NBA

Booker's Suns sizzle in OT win over NBA-leading Jazz, Durant sparkles on return

By Sports Desk April 08, 2021

Devin Booker and Chris Paul helped the Phoenix Suns take down Donovan Mitchell and the NBA-leading Utah Jazz 117-113 after overtime.

Booker posted 35 points, while Paul finished with 29 points as the high-flying Suns moved to within a game of the best record in the league on Wednesday.

DeAndre Ayton finished with 18 points and 12 assists for the Suns (36-14), who won their seventh successive game after scoring the first five points in overtime and never trailed again.

Mitchell – who nailed a three-pointer with 10.4 seconds remaining to force OT – had a game-high 41 points, eight rebounds and three assists for the Jazz (38-13) in a thrilling encounter.

Jazz team-mate Rudy Gobert put up 16 points on seven-for-seven shooting and 18 rebounds in the losing effort on the road.

Kevin Durant made his long-awaited return in the Brooklyn Nets' 139-111 victory against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Durant had been sidelined since February 13 due to a hamstring strain, but the former NBA MVP returned as the star-studded Nets won midweek.

After a 23-game absence, Durant – initially named in the starting five – came off the bench and posted 17 points on five-for-five shooting in 19 minutes, making both of his three-point attempts.

Durant, who received an ovation from the home crowd at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, also collected seven rebounds and tallied five assists against the Pelicans midweek.

 

Westbrook fuels Wizards with triple

A Russell Westbrook triple-double of 23 points, 15 assists and 14 rebounds led the Washington Wizards past the Orlando Magic 131-116. It was Westbrook's 20th triple-double of the season as the Wizards snapped a four-game losing streak. Bradley Beal returned from a five-game absence and posted 26 points, while the Wizards made a season-best 19 three-pointers.

MVP candidate Nikola Jokic (25 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds) fell just short of his 13th triple-double of the season after the Denver Nuggets topped the San Antonio Spurs 106-96.

Grayson Allen's season-high 30 points helped the streaking Memphis Grizzlies beat the Atlanta Hawks 131-113. Jonas Valanciunas (19 points and 11 rebounds) set a franchise record with his 19th straight game with 10-plus rebounds.

 

Richardson struggles

It was a rough outing for Josh Richardson in the Dallas Mavericks' 102-93 loss to the lowly Houston Rockets. In 29 minutes, he was 0-for-nine shooting for one point. Richardson missed all six of his three-point attempts.

 

Grizzlies roar

The Grizzlies are hard to beat at the moment thanks to their collective effort. All five starters finished in double-digit points – Ja Morant tallying 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, including this combination with Kyle Anderson (16 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals).

 

Wednesday's results

Indiana Pacers 141-137 Minnesota Timberwolves
Washington Wizards 131-116 Orlando Magic
Boston Celtics 101-99 New York Knicks
Brooklyn Nets 139-111 New Orleans Pelicans
Memphis Grizzlies 131-113 Atlanta Hawks
Houston Rockets 102-93 Dallas Mavericks
Charlotte Hornets 113-102 Oklahoma City Thunder
Denver Nuggets 106-96 San Antonio Spurs
Phoenix Suns 117-113 Utah Jazz (OT)

 

Suns at Clippers

The Suns (36-14) will put their winning streak on the line when they visit Western Conference rivals the Los Angeles Clippers (34-18) on Thursday. The Clippers are third in the west, behind leaders the Jazz and second-placed Suns.

Related items

  • Heat's Erik Spoelstra looking forward to 'throwback' Eastern Conference Finals Heat's Erik Spoelstra looking forward to 'throwback' Eastern Conference Finals

    Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said the Eastern Conference Finals will be an old-school defensive slugfest, and that he feels the best two teams made it.

    The Heat needed six games to triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers, while the Boston Celtics came back from 3-2 down against the Milwaukee Bucks to get the job done in Game 7.

    As a reward for getting their series out of the way early, the Heat will have five days of rest before Tuesday's Game 1, while the Celtics have just one proper rest day between series.

    Speaking to the media after Monday's practice, Spoelstra said it is shaping up as a series that will warm the heart of Heat president Pat Riley.

    "Pat's [Riley] probably is going to enjoy this," he said. "This is like a throwback series. 

    "If both teams are really on top of their games, this should be a series where neither team is scoring 130 points. Both teams hang their hats on rock-solid team defense, and making multiple efforts and being disciplined to schemes. 

    "So it will be a lot of plays and things in the margins… really, we were the two best teams in the East most of the season and it's fitting that we're moving into the conference finals.

    "Boston has played as well as anyone in the entire league once they got to 2022. It's not by accident. They're playing very strong basketball. They do it on both ends."

    Heat star Jimmy Butler was asked about his potential matchup against Jayson Tatum, and he had nothing but praise for the Celtics' best player.

    "He's one of the best in the game right now," he said. "As much attention as he draws on the offensive end – and then I think what's really impressive is the way that he's picked up his defensive intensity. 

    "You got to tip your hat to that and respect him, I think those are the guys that you want to go up against."

  • The bigger, better Boston Celtics deserve favouritism in 2020 Eastern Conference Finals rematch The bigger, better Boston Celtics deserve favouritism in 2020 Eastern Conference Finals rematch

    Two years after meeting in the 2020 Eastern Conference finals, the Boston Celtics are on a mission to flip the script on the Miami Heat.

    In that 2020 series, which the Heat won 4-2 in 'the bubble' to advance to the NBA Finals, the Celtics were the higher seed, and were playing in their third Eastern Conference Finals in the space of four seasons.

    But in hindsight, it was Miami who were built to win that series, despite it being their first time past the second round since LeBron James carried them to the finals in 2014.

    Jimmy Butler was invigorated in his first year in Miami, in his physical prime at 30 years old and was determined to show he was not at fault for pushing his way out of the Minnesota Timberwolves and being traded from the Philadelphia 76ers in the space of a year.

    He was also supported by Goran Dragic, just two years removed from his lone All-Star appearance, who in the series averaged 20.5 points and 4.7 assists per game in 34 minutes.

    As well as having two strong initiators, the Heat also had a complete mismatch in the form of Bam Adebayo against a Celtics team starting Daniel Theis at center, with no competent back-up. Adebayo averaged 21.8 points while shooting over 60 per cent from the field, with 11 rebounds and five assists per game, and was clearly the most dominant player in the series.

    When taking into account an outlier 37-point showing from Tyler Herro on 14-of-of-21 shooting that single-handedly won Game 4 112-109 for the Heat – making it a 3-1 series lead instead of 2-2 heading back to Boston – it begins to become clear that there was not much the Celtics could do, given their personnel.

    Fast-forward a couple of years, 22-year-old Jayson Tatum is now 24 and in the midst of a rapid ascension into the game's best players, 23-year-old Jaylen Brown is now 25 and has developed into a true number-two option, Marcus Smart is now 28 years old and the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and, more importantly, the supporting cast is built for the long-haul.

    Replacing Theis with Al Horford may be the most consequential addition or subtraction on either side, with the potential to nullify the series-altering presence of Adebayo on the inside. Horford will also have help in the form of Robert Williams III – who became one of the best defensive players in the league this season – while Theis remains as a 'break glass in case of emergency' option.

    Adding to the rise of the Celtics has been the emergence of Grant Williams as a reliable two-way player, capable of slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo while hitting over 40 per cent of his threes, as well as the trade to add Derrick White as a second defensively sound 'small' guard next to Smart.

    For a team with a real defensive identity – willing to 'switch' every screen and allow their small guards to take on bigger assignments – being able to replace Kemba Walker with a trustworthy, stout defender completely takes away an avenue of attack for a sharp offensive team like Miami.

    What it also means is that the Celtics will not have to waste any minutes on players who have no business in big playoff series – such as Brad Wanamaker and Semi Ojeleye, who combined for 21.8 minutes per game in the 2020 series.

    A run to the NBA Finals would be fulfilling the promises of Boston's advanced numbers, which after the All-Star break had the Celtics as not just a legitimate title contender, but as the favourite, and a historic team.

    During that stretch, the Celtics were the number one offense – with a gap to the Charlotte Hornets at number two – and the number three defense, with a net-rating of 12.7. The Memphis Grizzlies (7.6) were the only other team with a net-rating above 6.0.

    For the Heat, Dragic has been replaced by Kyle Lowry, who is now 36 years old and recovering from his second hamstring injury of the playoffs, and the veteran presences of Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder have been replaced by a combination of Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and the shell of Victor Oladipo.

    Erik Spoelstra boasts arguably the deepest bench in the entire NBA, but this is playoff basketball, which generally comes down to each side's best seven players, nullifying their advantage on the back-end of their roster.

    The identity of this Miami offense through the playoffs has largely relied on the brilliance of Jimmy Butler, who at 32 years old is putting together the best playoff run of his career, averaging 28.7 points per game on 52.7 per cent shooting, with 7.6 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.1 steals.

    Miami's second-best scorer this postseason has been Adebayo, way down at 14.6 points per game compared to his 19.1 for the regular season.

    Butler was perfectly matched up against the Philadelphia 76ers, who have no wing defenders capable of matching the Heat star physically – but the Celtics do not have the same problem.

    The Celtics have at least four players – Tatum, Brown, G. Williams and R. Williams – who match up well with Butler, and they showed against the Milwaukee Bucks that they were more than happy to play straight-up defense and force one player to try and beat them with isolations all day.

    If Miami cannot figure out a way to unleash a second scorer in a real way – be it Herro, Adebayo, or even Strus, who averaged 20.5 points in his two matchups against Boston this season – they may be playing straight into the Celtics hands. 

    The one advantage Miami will have is the rest-factor. It will be five days since the Heat's Game 6 win against the 76ers, while the Celtics will only have one true rest day after handling their business in Game 7 on Monday night.

    For the regular season, the Heat won all three of their games with at least three days rest, although the Celtics were the fourth-best team in the NBA coming off one day of rest (28-13, .683 winning percentage).

    If the Heat can take advantage of their fresh legs and win Game 1, anything could happen, but ultimately, just like the Celtics were almost helpless in 2020, the Heat just may not have the horses this time around.

  • Kyle Lowry ruled out of Game 1 of Eastern Conference Finals Kyle Lowry ruled out of Game 1 of Eastern Conference Finals

    Miami Heat guard Kyle Lowry has been ruled out of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics with a hamstring injury.

    Lowry, 36, averaged 13.4 points, 7.5 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game in 63 regular season starts, but has been plagued by injuries in the postseason.

    Miami's point guard initially suffered a hamstring injury in Game 3 of the Heat's first round series against the Atlanta Hawks, missing the remainder of the first round and the first two games of their round two clash against the Philadelphia 76ers.

    Lowry scored zero points in his return for Game 3, and then re-injured his hamstring in Game 4 as the Heat lost both games before rallying back to win the series in six.

    Game 1 against the Celtics will be around 10 days removed from the aggravation of the injury, and given the timetable of hamstring injuries, particularly in older players, it can safely be assumed Lowry remains at least a week away from a possible return.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.