Kurt Helin

Boston’s jumpers fall, Isaiah Thomas drops 42, and Celtics beat Hawks 111-103

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Now that felt like a playoff game.

It started with a playoff adjustment — Boston’s Brad Stevens inserted Evan Turner and Jonas Jerebko into starting lineup — and suddenly the Boston jumpers were falling. In what was the opposite of the first two games, this time it was the Celtics who raced out to the big lead (20 points), put up 37 points in the first quarter, and were getting role players who stepped up (Jerebko had a put back dunk to set the tone). With the jumper falling, the floor opened up for Isaiah Thomas (who also was working off the ball more), and he had 16 first quarter points.

But just like in the first game in this series, the team that was behind battled back. Atlanta went on a 12-0 run early in the third quarter and by the end of the quarter had taken the lead.

This was the best playoff game the season, and it had everything: big shots, physical play, technical fouls — including some overly touchy flagrant foul calls by the officials — and a lot of smack talking. It was just fun.

The night ended with a 111-103 Boston win behind 42 points from Thomas. Atlanta is up 2-1 in the series, and this sets up a crucial Game 4 on Sunday back at the Garden.

Boston pushed back in this one, and they battled and defended like we have come to expect from Stevens team. The difference was the shooting thanks to Jerebko (11 points, 12 rebounds) and Turner (16 points) —  just having the threat of them out there created space that was missing with Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk out injured. Boston’s shooting was not great (8-of-19 from the midrange, 11-of-32 from three) but it was good enough to keep the Hawks from packing the paint on defense as they did in the first two games.

The Hawks front line of Paul Millsap and Al Horford did not have great nights, combining to finish with 16 points on 19 shots. Jeff Teague led the was for Atlanta with 23, Kent Bazemore had 20, and Kyle Korver added 17 despite being in foul trouble most of the night (he eventually fouled out). Atlanta needs to find ways to get Millsap and Horford looks they are more comfortable with in Game 4 — and those two need to knock down the bunnies they kept missing.

Boston can even this series with just a little more Garden magic. Well, that and keeping their jumpers falling.

Cavaliers hold off feisty Pistons 101-91, take 3-0 lead in series

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — LeBron James had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Kyrie Irving made a pair of big 3-pointers down the stretch to help the Cleveland Cavaliers move within a game of a first-round sweep with a 101-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

Irving scored 26 points for Cleveland, which overcame a gritty effort by the Pistons in Detroit’s first home playoff game since 2009. Andre Drummond scored 17 points for the Pistons, but Detroit fell behind toward the end of the third quarter, and a late rally came up short.

The Cavs lead the series 3-0, with Game 4 coming up Sunday night.

The Pistons have now lost 11 straight playoff games against Cleveland, and they’ve lost nine in a row overall in the postseason.

Down by nine in the fourth, Detroit went on an 8-0 run, forcing the Cavs to call a timeout. Irving responded with a 3-pointer, and J.R. Smith added one of his own to make it 95-90. Irving made it an eight-point game with a 3-pointer in the final minute.

A raucous, towel-waving crowd tried to give Detroit a boost. Pistons fans booed James early and often, although the Cleveland star threw down a two-handed dunk on his team’s first offensive possession.

Data curated by PointAfter

Detroit rookie Stanley Johnson, who seemed eager to get into a verbal battle with James and the Cavs after Game 2, scored nine points in a fearless first half Friday, but James had the final word before halftime, making a jumper with less than a second left in the second quarter to give Cleveland a 54-53 lead.

Cleveland methodically built a 79-73 lead after three quarters, and after a three-point play and a 3-pointer by James early in the fourth, the Cavs were up by nine. It was 87-86 after Detroit’s run, but the 3s by Irving and Smith helped Cleveland hold on.

With 1:34 remaining, the public address announcer at the Palace announced the results of a replay review with his popular “Deeeeeeeeeetroit Basketball” call, but it turned out he was mistaken and had to correct himself. Officials were giving the ball to the Cavs.

Detroit’s chances were all but extinguished when Irving sank a 3-pointer from the right corner with 43 seconds remaining, and James ran back to midcourt for a celebratory chest bump.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Mo Williams (sore left knee) did not play.

Pistons: Reggie Bullock (left leg) missed the game. … Detroit hasn’t won a playoff game since Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals in 2008 against Boston.

Watch Kyrie Irving hit dagger three, seals Cavaliers’ win (VIDEO)

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If this play looks familiar, it’s one Golden State runs. It works for them.

It worked for the Cavaliers, too. Kyrie Irving was freed up by a LeBron James screen, got a little deeper in the corner than he probably wanted, and drained the three. It put the Cavaliers up by eight inside :45 seconds and the game was over. The Cavaliers went on to win 101-91 despite a feisty performance from Detroit.

LeBron celebrated this three enough to make up for the Rockets’ bench.

NBA gives Kevin Durant after-the-fact technical; Rick Carlisle calls out Thunder’s “physical escalations”

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant reacts to a play during the second half in Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, April 21, 2016, in Dallas. The Thunder won 131-102. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Associated Press
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The Oklahoma City Thunder are a physical basketball team that likes to instigate contact. Do not think of guys like Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook — or especially Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams — as finesse players.

Friday, the league gave Durant an after-the-fact technical foul for a “physical taunt” for this elbow thrown during Game 2.

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During his media availability Friday, Rick Carlisle complained about the “non-basketball physical escalations” by the Thunder.

The Thunder want a physical game. That plays to their strengths. It does not play to Dallas’ wheelhouse, so you can understand Carlisle putting this out there trying to get a more tightly called game. And to plant a seed in the minds of the referees about what to look for. It’s playoff gamesmanship, and he’s playing it well.

Stephen Curry would be “very” surprised if he doesn’t play in Game 4 Sunday

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 18: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors warms up before Game Two of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on April 18, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
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Steve Kerr and everyone around the Warriors will go out of their way to tell you there is no correlation. But…

After Golden State lost Game 3 on a James Harden shot, didn’t we all know Stephen Curry would be back for Game 4? The organization was going to be extra cautious bringing him back(Curry had wanted to play Thursday) because it’s an ankle injury and he has a history with those, but the second they paid a price for not having him the equation would change. Thursday they paid a price.

Which brings us to Curry’s practice comment Friday.

The Warriors want to close this out in five games, and they wanted Curry to play in at least one game again before the second round (too much rest equals rust).

Rocket fans are jumping on Charles Barkley for being Charles Barkley today; they are defending their team on social media against the questions of how the bench reacted. Good for them, they reacted as fans should. This was a good win for the Rockets.

With Curry back, it was also the Rockets last of the season.