The Boston Celtics have emerged as the favourites to make it through the Eastern Conference after a 116-112 win against the Brooklyn Nets confirmed a 4-0 series sweep.

In what was billed as arguably the most competitive first round series in recent memory, the Celtics were simply too good on the defensive end to let the frightening Nets offense find any rhythm or flow.

Boston's Jayson Tatum scored a team-high 29 points on nine-of-16 shooting (four-of-six from distance) before getting fouled out late in the fourth quarter, while Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart showed his offensive skills with 20 points and 11 assists.

Grant Williams did a superb job for the Celtics, coming off the bench to hit four of his six three point attempts, while also playing smothering defense on Kevin Durant and swatting away three shots.

Despite Williams' best efforts, Durant was still a force offensively, scoring a game-high 39 points on 13-of-31 shooting while adding nine assists and seven rebounds in 47 minutes.

Kyrie Irving played 45 minutes, and finished with a respectable line of 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, but he went missing for long stretches of the must-win game. Irving attempted just 13 shots, which was the same number as Seth Curry, who outscored him with 23 points.

An early storyline in the game, and ultimately one of the deciding factors, was Brooklyn's reserve center Nic Claxton missing the first 10 free throws he attempted, finishing the game one-for-11.

Raptors make things interesting

The Toronto Raptors refuse to lay down against the Philadelphia 76ers, winning Game 5 103-88 on the road to pull the series back to 3-2, with Game 6 heading back to Canada.

Toronto trailed 3-0 after three games, but have won back-to-back fixtures with their season on the line to put the pressure back on Philadelphia.

Game 5 was won on the defensive end, as the Raptors took control of the contest with a 25-14 second quarter.

Toronto forced 16 Philadelphia turnovers while only committing nine themselves, and they held the home side to 38 per cent shooting (31-of-81), with the visitors shooting 51 per cent (42-of-82).

With Fred VanVleet out of action, Pascal Siakam assumed point guard duties for Toronto, finishing with 23 points (10-of-17 shooting) with 10 rebounds and seven assists, while Precious Achiuwa added 17 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in 27 minutes off the bench.

Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes showed his talent in his return to the starting line up, scoring 12 points, grabbing eight rebounds, dishing four assists and snatching a game-high three steals.

For the 76ers, Joel Embiid was kept quiet by his standards with 20 points and 11 rebounds from just 15 field goal attempts as the Raptors consistently double-teamed him and forced Philadelphia's role players to hit shots.

James Harden was disappointing, with just 15 points and seven assists to go with five turnovers.

No NBA team has ever come back from a 3-0 series deficit.

 

Dallas' defense hits new heights

The last game of the night was also the least competitive, as the Dallas Mavericks flashed some unbelievable defensive upside in a 102-77 win against the Utah Jazz.

Prior to the game, Utah's lowest score of the season was a 124-90 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans in March, with the 77-point figure being their lowest score since November 2018 – in a 118-68 loss to the Mavericks.

Dallas now leads the series 3-2, with Game 6 to be played in Utah, and while the Mavs' defense stole the show, Luka Doncic was the best player on the floor.

Doncic had 33 points (11-of-22 shooting) in 33 minutes, with 13 rebounds and five assists, while partner-in-crime Jalen Brunson chipped in with 24 points on nine-of-20 shooting with four assists and just one turnover.

Utah only scored more than 19 points in one quarter – the last, when the game was sealed – as the Mavericks won the first three frames by margins of 24-18, 28-18 and 29-19.

It was the lowest-scoring game of Donovan Mitchell's playoff career, finishing with just nine points on four-of-15 shooting. Of Mitchell's four career playoff games with 12 points or fewer, this was the first since April 2019.

The Boston Celtics inched closer to sweeping the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday, claiming a 3-0 series lead with a 109-103 victory at the Barclays Center.

Jayson Tatum notched up 39 points on 13-of-29 shooting, six assists, five rebounds and six steals in the win for the Celtics, who continued to lock down Kevin Durant.

Though Durant shot 54.5 per cent from the floor, moving him to 17-of-52 for the series, he did it on 11 shots on Saturday as the flexible and intense Celtics defensive scheme continued to force the ball out of his hands. Kyrie Irving also went six-of-17 from the floor.

Bruce Brown was the highest scorer for the Nets with 26 points on 10-of-19 shooting, but he and Durant contributed to 10 of the team's 20 turnovers, from which Boston scored 25 points.

The Celtics led for the whole of the second half and whenever the Nets would threaten with a scoring run, managed to make timely buckets and secure a big road win.

Gobert gets up for Jazz win

Luka Doncic's return from injury was not enough for the Dallas Mavericks as the Utah Jazz evened up their series at 2-2, earning a 100-99 win.

Rudy Gobert gave Utah the lead with an alley-oop dunk with 11 seconds remaining in Game 4, before Spencer Dinwiddie missed a three-ball at the buzzer for the Mavs.

While Doncic had 30 points in his first game back from a strained calf, Dallas were kept to just 18 points in the fourth quarter, shooting six-of-18 from the floor.  

Siakam sizzles as Raptors avoid sweep

Pascal Siakam scored 15 of his of 34 points in the fourth quarter as the Toronto Raptors avoided a series sweep, defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 110-102.

Despite a 19-point deficit in points off turnovers, Toronto continually managed to penetrate and get on the break, holding a combined 25-point advantage for points in the paint and fast-break points.

Nursing an injured thumb, Joel Embiid shot seven-of-16 from the floor for his 21 points to go with eight rebounds, but also coughed up five turnovers.

Timberwolves level series with Grizzlies

Karl-Anthony Towns bounced back from a disappointing Game 3 to help the Minnesota Timberwolves even their playoff series with the Memphis Grizzlies, winning 119-118.

After going missing in Game 3, taking only four shots as the Grizzlies overcame a 26-point deficit, Towns was more assertive from the outset, adding 13 rebounds to 33 points.

Anthony Edwards' fingerprints were all over the game however, coming up with 24 points on seven-of-14 shooting, four rebounds, four assists, two steals and three blocks.

Luka Doncic will return for the Dallas Mavericks for Game 4 of their NBA playoffs series against the Utah Jazz on Saturday.

Mavs point guard Doncic missed the first three games of the Western Conference first-round series with a left calf strain.

However, the organisation confirmed on Saturday that Doncic is available for Game 4 at Vivint Arena.

Dallas lead Utah 2-1 in the series despite being without their star man, with Jalen Brunson stepping up with 96 points in the three clashes so far.

The return of Doncic will still undoubtedly be a big boost for the Mavs, who have not progressed beyond this stage of the playoffs since they won the 2011 championship.

The Slovenian has been one of the most impressive players in the league this season, averaging 28.4 points per game in his 65 regular season appearances, as well as 8.7 assists and 9.1 rebounds.

Luka Doncic was ruled out of Game 3 between the Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz on Thursday, according to multiple reports.

Mavs point guard Doncic missed the first two games of the Western Conference first-round series with a left calf strain. 

The Slovenian was upgraded to questionable after taking part in full practice on Wednesday but shortly before tip-off it was determined that he would not feature at Vivint Arena. 

Doncic will now aim to make his return from the injury sustained in the final outing of the regular season in Game 4 on Saturday. 

Dallas and Utah took a game apiece from the opening two clashes, leaving the series tied at 1-1. 

Luka Doncic has been upgraded to questionable for Game 3 between the Dallas Mavericks and the Utah Jazz on Thursday. 

Mavs point guard Doncic missed the first two games of the Western Conference first-round series with a left calf strain sustained in the team's last outing of the regular season. 

The Slovenian is reportedly optimistic of making his return in Game 3 or Game 4, which are scheduled to take place on Thursday and Saturday respectively. 

The series is tied at 1-1 ahead of the first game at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City. 

Jalen Brunson is in line for "a lot of money" next season, according to Jason Kidd, after leading the Dallas Mavericks to a vital Game 2 win over the Utah Jazz.

Brunson was again leading the offense for the Mavericks at home to the Jazz as superstar Luka Doncic remained out with a calf injury.

Doncic's involvement moving forward is still uncertain, meaning the Mavericks needed a team-mate to step up – and Brunson certainly did that with a career-high 41 points in the 110-104 victory that levelled the first-round series.

Playing alongside the ball-dominant Doncic, Brunson's usage rate has been just 20.4 per cent across his regular season career, but he has had to take control through two games.

After shooting nine-of-24 from the floor in Game 1, including one-of-three from beyond the arc, Brunson found his range on Monday.

The point guard set career highs in field-goal attempts (25, tied with a regular season game also against the Jazz) and makes (15) and three-point attempts (10) and makes (six).

"He didn't wait," coach Kidd said. "He took up the space and was aggressive from the jump ball. We talked about it earlier: don't wait, get to your spot and do what you do best.

"I thought he ran the team extremely well. He found spots to score and he made plays."

Brunson is in the final year of his rookie contract and will be an unrestricted free agent following the playoffs, putting him in a strong negotiating position on this form.

Asked what money his player could expect to make, Kidd replied: "A lot, a lot. He's going to make a lot of money. I don't know if he needs an agent, but I'm going to put my name in the hat.

"But it's not just what he did tonight and it's not what he's going to do going forward, he has already done the work this season. He's shown he deserves to be paid. He does his job at a very high level and he's a winner.

"Hopefully he can pay me for that, what I just said.

"He's a great young man and I'm very lucky to be able to coach him."

Brunson was not alone in finding joy from three, as Maxi Kleber shot eight-of-11, contributing to 47 attempts from the Mavericks.

On the defensive end, meanwhile, Dallas held the Jazz to 29 attempts after only 22 in Game 1. Utah averaged 40.3 three-point attempts in the regular season, the second-most in the NBA.

"Analytics will say if you're shooting threes and the other team's shooting twos, you have a great chance of winning," Kidd said. "It's just mathematics."

Still, the coach is not getting carried away ahead of going on the road for Games 3 and 4.

"We did what we had to do, and that was to win tonight. We were only focused on tonight," he said.

"Game 1 was over, there was nothing we could do. Now we can rest and get ready for Game 3, understand what's in front of us, what's coming.

"It's going to be a hostile environment; they play extremely well at home. We have to stay together, and we've shown that.

"After Game 1, it's easy to go our separate ways, but all season we've been saying this: after bad performances, we tend to bounce back. It's nothing different; it's basketball and we bounced back.

"Now we have to find a way to do what they did, and that's just win one game [on the road]."

Jalen Brunson scored a career-high 41 points to carry the Dallas Mavericks to a 110-104 home victory, tying their series against the Utah Jazz at 1-1.

With the Mavs missing Luka Doncic for the second straight game due to injury, Brunson scored 15 of their first 18 points as the two sides went into quarter-time tied at 24. It stayed neck-and-neck until a 7-0 run late in the second quarter gave Utah a seven-point lead at the long break.

Dallas' Maxi Kleber hit one three-pointer in each of the first two quarters, but caught fire in the second half, going three-for-four from long range in the third term and repeating that effort in the fourth quarter to finish with 25 points off the bench.

Kleber's biggest shots were back-to-back bombs to turn a 98-96 deficit into a 102-98 lead, which Dallas never relinquished, on the way to finishing eight-of-11 from three, while not attempting a single a two-point field goal.

Brunson finished an incredible 15-of-25 from the field and six-of-10 from three, and added eight rebounds, five assists and two turnovers.

For Utah, Donovan Mitchell top-scored with 34 points on 13-of-30 shooting, while Rudy Gobert grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked two shots.

The series heads to Utah next for Game 3 and Game 4.

 

76ers too much for Toronto

Despite strong first and fourth quarters for the Toronto Raptors, they went down 112-97 against the Philadelphia 76ers to fall down 2-0 in the series.

In an up-tempo first quarter where both sides were making shots, Fred VanVleet was the early standout, hitting four of his seven three-point attempts to head into quarter time with 14 points and his Raptors leading 33-32.

For the next two quarters, it would be all Philadelphia, out-scoring the Raptors 63-38 over the second and third frames to take full command of the contest, peaking at a 95-66 lead with 30 seconds remaining in the third.

The 76ers' intensity dropped in the last as the game was essentially won, which allowed Toronto to pull the margin back to 11 points with 6:30 to play, but that would be as close as things got as a Tyrese Maxey three and a string of free throws kept Philly's lead in the teens as the clock winded down.

Joel Embiid was the best player on the floor, scoring 31 points on nine-of-16 shooting (12-of-14 free throws) with 11 rebounds, while Maxey was unstoppable for the second game in a row, scoring an efficient 23 points on eight-of-11 shooting and adding nine rebounds with eight assists.

Tobias Harris also earned a mention with his 20 points and 10 rebounds, while O.G. Anunoby was the lone bright spot for the Raptors, scoring 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting and flashing some intriguing ability as a primary scoring option.

Toronto will host Game 3 and Game 4 of the series, with unvaccinated players unable to enter Canada, which means Matisse Thybulle will not travel with the 76ers.

 

Poole party for the Splash Brothers

After scoring a team-high 30 points in Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets, Jordan Poole was at it again in the Golden State Warriors' 126-106 win in Game 2.

While he did not top-score this time around, Poole was arguably the Warriors' best player through the first three quarters, racking up 27 of his 29 points up to three-quarter time as his side led 101-81 heading into the last.

Poole has emerged as the third 'Splash Brother' this postseason, with the original two also enjoying big games on Monday, as Stephen Curry scored a game-high 34 points in 23 minutes off the bench, while Klay Thompson chipped in with 21.

For Denver, MVP favourite Nikola Jokic was ejected in the fourth quarter for his second technical foul after accumulating 26 points, 11 rebounds and four assists in 28 minutes.

Luka Doncic is officially out of Game 2 of the Dallas Mavericks' first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz.

Doncic suffered a calf strain in the very last game of the regular season which forced him to miss Game 1, and while there was not much optimism about his chance to return for Game 2, the Mavericks were determined to give him every chance to prove his fitness.

Listed as doubtful, Doncic participated in shootaround and was not ruled out until 90 minutes before tip-off.

The three-time All-Star averaged 28 points, nine rebounds and almost nine assists this season, and his absence is a crushing blow for the Mavericks.

The Jazz won Game 1 in Dallas 99-93, and can take a commanding two-game lead, before heading back to Utah for Game 3 and Game 4.

Luka Doncic is reportedly unlikely to play for the Dallas Mavericks in Game 2 of their first-round series against the Utah Jazz.

The Mavericks superstar missed the potentially damaging 99-93 home defeat to the Jazz in the series opener as he recovers from a calf strain sustained in the final game of the regular season.

Although Doncic took part in light shooting drills over the weekend, an ESPN report said the Slovenian "would have to make dramatic improvement" ahead of Monday's game in order to be cleared to return.

That report at least provided more clarity than Mavericks coach Jason Kidd was able to offer.

"Yesterday was another good day, and today he's back on the court, so that's a plus," Kidd said on Sunday. "And we'll see how he feels tomorrow."

Dallas will fear another defeat in Doncic's absence and a 2-0 deficit before going on the road.

Despite averaging 33.5 points – the most of any player to feature in 13 or more postseason games – Doncic has never won a playoff series.

The Dallas Mavericks will be without talisman Luka Doncic for Game 1 of their playoff series against the Utah Jazz and he is a major doubt for Game 2.

Doncic strained his left calf in the third quarter of the Mavs' final regular-season fixture, a 130-120 win over the San Antonio Spurs, and sat out the rest of the game after putting up 26 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

The two-time All-Star would have been ineligible for the game had the NBA not rescinded his 16th technical foul of the season, which he earned in the game prior against the Portland Trailblazers.

It was reported on Thursday that Doncic was set to miss Saturday's game against Utah and now ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski has claimed the 23-year-old will definitely be out, adding that Dallas have serious concerns that he will also be missing for Game 2 on Monday.

Doncic has averaged 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game this season. Across his career, he has averaged 30 points per game against the Jazz.

The Dallas Mavericks are expecting Luka Doncic to sit out their playoff opener against the Utah Jazz on Saturday due to a calf strain.

Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news on Thursday of what will likely prove to be a critical absence for the Mavs.

Doncic strained his left calf in the third quarter of the Mavs' final regular season fixture, a 130-120 win over the San Antonio Spurs, and sat out the rest of the game after putting up 26 points, nine assists and eight rebounds.

The two-time All-Star would have been ineligible for the game had the NBA not rescinded his 16th technical foul of the season, which he earned in the game prior against the Portland Trailblazers. Doncic would have been forced to serve a one-game suspension if the technical foul had stood.

Though the win over the Spurs was ultimately a meaningless game, with the Golden State Warriors defeating the New Orleans Pelicans and confirming the Western Conference's third seed, the Mavs still had to keep up their end of the bargain and beat the Spurs.

The 23-year-old Slovenian averaged 28.4 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game this season.

So here it is. That time of year again where we separate the wheat from the chaff, the men from the boys, the champions from the... rest.

The NBA playoffs get underway on Saturday with plenty of stories to be written and legacies to be cemented.

Can the Phoenix Suns turn their dominance in the regular season into a championship? Will the Milwaukee Bucks be able to retain their crown? Could someone from the play-in tournament sneak in the back door and go all the way?

These questions and plenty more will keep us glued to our screens as we watch the action unfold over the next two months.

But what of the individual stories? There are plenty of players who have made names for themselves in the business end of the season down the years, with lots of big names who will particularly want to make an impression this time around as well.

Stats Perform has selected five such players to focus on, explaining why they may just have a bit more to prove over the next few weeks than others.

James Harden – Philadelphia 76ers

It may feel slightly like shooting fish in a barrel to start with a player who is known for not being able to get over the line in the postseason, but we are not above easy wins here.

Harden has been to the NBA Finals just once in 12 postseason appearances, and that came 10 years ago with Oklahoma City Thunder.

Strictly speaking, his playoff averages have been impressive. While with the Houston Rockets, he averaged at least 26.3 points per game (PPG) in the playoffs, including an impressive 31.6 in the 2018-19 season.

However, it has more been one-off performances, invariably at crucial moments, that have let him down. This was summarised perfectly last year in Game 7 for the Brooklyn Nets against the Bucks, when he sank only five of 17 field goal attempts.

Now at the Sixers after a huge trade earlier in the season, and with the league's top scorer Joel Embiid on his side, Harden will surely be determined to silence his doubters and reach the second NBA Finals of his career. 

Chris Paul – Phoenix Suns

This is likely the best chance the Suns will ever have to win an NBA championship, and ditto Paul.

An incredible regular season record of 64-18 saw them finish atop the Western Conference with a win percentage of 78.0, almost 10 per cent more than the second-place Memphis Grizzlies (68.3 per cent).

For Paul, this, therefore, is almost certainly his strongest chance to finally win a championship ring, especially having come so close last year.

The 12-time All-Star has the most assists per game in the league this season (10.8), and only Trae Young (737) has more overall assists than his 702, though the Atlanta Hawks star has played 11 more games.

At 36 years of age, Paul will not have many more opportunities, and will want to make this one count.

 

Luka Doncic – Dallas Mavericks

It has been another memorable season for the young Slovenian, averaging 28.4 PPG as well as 8.7 assists and 9.1 rebounds.

In his two previous playoff campaigns, Doncic has stepped his game up even more, averaging 31.0 PPG in 2019-20 and a remarkable 35.7 PPG last year. However, on both occasions, the Mavericks still could not make it past the first round.

Dallas ended the regular season with a record of 52-30, winning seven of their last eight games, and will go up against the Utah Jazz in the first round, a team they have beaten twice in the last six weeks.

It is not so much that Doncic himself has a point to prove, but he will be looking for more help from his team-mates as he looks to get to the latter stages, where a player of his talent surely belongs.

Tyler Herro – Miami Heat

Another young player who has already put in some strong postseason showings in his short career so far.

Herro impressed in the 2020 playoffs, but last year the Heat were whitewashed by the Bucks in the first round. As the number one seeds in the East this year, all eyes will be on them to do much better.

While Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo will of course be important, Herro could well be the difference-maker.

The 22-year-old point guard has comfortably produced his best regular season so far, averaging 20.7 PPG, as well as 4.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds.

Many expect it to be Miami v Phoenix in a battle of two number one seeds in the Finals this year, in which case Herro will be looking to repeat his second-best scoring performance of the season when he came away with 33 points in the Footprint Center in January's 123-100 win against the Suns.

Ben Simmons – Brooklyn Nets

It has been a nervous wait for Simmons, not just to return to fitness, but to see if he would even have the chance to turn out for the Nets this season.

While it has not been suggested the 25-year-old will return from back problems imminently, it has been reported the Nets are looking to use the player they traded Harden for in February sparingly towards the end of the first round.

Thankfully for him, his team-mates made it through their play-in game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday and so take their place in the playoffs, where they will start off in a fascinating encounter against the Boston Celtics.

Simmons has not played a single minute of basketball this season, not since his notorious performances in last year's postseason with the Sixers that saw him draw the ire of Joel Embiid and coach Doc Rivers.

Although Embiid accused Simmons of wanting to be a star more than wanting to win, that he won't necessarily need to fire from the off could help him, with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in excellent form for Brooklyn.

Simmons will want to discover the sort of form he showed in the 2018-19 campaign, when he averaged 16.9 PPG, as well as 7.7 assists and 8.8 rebounds.

The Dallas Mavericks have not ruled out All-Star Luka Doncic from Saturday's NBA first round playoffs opening game against the Utah Jazz despite confirming a left calf strain.

Doncic limped from the court in Sunday's win over the San Antonio Spurs, putting him in doubt ahead of the playoffs.

The Mavericks announced that an MRI on Monday had confirmed the superstar had suffered a strain in his calf but did not set a timetable on his recovery.

"If he's able to go out and put on his shoes, then he's going to go," Mavs head coach Jason Kidd told reporters after Tuesday's practice.

"If he can't, we're not going to put him in a situation to jeopardize it and make things worse."

The Mavericks will turn to Spencer Dinwiddie to start if Doncic is unavailable. Doncic has an NBA-high 37 per cent usage rate this season.

Dinwiddie has averaged 15.8 points and 3.9 assists in 23 games for the Mavs since his trade deadline deal from the Washington Wizards.

Doncic averaged 28.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 8.7 assists this season.

Luka Doncic limped off the court during the Dallas Mavericks' 130-120 win over the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday, leaving him in doubt to start the Mavs' playoff series against the Utah Jazz.

The two-time All-Star left the court with 2:24 remaining in the third quarter, injuring his calf during an offensive possession. He quickly grabbed at his injured calf and asked for the Mavs bench to call a timeout.

The 23-year-old was originally suspended from playing Sunday's game, before the NBA rescinded his 16th technical foul of the season, which he received in Friday's win over the Portland Trailblazers.

Doncic was diagnosed with a left calf strain after leaving the court with Mavs director of athletic performance Casey Smith, and did not return to the game.

"We'll know more tomorrow," Mavs coach Jason Kidd said of Doncic post-game. "They were going to [get] their normal run the second half because it's a week [before the first game against Utah]. So we just felt we'd keep the regular rotation and they'd be done by the third quarter and go from there.

"I thought he was cramping up, but I haven't talked to Casey. Hopefully it's not too serious.

"But with that being said, injuries are a part of the game. We'll see how he feels. The good news is that we have won home court and we have a week before we play."

Before leaving the floor, Doncic had put up 26 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in just 29 minutes.

With the Golden State Warriors also defeating the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday and rendering the Mavs game inconsequential to playoff placings in the Western Conference, Jason Kidd's side still needed to hold up their end of the bargain.

On the prospect of the matchup with the Jazz, Kidd asserted it will not be an easy series, whether Doncic is on the floor or not.

"It's going to be interesting," he said. "They're well coached. They [have] got All-Stars, and they've been together for a while.

"They've been through a lot of playoff games together. This is going to be a great test for us. It should be a tough series."

The Boston Celtics secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference following their 139-110 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday night, the regular-season finale for both teams.

With the second seed in the Western Conference already secured, Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins rested a number of starters including Ja Morant, Steven Adams, Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. Desmond Bane and Brandon Clarke were listed as questionable and while not ruled out, finished with DNPs.

Although the Celtics had a full complement in a game they needed to win, the weakened opposition did not cause tunnel vision, as they shared the ball to come up with 34 assists as a team.

Jayson Tatum came up with three of his own, along with 31 points on 11-of-14 shooting and nine rebounds to lead the way for the Celtics.

In an odd statistical quirk given the situation, the Grizz's John Konchar claimed the first triple-double of his career, finishing with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.

Dubs find their groove to clinch third seed

The Golden State Warriors clinched the third seed in the Western Conference with their 128-107 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Klay Thompson made seven three-pointers and scored 41 points for the Warriors, who have impressively managed to close out the season without Stephen Curry on a five-game winning streak.

While Jordan Poole's 22 points off seven-of-16 shooting lightened the load, Jonathan Kuminga again scored a critical 18 points off the bench and gave the team important balance.

Doncic strains calf in Mavs win

Luka Doncic strained his left calf in the Dallas Mavericks' 130-120 win over the San Antonio Spurs, putting the Slovenian star's status in question for the playoffs.

The two-time All-Star would not have been eligible for what was ultimately a meaningless game – following the Warriors win - if the NBA did not rescind his 16th technical foul of the season, which he earned in the previous game against the Portland Trailblazers.

Doncic led Dallas with 26 points, nine assists and eight rebounds but sat the second half, with his ability to play against the Utah Jazz in the playoffs now in doubt.

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