NBA

Irving returns as Nets snap three-game skid against Pacers, Jokic triple-double as Nuggets lose

By Sports Desk January 06, 2022

Kyrie Irving scored 22 points upon his return to the Brooklyn Nets side for the first time this season as they came from behind to beat the Indiana Pacers 129-121 and snap a three-game skid on Wednesday.

Irving had been ruled out of the entire regular season by the Nets due to his vaccination status but the franchise changed their stance a fortnight ago, permitting him to play road games.

The 29-year-old point guard played 32 minutes, making nine-of-17 from the field along with three rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Irving's return reunited the 'big three' alongside Kevin Durant (39 points, eight rebounds and seven assists) and James Harden (18 points, five rebounds and six assists).

The Pacers had led 73-60 at half-time with a biggest lead of 19 points before Brooklyn rallied with an 8-0 run to end the third quarter, before Patty Mills put them ahead with a fourth-quarter three-pointer.

Domantas Sabonis recorded a triple-double for the Pacers with 32 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

 

Popovich brings up 2,000th in style

Gregg Popovich coached the San Antonio Spurs for the 2,000th time, recording his 1,325th win in charge as they beat the Boston Celtics 97-95 with Jaylen Brown's lay-up buzzer beater rimming out. Brown scored 30 points with six rebounds, while Dejounte Murray had 22 points, nine rebounds and 12 assists for the Spurs.

Bojan Bogdanovic (36 points, 13 rebounds and four assists) won the battle of the Balkan stars against Nikola Jokic as the Utah Jazz edged the Denver Nuggets 115-109. The reigning MVP was exceptional for the Nugs with 26 points, 21 rebounds and 11 assists.

Joel Embiid scored 31 points as the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Orlando Magic 116-106, while Giannis Antetokounmpo was absent with a non-COVID-related illness as the Milwaukee Bucks lost 117-111 to the Toronto Raptors with Pascal Siakam netting 33 points.

 

Curry goes cold for Warriors

Stephen Curry had an ordinary shooting night, going five-of-24 from the field and one-of-nine from beyond the arc as the Golden State Warriors lost 99-82 to the Dallas Mavericks. Curry finished with 14 points with nine rebounds while Mavs All-Star Luka Doncic had 26 points with seven rebounds and eight assists.

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  • 'We know what's at stake' – Tatum a '10 for confidence' as Celtics target NBA Finals 'We know what's at stake' – Tatum a '10 for confidence' as Celtics target NBA Finals

    Jayson Tatum is full of confidence that the Boston Celtics will bounce back against the Miami Heat and seal a place in the NBA Finals.

    Jimmy Butler turned in one of the great playoff displays for the Heat on Friday as a 111-103 away win forced the Eastern Conference Finals series to Game 7, tied at 3-3.

    Butler scored a playoff career-high 47 points, claimed nine rebounds and provided eight assists, with 17 of his points coming in the final quarter.

    While the momentum might now be with the Heat, who have home-court advantage for the final game of the series, Tatum believes the Celtics can step up.

    Asked what his confidence level was heading into Game 7, Tatum replied: "On a scale from 1-10 – 10. It shouldn't be any less than that, right? You know, it's the last game. This is what it's all about. 

    "On a scale from 1-10, it's a 10 for my confidence level in myself and the group.

    "It's no secret, it's Game 7. A trip to the NBA Finals – there's a lot on the line.

    "A couple of us have been in this situation before, so we know what's at stake, we know how much this means to everybody. We know that going into the game."

    Tatum led the way for Boston, scoring 30 points and finishing with nine rebounds and four assists, though he only made one shot in the fourth quarter while Butler took hold at the other end.

    "I think it was just in the flow of the game, and how the game was going," Tatum said.

    "Obviously I've got to watch the film, and things like that, but I think being out there, and the feel of the game, I was drawing a lot of attention.

    "I was trying to find a mismatch, obviously, and when I find it, they sent a double, so I'd find the open man. I think it was just kind of how the flow of the game was going."

  • Kyle Lowry calls 'incredible' Jimmy Butler 'one of the best players I've played with' Kyle Lowry calls 'incredible' Jimmy Butler 'one of the best players I've played with'

    Miami Heat point guard Kyle Lowry gushed over the performance of teammate Jimmy Butler as they avoided elimination with a 111-103 Game 6 victory over the Boston Celtics, tying the series at 3-3 with Game 7 headed back to Miami.

    Butler played arguably the greatest game of his career in the must-win fixture, racking up 47 points on 16-of-29 shooting, including going four-of-eight from long range and 11-of-11 from the free throw line. 

    He added nine rebounds, eight assists, four steals and a block, becoming the first player since Michael Jordan in 1988 to have multiple games of at least 40 points and four steals in the same series.

    After only producing a combined 14 points and eight assists in the three games he played this series, Lowry was superb, scoring 18 points and dishing 10 assists before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

    Speaking to post-game media, after Butler said he "did decent throughout the game", Lowry made it evident what he thought of his teammate's performance.

    "[Butler was] f****** incredible – my bad, don't fine me NBA, that was really my mistake," he said.

    "I just think he's such a humble basketball player, and the work he does put in – I witness it. 

    "It's incredible to have a guy like him next to me. I've played with some great players, and he's one of the best players I've played with. 

    "To do it on this stage – Game 6, win or go home, do or die – I wouldn't want to lace them up with many other people than this guy."

    He later touched on his own struggles, and how he overcame them with everything on the line.

    "I'm never going to make an excuse – I've played bad before – and I have opportunities to redeem myself," he said.

    "I've got great guys in the locker room, great guys in my team, great organisation, great people in my life who just support me.

    "Tonight was one of those chances – I think coach would have said it's a 'legacy game' – and I think having a guy like [Butler] next to me helped that."

    Butler – as well as imploring the league to fine Lowry for his profanity, in jest – highlighted a phone call he had with Heat legend Dwyane Wade in the lead-up.

    "D-Wade never hits me [up] until his voice is really, really needed – and it was," he said.

    "I texted him and told him I appreciate him for it, just letting me know to go out there and continue to build on that legacy, and make sure we win… it just feels great to get one on the road.

    "I think we just did our job – we've been saying it this entire series. It's not finished yet, we've got Game 7 at the crib, and we need to win."

  • Jimmy Butler's legendary performance lifts Miami Heat to season-saving Game 6 victory Jimmy Butler's legendary performance lifts Miami Heat to season-saving Game 6 victory

    Jimmy Butler played the game of his life to lift the Miami Heat to a 111-103 win away from home against the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday.

    The win keeps the Heat's season alive, tying the series at 3-3, with Game 7 heading back to Miami on Sunday.

    Butler had complete control of the game throughout, scoring 21 points, grabbing nine rebounds, and dishing six assists – and that was just in the first half, single-handedly carrying the Heat to a 48-46 lead at the long break.

    He went on to finish with a playoff career high of 47 points on 16-of-29 shooting (four-of-eight from three, 11-of-11 free throws) with nine rebounds, eight assists and four steals – scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter – as he played 46 minutes, including the entire second half.

    Butler was the driving force for the Heat, but they shot the ball well as a team, hitting 15-of-35 three-pointers (42 per cent) as Kyle Lowry and Max Strus hit big shots when they were needed, combining for seven made threes.

    Lowry, after a combined 14 points and eight assists in the three contests prior to Game 6 he was healthy for, scored 18 points (five-of-14 from the field, four-of-nine from deep) and dished 10 assists, while Max Strus hit three-of-eight from long range for his 12 points.

    Jayson Tatum finished with a strong stat-line, scoring 30 points with nine rebounds, four assists and two steals, but he had seven turnovers, only attempted 12 field goals (nine-of-12), and only scored one field goal in the fourth quarter when the Celtics were desperate for their superstar to impose his will.

    Derrick White was arguably the Celtics' best performer, scoring 22 points (seven-of-14 shooting, four-of-seven from three) with five assists and three steals off the bench, while Jaylen Brown was also solid, scoring 20 (six-of-13 shooting) with six rebounds, five assists and three steals.

    Ultimately, it will be remembered as Butler's greatest performance, attempting more field goals than Brown and Tatum combined, while having the best defense in the NBA entirely focused on him, and delivering efficiently from all areas while the lights shined their brightest.

    With his Game 6 showing, he became the first player since Michael Jordan in 1988 to have multiple games in a playoff series with at least 40 points and four steals.

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