BOSTON (AP) Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris each had 20 points, and the Boston Celtics rallied in the second half to beat the Indiana Pacers 84-74 on Sunday to take a 1-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.
Jayson Tatum finished with 15 points. Al Horford added 10 points and 11 rebounds, and Gordon Hayward had 10 points. It was the first playoff game since 2017 for Irving and Hayward after each missed last year’s postseason with injuries.
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Boston.
The Pacers led by 11 points in the first half but had just eight points in the third quarter. The Celtics capitalized and led by as many as 22 in the fourth. Indiana scored 29 points in the second half, and the quarter and half were both its worst of the season.
Cory Joseph had 14 points for the Pacers. Bojan Boganovic was the lone Pacers starter in double figures with 12 points.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Pacers coach Nate McMillan both said before the series that the more physical team would have the edge.
After a shaky start, it turned out to be Boston.
Indiana led by as many as 11 in the first half before Boston opened the third quarter with a 22-3 run to take a 60-48 lead. The Pacers didn’t get their first field goal of the second half until Cory Joseph dropped in a layup with 3:38 left in the third. They finished the quarter 2 for 19 from the field.
Boston’s run included a brief appearance by Celtics legend and former Pacers front office executive Larry Bird, who was shown on the big screen during a timeout.
The third period ended with Terry Rozier connecting on an acrobatic 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds remaining to put the Celtics ahead 64-53. The lead grew to 84-62 on a 3-pointer by Tatum with 3:34 remaining.
But after Boston committed four turnovers in the first four minutes of the game, Stevens quickly adjusted, inserting Morris and Hayward.
The change paid off with Morris connecting on 3 of 4 field-goal attempts in the period, including two 3-pointers, and scoring 12 points. No other Celtics player had more than two points.
The Celtics continued turning the ball over, though. They finished the first half with 10 turnovers, which led to 11 Pacers points.
Pacers: Went 12 of 21 from the free throw line (57%).
Celtics: Outrebounded the Pacers 55-42.
PATRIOTS’ KRAFT COURTSIDE
Patriots team owner Robert Kraft sat courtside beside Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck. Kraft was charged with two counts of solicitation in January after police said he twice paid to have sex with employees at a Florida spa.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Wesley Matthews tipped in a basket with 1.8 seconds left and the Indiana Pacers rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 108-106 on Thursday night.
Domantas Sabonis scored 26 points against his former team, and the Pacers won their second straight by erasing the Thunder’s lead in the final 15 minutes. Indiana’s magic number for clinching a playoff spot is one.
Paul George led the Thunder with 36 points in his second trip back to Indianapolis since a blockbuster trade in July 2017. Russell Westbrook added 19 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists but missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
George and the Thunder were in control most of the game.
Indiana crept back into the contest by closing the third quarter on a 16-5 run that included a 46-foot, buzzer-beating heave from Cory Joseph. They made it 88-83 when Sabonis hit the opening basket in the fourth.
After Oklahoma City appeared to steady itself with an 8-2 spurt, the Pacers charged back. They tied it on two free throws from Sabonis and took their first lead since the opening minutes when Myles Turner‘s dunk made it 102-101 with 2:50 to go.
After Bojan Bogdanovic made it 104-101, George tied it with his sixth 3-pointer and broke the tie with two free throws.
Sabonis tied it back up with another layup with 57 seconds left. George turned the ball over twice and slipped while on defense during Indiana’s final possession, leaving Matthews the space to get free for the winning putback.
Thunder: Westbrook has 27 triple-doubles this season and 131 in his career. … Steven Adams had 17 points and eight rebounds. … Oklahoma City went 3-3 during a stretch in which they played five road games. … The Thunder fell to 6-5 on the second night of back-to-backs this season.
Pacers: Darren Collison had 17 points, six rebounds and seven assists. … The Pacers committed 16 turnovers. … Bogdanovic scored 23 points and extended his streak of consecutive games in double figures to 24 and his career best single-season total of 20-point games to 28. … Tyreke Evans missed his second straight game for personal reasons. Coach Nate McMillan said he expects Evans to travel with the team later this week.
Thunder: Hosts the Western Conference-leading Warriors on Saturday.
Pacers: Begin a crucial four-game road trip at Denver on Saturday.
Victor Oladipo underwent an MRI Thursday that revealed he has a ruptured quad tendon in his right knee, sustained with 4:05 to play in the second quarter of Wednesday night’s game against Toronto. He will undergo surgery at a date to be determined and will be out for the season.
This is devastating. The Pacers lose their top player in a season they appeared capable of beating anyone in the Eastern Conference. And Oladipo must recover from a major setback that threatens his explosiveness long-term.
Third-place Indiana still has a seven-game buffer over sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers should still make the playoffs and get at least a first-round matchup with whatever of the Raptors, Bucks, Celtics and 76ers finishes with the worst record.
Indiana has played slightly better without Oladipo this season, but that’s with Oladipo being their go-to player in the highest-leverage situations. Make no mistake: The Pacers are far worse without Oladipo.
Now, Indiana must assess its roster before the trade deadline. Look for reinforcement to remain as competitive as possible without Oladipo? Stand pat and let Tyreke Evans, Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph assume larger roles? Accept reduced expectations and sell (especially players on expiring contracts like Thaddeus Young, Bogdanovic, Collison, Joseph and Evans)? There are no easy answers.
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) D’Angelo Russell serves his revenge cold-hearted against Lakers. Do you remember what Magic Johnson said after the Lakers traded D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets?
“We want to thank him for what he did for us. But what I needed was a leader.”
Russell remembers. And Tuesday night against the Lakers he played with all the swagger Magic and the Lakers thought he lacked (and we haven’t seen all that consistently in Brooklyn). Russell was every bit a leader. And a scorer. And an assist man. Russell had 22 points, 13 dimes and the Nets got the win, 115-110.
There are two takeaways from this game.
First, the Nets are scrappy and have some talent — they have won six in a row for a reason (with wins over the Raptors, Sixers, and Lakers in there). The streak has revived the question “could the Nets make the playoffs?” They are just 1.5 games out of the eight seed out East. The Nets have done that with an elite offense (117.6 points per 100 possessions in the streak, third best in the NBA) covering up for a still bottom 10 defense. More than that, the Nets are a walking life lesson: Grit and effort will beat out unmotivated talent. Brooklyn is beating teams that look better than them on paper because they want it more and execute better — and that speaks to what coach Kenny Atkinson has built. It speaks to the right culture, one that will thrive as the talent increases.
The second takeaway? The Lakers need JaVale McGee. Which is a weird thing to type, especially considering Brandon Ingram and Rajon Rondo both missed the game as well. But the reality is the Lakers are thin up front — remember the start of the season when JaVale looked like a defensive force and the Lakers fell apart when he had to sit, meaning Kyle Kuzma or LeBron James had to play center? Then Los Angeles picked up Tyson Chandler and suddenly the Laker defense looked top 10 in the league. McGee has missed the last two games, Laker losses to Washington and Brooklyn, with flu-like symptoms. That moved Chandler into the starting lineup, but when he sits the Lakers are thin again. The Lakers may be 18-13 but they are built on thin margins — LeBron needs to play like an MVP and the Laker depth has to be good enough to support him to win. LeBron had 36 in this game, but in the 6:48 he sat in this game the Lakers were -9 and lost. The depth was not there.
Plus, Jarrett Allen did this to LeBron and became the hero of NBA Twitter for a night.
That’s cold. Just the way Russell wanted to serve it up.
2) Larry Nance Jr. tips in the game-winner and Cleveland stops Indiana’s win streak. The Indiana Pacers had won 7 in a row and came into Tuesday night as hot as any team in the NBA. The Cleveland Cavaliers were scuffling without Kevin Love, Jordan Clarkson and Tristan Thompson.
So what happens? The Pacers seemed to be looking ahead to a showdown with the Raptors Wednesday and came out lifeless. The ball movement and offensive spark that was at the heart of the win streak came to a screeching halt — Indiana shot 39.8 overall and a dreadful 18.2 percent from three. Victor Oladipo, Darren Collison, Cory Joseph, and Tyreke Evans combined to shoot 9-of-36 on the night.
That let the Cavaliers hang around, and then this happened — Larry Nance tipping in the game winner.
Cleveland hasn’t had a lot to celebrate this season, so they did.
If you’re one of the Pacers fans complaining that in wrestling for position to get off the game-winning tip that Nance fouled Oladipo… come on. First, you’re never going to get that call in that situation, the refs are going to let them play. Also, THAT’S NOT WHY THE PACERS LOST. Go rewatch the first 47 minutes of the game. Or, just go re-read the second paragraph of No. 2 of our three things to know. That’s why the Pacers lost.
At least they shouldn’t be tired against Toronto on Wednesday.
3) Denver has won four in a row, leads the West, and Nikola Jokic is getting MVP mentions. What a world. In a West where the Warriors have gotten healthy, it is Denver that is still sitting atop the West and riding a four-game win streak — over Memphis, Oklahoma City, Toronto, and now Dallas — despite a rash of injuries robbing them of their depth.
After Tuesday night’s win over Dallas, Denver has won four in a row and is 21-9 on the season. How? At the heart of the matter is the big man playing at an All-NBA level who is getting some fringe MVP buzz — Nikola Jokic. He had 32.
Denver is legit people. In a West where we have no idea which team will come out of the pack and take on the Warriors next May in the conference finals, Denver has a real shot at it. They have the star player in Jokic, a good supporting cast, the fourth best defense and the seventh best offense in the league. It will come down to health and matchups in the West in the end, but Denver has as good a shot as anyone to dance with the Warriors in May.
Report: Suns’ top point-guard target is Clippers’ Patrick Beverley
I’m told they’re targeting Clippers guard Patrick Beverley. He’s been at the top of their list.
The issue is price, asking price. Phoenix has only been willing to give up second-round picks in all their discussions for a veteran point guard, which they’re trying to acquire. And the Clippers, just like every other team that knows Phoenix needs a point guard, wants a first-round pick.