a tight game into a comfortable win. 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.

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 Dončić try and work magic, but he couldn’t do it all by himself.

The Mavs had 12 turnovers during the third quarter, finishing with 16. They also tallied just nine assists on the night, compared to 28 for Phoenix, which also out-rebounded Dallas 50-38.

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

Dončić 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-for-11 shooting from the field. Dončić countered with 18 points, though it was a little less efficient after making seven 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.…

Al Horford, Celtics outlast Bucks in exhausting Game 4 to even series

Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart and Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo lay exhausted in the backcourt, their bodies entangled and their hands clasped together.

The fourth-quarter playoff action Monday night continued without two of the NBA’s hardest-working players, but they just couldn’t seem to summon the energy to help each other get back on their feet. When Boston’s Al Horford scored on the other end, a still-horizontal Antetokounmpo slumped his shoulders and rested his head on the hardwood. The way to beat the two-time MVP, who has taken his game to new heights this postseason, has been to outlast him when his teammates falter.

On a night when both teams struggled to shoot — continuing a series-long trend — the Celtics shook off a slow start and rallied from an 11-point third-quarter deficit to claim a 116-108 victory in Game 4 at Fiserv Forum. Horford helped pull Boston back from the brink with a playoff career-high 30 points, eight rebounds and three assists to even this slugfest of a second-round series at two games apiece.

“We all understood the importance of this game,” Horford said. “At the end of Game 3, we were in a position to win, and we didn’t. I was just locked in. I understood the moment and what we needed to do as a group. I did whatever it took. It was one of those types of nights.”

The 35-year-old Horford has long cultivated a reputation as a heady, steadying presence, but Monday he showed a rare electric streak. Shortly after halftime, Antetokounmpo dunked on Horford and received a technical for taunting. Horford answered early in the fourth quarter, throwing down a poster dunk of his own on Antetokounmpo that helped swing momentum in Boston’s favor.

“The way that [Antetokounmpo] was looking at me and going about it, it didn’t sit well with me,” Horford said. “Something switched with me.”

The veteran center followed up his dunk with a series of clutch jumpers, scoring 16 fourth-quarter points as Milwaukee stalled on the other end. Horford made …

Mavs drill 20 three-pointers in series-tying win over Suns

The Dallas Mavericks rained 20 three-pointers and again neutralized Phoenix point guard Chris Paul to beat the top-seeded Suns 111-101 on Sunday and knot their NBA playoff series at two games each. Star guard Luka Doncic scored 26 points and Dorian Finney-Smith added 24 for Dallas, who have won two games at home to level the best-of-seven Western Conference matchup after dropping the first two games in Phoenix. The Suns, who finished the regular season with the best record in the league, will try to regain the advantage when they host game five on Tuesday. It’s guaranteed to shift back to Dallas for game six on Thursday.

Overall, the Mavs were on fire from beyond the arc, their eight three-pointers in the first quarter helping them build a 37-25 lead.

Their 14 three-pointers in the first half tied a franchise playoff record for three-pointers in a half.

They led 68-56 at the break and even more ominously for Phoenix, veteran point guard Paul committed his fourth foul trying to make a tip-in with 1.1 seconds left before half-time.

Paul picked up his fifth foul early in the third quarter and headed to the bench. He returned with 10:28 left in the fourth and promptly fouled out thanks to a hand to the arm of Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson.

A dangerous team

Devin Booker led the Suns with 35 points. Jae Crowder added 15 and Deandre Ayton scored 14.

But the Mavericks bench out-scored the Phoenix reserves 36-26.

“This team was amazing,” said Doncic, who was outstanding but received little support in the Mavs’ two series-opening defeats. “Everybody that gets to the court leaves everything out there. If we play hard and we get stops, we’re a dangerous team.”

While Doncic struggled with his shots, he added 11 assists along with four rebounds. He also forced four steals as the Suns turned it over 17 times. While Phoenix managed to cut the deficit to four points with less than two minutes to play in the third quarter, the Mavericks repelled every …

James Harden, Joel Embiid lead Philadelphia to crucial Game 4 win over Miami

The Philadelphia 76ers have new life in their Eastern Conference semifinals series against the Miami Heat following their 116-108 victory in Game 4 on Sunday night. After losing the first two games without the services of Joel Embiid, Philadelphia has bounced back in a. major way on their home floor with the team’s MVP candidate on the floor.

In the end, Jimmy Butler led all scorers with 40 points but it was the Sixers’ balanced attack, led by James Harden’s 31 points, nine assists and seven rebounds that ultimately led to the win for Philly to even the series. These two teams will square off in South Beach on Tuesday night in Game 4 with the opening tip scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Here are the biggest takeaways from Game 4.

1. Will the real James Harden please stand up?

James Harden was Philadelphia’s best player on Sunday. The numbers, in a vacuum, were stellar: 31 points, nine assists and seven rebounds is the sort of production a team should expect out of a player it has invested as much in as Philly has in Harden. He made nearly as many 3-pointers (six) as the Heat did as a team (seven).

And yet, I can’t help but wonder what it says about Harden that this is the sort of performance he’s getting praised for. After all, he averaged just shy of 34 points, eight assists and seven rebounds two seasons ago. This was not peak James Harden. This wasn’t even a throwback to his old self. He only made two two-point shots in the entire game. He was certainly more aggressive as an attacker, and his 10 free throw attempts were the second-most he’s earned this postseason. But it’s not as though he rediscovered his old first step. Harden had shot 28.3 percent on his 3s in Philly’s past eight playoff games. That isn’t who he really is. But neither is 6-of-10 and without that hot shooting, the conversations surrounding his performance probably aren’t changing much.

Scoring isn’t all Harden does. …

Suns erupt in fourth quarter to race by Mavericks for 2-0 lead in Western Conference semifinal

There were 54 fouls called.

Eleven were offensive, with Phoenix picking up the first seven of them.

There were 30 3-pointers made. Dallas hit 17 of them.

Then there was Chris Paul.

With Deandre Ayton, Devin Booker and JaVale McGee all in foul trouble, the Suns turned to their floor general and once again, Paul delivered in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s 129-109 win to take a 2-0 series lead in the conference semifinals.

“It impresses us every time you see it, but it doesn’t surprise us,” Booker said. “It’s just the will to win. If he sees a matchup he likes, you can hear their bench yelling, ‘Send him left.’ You can try whatever you want to do, but he has a rebuttal move for you at every turn. Not only can he score, he can make a play for somebody else if you leave your man.

Scoring 14 of his 28 points in the fourth, Paul, who turns 37 years old Thursday, had the sellout crowd of 17,071 rocking in the fourth to fuel Phoenix’s offensive eruption.

“It’s fun, I love it,” said Paul, who shot 6-of-7 from the field in the fourth.

The Suns outscored the Mavs 40-26 in the fourth as they led by as many as 26. This after finishing Game 1 poorly in winning by just seven after leading by 21.

“You have to not only be impressed, but proud of the way we continue to win games mentally,” Suns coach Monty Williams said.

The series now shifts to Dallas for Friday’s Game 3 and Sunday’s Game 4.

“You’ve got to accept the challenge,” Suns forward Jae Crowder said. “They have a lot of guys who put the ball in the basket and they try to get mismatches and stuff like that. Coming into this series, you have to accept the challenge of guarding these guys and making it as tough as possible.”

Booker finished with 30 points on Wednesday as he hit three 3s in the fourth, with his final one putting Phoenix …

Morant’s 47 points lift Grizzlies over Warriors to even series

The Memphis Grizzlies used Ja Morant’s 47 points to rally past the Golden State Warriors 106-101 and even the second round series on Tuesday night.

Morant single-handedly outscored the Warriors 15-6 in the final 4:16 of the game on his way to a tying his own franchise postseason record with 47 points on 15-for-31 shooting. Morant connected on five 3-pointers to go with eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals.

Ziaire Williams scored 14 points with five rebounds on 4-for-8 shooting while supplying tight defense in the final minutes. Jaren Jackson Jr. added 12 points with seven rebounds while Brandon Clarke tallied 10 points with three rebounds.

Stephen Curry led the Warriors with 27 points, nine rebounds and eight assists while Jordan Poole notched 20 points, five assists and three rebounds.

The Grizzlies took the early lead behind Morant’s 14 first quarter points on 4-for-7 shooting. Jackson Jr. notched 10 points and three rebounds as the Grizzlies led 33-25 after 12 minutes of play.

Memphis held off the Warriors in the second quarter, holding on to a 56-51 lead at halftime. Morant led the Grizzlies with 23 points on 7-for-12 shooting from the field to go with five assists and four rebounds in the half. Curry scored 15 points with five rebounds to lead the Warriors.

The Warriors finished the third quarter on a 13-3 run to bring the score even at 77-77 with one quarter remaining, but the fourth quarter belonged to Morant as he exploded for 18 points in the final period.

Morant is the third player in NBA history to have multiple 45-point postseason performances before turning 23 years old, joining LeBron James and Kobe Bryant (ESPN).

Next Game

The Grizzlies will look to take the series lead over the Golden State Warriors at Chase Center on Saturday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m. CT.…

Jaylen Brown takes charge in huge Game 2 win

The Celtics were on the ropes without one of their top fighters Tuesday. But they still threw a mean counterpunch. Despite missing starting point guard Marcus Smart due to a right quad contusion, the Celtics jumped out to an early double-digit lead against the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals and never looked back, rolling to a 109-86 win at TD Garden to tie the best-of-seven series 1-1. Jaylen Brown delivered the biggest blow with a game-high 30 points, 17 of which came in the first quarter. Jayson Tatum added 29 points while the Celtics hit a franchise-record 20 3-pointers (20 of 43) to bounce back from an ugly 101-89 loss in Game 1. Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo led Milwaukee with 28 points, nine rebounds and eight assists but shot just 40.7 percent (11 of 27) with five turnovers. He was the only Milwaukee player to reach 20 points, as the Celtics’ defense limited the Bucks to just three 3-pointers on 18 attempts. The teams will have an extended layoff before Game 3, which is Saturday in Milwaukee. Here are our takeaways from an impressive Boston win at the Garden:

Jaylen Brown came to ball

Brown was the first one in the building Tuesday, arriving about three hours before tip to get some extra shots up after scoring just 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting in Game 1.

That extra work clearly helped: Brown exploded a playoff career-high 17 points in the first quarter, hitting six of his first seven shots and dropping Grayson Allen with a filthy crossover.

Brown had 25 points by halftime and missed just five shots (10 of 15) while committing just two turnovers, looking like a completely different player after his rough Game 1.

The Celtics need Brown to be at least the third-best player on the floor to have success in this series. On Tuesday, he was the best, giving Boston a huge boost in Smart’s absence.

Boston has a three party

After making just 18 of their playoff career-high 50 …

76ers blow out Raptors in Game 6, 132-97

The Philadelphia 76ers bounced back from a pair of losses to the Toronto Raptors to win by 35 on the road in Game 6 and advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Philadelphia won the first three games of the series, but star center Joel Embiid suffered a thumb injury in Game 3 and the team struggled offensively in Games 4 and 5. That wasn’t the case Thursday night when the 76ers scored 70 in the second half alone of a 132-97 win.

Embiid led the team in scoring with 33 points, making 12 of his 18 field goals on the night. Every starter for the 76ers scored at least 12 points on the night. James Harden finished with 22 points and 15 assists, and the 76ers got 25 points and eight assists out of Tyrese Maxey.

Toronto trailed by only one point at halftime, but managed to score just 36 points in the second half, something the 76ers managed to accomplish before the end of the third quarter. Chris Boucher came off the bench to lead the Raptors in scoring with 25 points.

The 76ers advance to face the top-seeded Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals, which will begin Monday.…

Luka Doncic, Dallas rally past Utah in series clincher, will face Suns next

The Dallas Mavericks advance to the Western Conference semifinals after beating the Utah Jazz 98-96 in Game 6 Thursday night. It was a closely contested battle that came down to the final shot as Jazz forward Bojan Bogdanovic missed what would’ve been a game-winning 3-pointer to extend this series.

The Mavericks got a combined 48 points out of Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson, while Spencer Dinwiddie tacked on 19 points off the bench. The Jazz carried a 10-point lead heading into halftime, but couldn’t finish it off in the second half as Doncic started to catch fire after the break. Donovan Mitchell had 23 points in the loss, while Jordan Clarkson put up 15 points and six rebounds off the bench. The Jazz will head into the offseason, while the Mavericks will now face the top-seeded Phoenix Suns in the second round.

Here are three takeaways from the Dallas’ series-clinching win over Utah.

1. Not about how you start, but how you finish

If you stopped watching this game at halftime you would probably assume that Utah held on to win this game based on how Dallas was playing. The Mavericks shot just 38.6 percent from the field, and an even worse 16.7 percent from deep. Doncic was held to just nine points on 3 of 8 from the field, and the Mavericks couldn’t buy a shot from practically anywhere on the floor.

Meanwhile, after a similarly slow start in the first quarter, the Jazz began to figure things out in the second quarter and took advantage of mismatches on offense and attack the rim. Utah was smart in hunting Doncic on offense, which resulted in several easy buckets around the rim. At the half, the Jazz held a 12-point lead and despite the injury concerns leading up to this game, Mitchell looked like he was unbothered by those quad bruises.

And then the third quarter started. Just for some context, Doncic ranks sixth in the league in points scored in the third quarter this season (8.3), and in the …