A series that only appeared to be heading one way has suddenly been blown wide open again, with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks locked together at 2-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Having put paid to the Brooklyn Nets in the previous round via a thrilling Game 7, the much-fancied Bucks appeared to have overcome an early setback at home to take charge in the series.

Successive victories put them 2-1 ahead, but their playoff tale took an unexpected twist on Tuesday, quite literally in the case of Giannis Antetokounmpo. With his team trailing in the third quarter, the two-time MVP was hurt while trying to challenge a dunk.

The diagnosis of a hyperextended knee leaves his availability in doubt, not just for Game 5 on Thursday but also for the rest of this series and, potentially, beyond. The Phoenix Suns lie waiting in the NBA Finals.

Atlanta know all about dealing with the absence of an injured star: Trae Young – who is averaging 29.8 points and 9.5 assists in the postseason – has missed the previous two games with an ankle issue.

The point guard has been a key part of a roster that has surprised many in making it this far, knocking out the higher-seeded New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers along the way. Still, the experienced Lou Williams proved quite an able deputy for Young in Game 4 at home.

Now the teams switch back to Milwaukee amid an air of uncertainty. Where once the Bucks appeared to have seized control, now this series feels right back in the balance.

 

PIVOTAL PERFORMERS

Milwaukee Bucks – Jrue Holiday

With Giannis at best slowed by his knee issue, the other leading names for Milwaukee must step up. Khris Middleton has had a productive playoff campaign, but Holiday can do more. The point guard is averaging 16.5 points per outing and outside shooting has been an issue. His 28.7 per cent success rate from three-point range is well below his career mark of 34.6 per cent in the postseason.

Atlanta Hawks – Lou Williams

A three-time Sixth Man of the Year known for his scoring prowess off the bench, Williams had only reached double digits for points in two previous playoff outings during this postseason before managing 21 on Tuesday. That output came on seven-for-nine shooting, too. If Young is out, the Hawks will need the 34-year-old Williams to try and fill the void again.

KEY BATTLE – Survival of the fittest

While Antetokounmpo was officially determined as 'doubtful' by the Bucks on Wednesday, the Hawks listed both Young and center Clint Capela as questionable.

An arduous regular season played out amid the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on the players. While the Suns now have a chance to rest up, their next opponents face the prospect of playing at least twice more before Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Neither Milwaukee nor Atlanta can afford any further injuries to key personnel at this stage.

HEAD TO HEAD

The two franchises have won 13 playoff games apiece in the rivalry. Both have recorded road victories in this series, with the Hawks needing at least one more triumph on their travels if they are to be crowned winners of the Eastern Conference.

There was disappointment but no regret for the Los Angeles Clippers after their season came to an end Wednesday.

Though head coach Tyronn Lue acknowledged there was a sense of "shock" in his locker room following a 130-103 loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, he and his players were proud of what they accomplished. 

After rallying from 0-2 deficits to win their first two series against the Dallas Mavericks and the Utah Jazz, the Clippers could not do the same against the Suns with injured star Kawhi Leonard sitting out the entire series. 

Despite falling short of winning their first championship, they took solace in completing the franchise's deepest postseason run. 

"I'm proud of our guys," Lue told reporters. "We've been through a lot this season, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of injuries, but our guys stayed the course. 

"We did something special this year. Even though we didn't complete what we wanted to complete, I thought we did a great job of doing something special, doing something this franchise has never done before.

"Like I told those guys in the locker room, I love those guys and I'd go to war with them any time. I'm just proud of them. Even though we came up short, it was a great run, despite everything we had to go through."

Atop that list in the playoffs was the loss of Leonard, the two-time NBA champion who was averaging 30.4 points per game in the playoffs when he went down with a knee injury in Game 4 of the Jazz series. 

Leonard missed all eight of the Clippers' remaining games, leaving the burden of carrying the team to Paul George. 

"I thought this team squeezed everything we could out of what we had," George said. "We squeezed everything out of one another and I thought we got stronger and better as the season went on." 

Proud as George was, the 31-year-old once again missed out on making his first trip to the NBA Finals. 

"It is what it is -- I came up short again," he said.

"I wasn't out to prove nothing to nobody, but to show up as a leader for this team, put us in a position to get to where we got to. Came up short. Our good wasn't enough." 

Though the odds certainly were stacked against them late given Leonard's absence, Lue said there was an air of disbelief their their season was actually finished. 

"I think it's a shock to a lot of guys in that locker room, and that tells you a lot about the team," he said.

"No matter who's playing, we still feel like every night we have a chance to win. I thought we ran out of gas."

Chris Paul says he never stopped believing he would make the NBA Finals after finally achieving the feat with the Phoenix Suns in his 13th playoffs campaign.

The Suns will play for the NBA title after sealing a 4-2 Western Conference Finals series win over the Los Angeles Clippers with a 130-103 road victory on Wednesday.

Paul scored a playoffs career-high 41 points for the Suns, including a run of 14 of his side's 16 points after the Clippers closed within seven late in the third quarter.

The 36-year-old point guard will now realise his long-held dream of playing in the NBA Finals after previously narrowly missing out with the Clippers and the Houston Rockets, the latter when his side were 3-2 up in the Conference finals and he went down injured.

"No, I ain't built like that," Paul said when asked at the post-game news conference if he ever thought making the NBA Finals would not happen for him.

"It's just, 'get to work'. In Game 3, I found out I'd tore some ligaments in my hand and I thought 'here we go'... I've got an unbelievable team around me."

Paul missed the first two games of the Clippers series after entering into the league's health and safety protocol having tested positive to COVID-19.

The veteran also battled a shoulder complaint in the Suns' first-round playoffs series against the Los Angeles Lakers and he revealed he had undergone an MRI on his wrist on Tuesday ahead of Game 6.

"It's been a lot," he said. "I was getting an MRI yesterday on my wrist. I've had all these surgeries over the years.

"I remember in Houston, we were up 3-2 and we had the T-shirt and hat and I never got a chance to get it. I'll never forget that."

He added: "I've been on the other end of so many losses. I know what that feels like."

Paul shot seven-from-eight three-pointers among his 41 points, while he also had four rebounds, eight assists and three steals in a memorable playoffs performance.

Paul's 31 second-half points are a career-high, while it was tied for third-most second-half points in a series-clinching win since 1996-97 behind Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis.  

He also moved up to 11th on the all-time NBA playoffs assists list but preferred to focus on his team.

"I was just happy and proud of our team," he said. "Mont [Suns coach Monty Williams], not winning coach of the year, but we know who he is.

"I experienced COVID, just a week ago. I was at home and couldn’t be there with my teammates. That's what you call next man up. They won two games in the series without me. It just shows you how crazy it is.

"In the first series, I got this nerve thing. Won the second series and end up with the COVID. It's been a lot. I want it, not just for myself, but for everyone in that locker room."

The Phoenix Suns and Chris Paul have ended their respective long waits for NBA Finals appearances after a 130-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers sealed their spot on Wednesday.

The Suns clinched the Western Conference Finals series 4-2, rounding out the triumph with an outstanding road win, with Phoenix back in the NBA Finals for the first time in 28 years.

Suns' 36-year-old point guard Paul was exceptional with 41 points as he progresses to the NBA Finals for the first time in his career, after 13 playoffs campaigns.

Paul hit seven-from-eight three-pointers in a masterful shooting display, going at 66.7 per cent from the field, as well as eight assists, four rebounds and three steals with no turnovers.

Devin Booker contributed with 22 points, four assists and seven rebounds, Deandre Ayton had 17 rebounds along with 16 points, while Jae Crowder hit five three-pointers in his 19 points.

Phoenix are crowned Western Conference champions having gone 12-4 in the postseason, including 6-2 on the road, clinching all three series away.

The Suns become the first team in history to reach the NBA Finals having not made the playoffs in 10 or more years prior.

The Clippers could not muster one more memorable comeback after some dramatic performances this postseason, closing within seven points late in the third before Paul showed irrepressible poise.

Paul George managed 21 points with nine rebounds for the Clippers, while Marcus Morris Sr scored 26 points and had nine rebounds.

Patrick Beverley was ejected in the fourth quarter for a push on Paul as reality set in for LA, who were behind for the most part of Wednesday's Game 6.

Paul's shooting was clearly on early as the Suns opened up a 10-point half-time lead, with Phoenix shooting at 58.8 per cent from beyond the arc in the first half.

The Clippers had a 10-0 run to close within seven points late in the third quarter as the home crowd erupted after Nicolas Batum's three-pointer.

But Paul steadied for Phoenix with a long-range bucket immediately after the timeout, opening it up to 14 points at the final change and they would not relent, with the Suns veteran adding 17 fourth-quarter points.

 

Hawks at Bucks

Star pair Trae Young and Giannis Antetokounmpo are both likely to be out for the crucial Game 5 as the Milwaukee Bucks host the Atlanta Hawks with the series at 2-2.

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo will be listed as doubtful for Thursday's Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals series against the Atlanta Hawks.

The Bucks said an MRI exam performed Wednesday confirmed the initial diagnosis that Antetokounmpo sustained a hyperextended left knee in Milwaukee's 110-88 defeat on Tuesday that tied the series at 2-2. 

Antetokounmpo landed awkwardly on his left leg with just over seven minutes remaining in the third quarter in Atlanta, where he jumped up to contest an alley-oop from John Collins to Clint Capela, but his knee buckled before hobbling to the locker room.

Antetokounmpo has started all 15 of Milwaukee's playoff games this season, averaging 28.2 points and an NBA-best 12.7 rebounds in 37.4 minutes per game. 

Atlanta star Trae Young's status for Game 5 is unclear after he missed the previous contest with a bone bruise in his right foot, leaving open the possibility that the two transcendent players in the series could be absent for the pivotal game. 

"It's not good," Bucks veteran P.J. Tucker told reporters after Tuesday's game. "But this is the Eastern Conference Finals. There is no excuse. It doesn't matter whoever is playing, not playing.

"They've got guys hurt. Everybody is hurt. Everybody is banged up. Everybody is injured. You've got to fight through it."

 

 

Lou Williams says the Atlanta Hawks showed their strength in depth in the Game 4 rout of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Hawks moved level at 2-2 in the Eastern Conference finals with a 110-88 win without Trae Young at State Farm Arena on Tuesday.

Young was ruled out after spraining his ankle when he stepped on a referee's ankle in Game 3.

Atlanta showed they can cope without 2020 All-Star Young on a painful evening for the Bucks, who lost Giannis Antetokounmpo when he suffered a hyperextended left knee.

Williams was charged with the task of replacing Young and top scored for the Hawks with 21 points and eight assists, while Bogdan Bogdanovic finished with 20 points.

 

Asked about being named as a starter, shooting guard Williams said: "It's not a big adjustment. You just know your minutes are going to go up, the time of the games is going to be different.

"Other than that, you just get ready to play a basketball game. We've got to be pros. I know it's cliche to hear, but one guy goes down, another guy got to step up."

Williams revealed there was no rousing speech from Hawks coach Nate McMillan when he was informed he would be starting.

"Honestly, I was on the training table, Nate walked up, said, 'Trae is going to be out, so I'm going to start you.' I said okay, and he walked off.

"That was the conversation. It's not like a 'Remember the Titans' thing that happens in the locker room. I promise you it don't. That was it. That was the extent of our conversation, and we got ready for the game."

McMillan is unsure if Young will return in Game 5 on Thursday.

"I don't know," McMillan said. "The report was just tonight he's out. He didn't feel comfortable enough to put pressure on his foot tonight. I'll get a report tomorrow, and I'm sure it'll be a game-time decision."

Milwaukee Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer said the franchise are awaiting to discover the severity of Giannis Antetokounmpo's injury after the two-time NBA MVP hyperextended his knee in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Bucks' 110-88 loss to the Atlanta Hawks – who levelled the series at 2-2 despite the absence of Trae Young – was compounded by a knee injury to superstar Antetokounmpo on Tuesday.

Antetokounmpo (14 points) landed awkwardly on his left leg with just over seven minutes remaining in the third quarter in Atlanta, where he jumped up to contest an alley-oop from John Collins to Clint Capela, but his knee buckled before hobbling to the locker room.

The third-seeded Bucks – eyeing their first championship since 1971 – now face an anxious wait regarding the fitness of their best player heading into Thursday's Game 5 in Milwaukee.

"We'll see how he is tomorrow," Budenholzer said. "We'll take everything as it comes. We'll evaluate it. We've got a heck of a team, a heck of a roster."

"We'll take everything as it comes," Budenholzer continued. "We have a heck of a team, a heck of a roster. The guys will be ready to compete and play. That's what it's about. We got a Game 5."

Antetokounmpo has been averaging a career-high 29.2 points in the playoffs, along with 13.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists.

The 'Greek Freak' had averaged 28.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and a career best-tying 5.9 assists per game in the regular season.

Budenholzer added: "Obviously, Giannis is a big part of our soul, our fibre. I'm sure there is the human element, the concern, the care for him is real."

"It's not good," Bucks veteran P.J. Tucker told reporters. "But this is the Eastern Conference Finals. There is no excuse. It doesn't matter whoever is playing, not playing.

"They've got guys hurt. Everybody is hurt. Everybody is banged up. Everybody is injured. You've got to fight through it.

"It's not good losing anybody on your team. You lose your best player, it stinks."

Milwaukee had shot 50 per cent or better from the field in each of their last two games after not reaching that mark in any of their first 12 playoff games this year. The Bucks had won nine straight playoff games going back to 2018 when making at least half of their shots.

However, the Bucks were just 39.3 per cent from the field as Jrue Holiday (19 points) and Khris Middleton (16 points) were the only other players aside from Antetokounmpo to finish in double-digits.

Holiday's nine assists took his tally to 121 this postseason – the third most in franchise history behind Oscar Robertson (149 in 1974 and 124 in 1971) after eclipsing Sam Cassell (120 in 2001).

"They had a lot of guys play well tonight, for really the whole game," Budenholzer said. "Credit to Atlanta. They played well from the start. They played well coming off the [Trae Young] injury.

"We've got to be better on both ends. Our group will gather. The character of our group will come through. We are going home. It's 2-2. We are going back to Milwaukee."

Giannis Antetokounmpo suffered a hyperextended left knee in the Milwaukee Bucks' 110-88 Game 4 loss as the Atlanta Hawks levelled the Eastern Conference Finals.

Antetokounmpo (14 points) landed awkwardly on his left leg with just over seven minutes remaining in the third quarter in Atlanta on Tuesday.

The two-time NBA MVP jumped up to contest an alley-oop from John Collins and Clint Capela, but his knee buckled before hobbling to the locker room, with the Bucks trailing 62-52.

Atlanta – already missing star guard Trae Young due to a bone bruise in his foot – made the most of Antetokounmpo's absence as they levelled the series at 2-2.

Young was ruled out of the clash after suffering the freak injury when he stepped on referee Sean Wright's foot in Game 3 at State Farm Arena.

But the Hawks showed they are more than a one-man team as Lou Williams and Bogdan Bogdanovic starred at home to the third-seeded Bucks.

Williams was efficient with 21 points on seven-for-nine shooting in his first ever playoff start as Bogdanovic added 20 points of his own.

The Hawks took control after outscoring the Bucks 26-16 in the second period and 36-24 in the third quarter.

Milwaukee had shot 50 per cent or better from the field in each of their last two games after not reaching that mark in any of their first 12 playoff games this year. The Bucks had won nine straight playoff games going back to 2018 when making at least half of their shots.

However, the Bucks were just 39.3 per cent from the field as Jrue Holiday (19 points) and Khris Middleton (16 points) were the only other players aside from Antetokounmpo to finish in double-digits.

Holiday's nine assists took his tally to 121 this postseason – the third most behind Oscar Robertson (149 in 1974 and 124 in 1971) after eclipsing Sam Cassell (120 in 2001).

 

Suns at Clippers

The Phoenix Suns have another chance to clinch their spot in the NBA Finals when they visit the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday. Fuelled by Paul George, the Clippers – trailing 3-2 – will look to force a Game 7.

Philadelphia 76ers veteran Danny Green urged Ben Simmons to take more risks as he provided an honest assessment of the beleaguered star's woes following a disappointing end to the NBA season.

Simmons' future in Philadelphia is up in the air after struggling in the 76ers' shock Eastern Conference semi-final exit at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks.

All-Star Simmons was subjected to boos as the top-seeded 76ers crashed out of the NBA playoffs, Philadelphia fans venting their frustration after the Australian attempted just four shots for five points in the series-deciding Game 7.

Simmons – who will skip the Olympic Games to focus on his shooting – also passed on a wide-open dunk during the closing stages against the Hawks, instead passing to Matisse Thybulle – who was fouled and made just one of the two free throws.

While 76ers head coach Doc Rivers said the franchise have a plan to address Simmons' shooting problems, talk of a trade has intensified.

Green – a three-time NBA champion – discussed team-mate Simmons via his podcast 'Inside the Green Room', saying: "Off the court with his family things back home, and he doesn't necessarily discuss it with us in private, but I knew he was going through a lot.

 

"He had some things going on during the season. It might have come all at once during this time but you can tell, Ben's the type of kid, if he's not encouraged, and he's not pushed or forced to do it, he's not the type to take that risk.

"Obviously, he's a high IQ guy. You can tell, he gets a lot of assists and pushing the pace and he gets paid to do what he does, because he’s so good at it, but he doesn't step outside that box because he knows well enough 'I'm good at this. I don't need to step out. It's not like I'm encouraged to do this, or I'm kind of afraid to do this kind to do this' type of thing."

The debate around Simmons – an elite defender and creator – centres on his offense or lack thereof, with the 76ers often handicapped by his unwillingness to shoot.

Simmons' field-goal percentage has regressed, dropping from 58.0 in 2019-20 to 55.7 this season – he only managed worse in his 2017-18 rookie campaign (54.5).

The 24-year-old only averaged 10.1 field-goal attempts in 2020-21 – a career low, which dropped to 7.9 in the playoffs. It is the same story with his scoring as it dropped to a career low 14.3 points per game and 11.9 in the postseason – both career lows.

From free-throw line, Simmons finished with a career-worst 34.2 per cent average in the playoffs, having made just 25 of 73 in the past postseason.

Green added: "I think they need encouragement and some type of push to do that to not be scared to fail at trying something new because he's one of those guys 'I know what I'm good at and I don't need to do anything else'.

"When the things that he's doing that he's good at isn't working as well even though he played defense as well as he could for us and gave us dynamic of assists in the ball, and finding guys and pushing the pace, we did need him to attack the rim and be more aggressive.

"But he felt like he was not getting his touch right and also the free-throw line, it kind of crept on him mentally to where he wasn't able to get the rhythm you wanted. … At the same time, he still fought, he showed up, he still played, he still worked hard, he still tried to give us his best chance for us to win with doing what he does with screening, rolling, rebounding, defending, and he did to the highest capability could. Just offensively he wasn't the Ben Simmons we needed him to be at the time."

Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young will miss Tuesday's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals due to a right foot bone bruise.

Young hurt his foot in the third quarter of Sunday's 113-102 defeat as the Milwaukee Bucks claimed a 2-1 series lead in the NBA playoffs.

Hawks guard Young suffered the freak injury when he stepped on referee Sean Wright's foot in Game 3 at State Farm Arena.

Young hobbled off and was taken to the locker room to get his injury assessed, but was able to return to the court early in the fourth quarter.

The 22-year-old was able to post 35 points in a losing effort at home to the third-seeded Bucks, who were fuelled by Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Atlanta had been 15-0 this season (regular and playoffs) when Young scored 35-plus points before Sunday as he had a team-high 35 points on 12-of-23 shooting. It was his eighth 30-point game this postseason, second most in a single playoff in team history (Bob Pettit, nine in 1963).

Young began the series last week by scoring 48 points and 11 assists as the Hawks took Game 1 in Milwaukee.

He tied Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James (2007) and Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant (2001) for the most points scored in a playoff game in NBA history before turning 23 years old.

The 2020 All-Star (22 years and 277 days) also became the second youngest player in league history to record 45-plus points and 10-plus assists in a postseason game, with Luka Doncic (22 years and 98 days) the youngest to do so.

Young's 48 points were also the third most scored in a playoff game in Hawks history, behind only Bob Pettit (50 in 1958) and Dominique Wilkins (50 in 1986).

In Game 2, Young was held to 15 points but bounced back with 35 in the third game, going six for 14 from three-point range, taking his points per game for the week to 32.67, way up on his already impressive average of 25.3 from the regular season.

Paul George says he "can't worry" about critics after his masterful Game 5 display against the Phoenix Suns kept the Los Angeles Clippers in the NBA playoffs.

George was the star of the show in a resounding 116-102 victory at Phoenix Suns Arena on Monday.

The seven-time NBA All-Star scored a career postseason-high 41 points, including 30 in the second half, to reduce the Suns' lead to 3-2 in the Western Conference Finals.

George became the first player in NBA history to score 40 points or more with at least 75 per cent field goals, 50 per cent three-pointers and a perfect record with free-throws.

The shooting guard feels he has been harshly singled out, but will pay little attention to those who continue to point the finger at him.

Asked if he feels he has been criticised more than other NBA stars, he said: "I do. And it's the honest truth. It's a fact.

"But I can't worry about that. It comes with the job, I guess. I still try to go and dominate and so I'm beyond that, you know what I mean. I am who I am. I wish I could shoot 80 per cent, 75 per cent, on a nightly basis, but it's not realistic."

He added: "What I can do is do everything else. They can judge me on what they want to. That part don't matter to me. I'm going to go out there and hoop and give it everything I got."

 

George has put up at least 20 points in all 18 games he has played during this postseason. The only other players in NBA history to score at 20 or more points in their first 18 games of a single NBA playoffs are Michael Jordan (1992, 1997, 1998), Kobe Bryant (2008) and Kevin Durant (2012, 2018).

George becomes the third player since the 1996-97 season to score 30-plus points on 80 per cent shooting or better in the second half of a postseason game, joining Anthony Davis (2020) and Dwyane Wade (2010).

Clippers coach Ty Lue has been baffled by criticism of George.

"PG has been great for us all year and I just don't understand why it's magnified so much when he doesn't play well,” said Lue.

Los Angeles Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue does not understand the criticism of Paul George after the star helped the team avoid elimination from the NBA playoffs with a 116-102 win over the Phoenix Suns.

George scored a career postseason-high 41 points, including 30 in the second half, in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals as the Clippers stayed alive in the postseason series on Monday.

The 31-year-old stepped up when the Clippers were challenged in the third quarter, with second-seeded Phoenix hitting the lead briefly, as George hit back with 20 third-quarter points.

George became the first player in Clippers history to record 40-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in a postseason game, while also becoming the first player in NBA history to have 40-plus points on at least 75 per cent field-goal shooting, 50 per cent three-point shooting and 100 free-throw shooting in a playoff contest.

HE is also the third player since the 1996-97 since to score 30-plus points on 80 per cent shooting or better in the second half of a postseason game, joining Anthony Davis (2020) and Dwyane Wade (2010).

George has been criticised in the past and has missed some key free-throws against the Suns, but he has been the Clippers' top scorer in all five games this series in the absence of Kawhi Leonard (knee), while he led all three categories – points, rebounds and assists, for the second successive game for the fourth seeds.

"I just don't understand why it's magnified so much when he has a bad game, when he doesn't play well," Lue said during his post-game news conference.

"A lot of people play bad. Like I said, I'm just happy he came back, played a great game, we needed every bit of it."

George has put up at least 20 points in all 18 games he has played this season. The only other players in NBA history to have at least 20 points in their first 18 games of a single playoff campaign are Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant.

Lue added: "That's what great players do. You always bounce back, if you have a rough game.

"Our team needed it… We fed off Marcus' [Morris Snr] momentum in the first half. Every time they made a run, we responded."

The Clippers have already come from behind to win two series this postseason, triumphing 4-3 over the Dallas Mavericks after trailing 2-0, while they won four straight games against the top-seeded Utah Jazz, having been down 2-0.

Lue and the Clippers would need to win three straight games to overcome the Suns, having trailed 3-1 but they can level the series in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

A championship-winning coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Lue moved to a 10-2 coaching record when his side is facing elimination, but preferred to focus on his players who he labelled "resilient".

"It's been all season long," Lue said. "Guys have been out, different guys are stepping up and playing well.

"I keep saying the same word resilient but this group is. We got a gritty win without three starters, we gotta do it again two more times."

He added: "It is fun. I was just talking to our team about not winning three games but winning each quarter. The journey is too long if you think about three games, six days. I thought our guys came out with that mindset, we won three of four quarters."

Paul George posted a playoff career-high 41 points as the Los Angeles Clippers avoided elimination with a 116-102 win over the Phoenix Suns in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.

George flexed his muscles away from home on Monday and in the absence of star team-mate Kawhi Leonard, scoring 30 second-half points to keep the series alive against the second-seeded Suns.

The win means the Clippers, who have come from behind to triumph in their past two playoffs series, trail the Suns 3-2 in the matchup ahead of Game 6 back in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

George and the Clippers had led at half-time for the first time in the series, up 59-52, but the Suns earned a 62-61 lead before the visitors launched a 10-0 run and never looked back.

Clippers star George entered the must-win game as the fourth player in NBA history to score 20-plus points in each of his first 17 games of a single postseason, joining Michael Jordan (1991, 1992, 1997, 1998), Kobe Bryant (2008) and Kevin Durant (2012 and 2018).

George also had 13 rebounds and six assists, dominating for the fourth-seeded Clippers, who were without injured pair Leonard and Ivica Zubac.

The Clippers continued their resilient playoff campaign, having trailed 2-0 against the Dallas Mavericks in the first round before winning 4-3, while they won four games in a row against the top-seeded Utah Jazz in the Western Conference semi-finals, having fallen 2-0 behind.

The Suns refused to surrender, with Devin Booker scoring 31 points and Chris Paul contributing 22 of his own, but the Clippers always had an answer to silence the home crowd.

George, who shot 15-from-20 from the field for the game, had good support from Reggie Jackson (23 points, including four three-pointers), while Marcus Morris Sr. finished with 22 points after scoring 20 in the first half.

The Clippers dominated with 34-8 first-half points in the paint and 58-32 for the game.

Suns center Deandre Ayton could not capitalise on Zubac's absence, only managing 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Paul missed all six three-point attempts for Phoenix, while he had eight assists.

 

Bucks at Hawks

The Milwaukee Bucks can claim a 3-1 lead over the Atlanta Hawks when they visit State Farm Arena for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday.

Atlanta Hawks star Trae Young is questionable for Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals as he deals with bone bruising in his right foot.

Young hurt his ankle in the third quarter of Sunday's 113-102 defeat as the Milwaukee Bucks claimed a 2-1 series lead in the NBA playoffs.

Hawks guard Young suffered the freak injury when he stepped on referee Sean Wright's foot in Game 3 at State Farm Arena.

Young hobbled off and was taken to the locker room to get his injury assessed, but was able to return to the court early in the fourth quarter.

The 22-year-old was able to post 35 points in a losing effort at home to the third-seeded Bucks, who were fuelled by Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

He began the series last week by scoring 48 points and 11 assists as the Hawks took Game 1 in Milwaukee.

Young tied Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James (2007) and Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant (2001) for the most points scored in a playoff game in NBA history before turning 23 years old.

The 2020 All-Star (22 years and 277 days) also became the second youngest player in league history to record 45-plus points and 10-plus assists in a postseason game, with Luka Doncic (22 years and 98 days) the youngest to do so.

Young's 48 points were also the third most scored in a playoff game in Hawks history, behind only Bob Pettit (50 in 1958) and Dominique Wilkins (50 in 1986).

In Game 2, Young was held to 15 points but bounced back with 35 in the third game, going six for 14 from three-point range, taking his points per game for the week to 32.67, way up on his already impressive average of 25.3 from the regular season.

Jason Kidd is excited at the prospect of working with Luka Doncic and the rest of the Dallas Mavericks roster after he was confirmed as the franchise's new head coach.

Kidd is no stranger to Dallas, having had two spells with the team during his illustrious playing career. The Mavs drafted him in 1994 and following his departure to the Phoenix Suns two years later, he returned as part of an eight-player trade in 2008.

The 10-time All-Star won the NBA title in 2011 while working under Rick Carlisle, the head coach he has now replaced at the Mavs.

"Dallas has meant so much to me as a player and I want to thank Mark Cuban for the opportunity to return as a head coach," Kidd said.

"I am excited to get to work with this young, hungry and incredibly talented team and to continue to build a winning legacy for the Mavericks organisation."

Kidd, previously head coach at both the Brooklyn Nets and the Milwaukee Bucks, leaves his role as an assistant at the Los Angeles Lakers – where he won a championship last season - to take charge in Dallas.

He boasts a 49.1 per cent win rate when serving as head coach in the NBA and was tipped for the Mavericks job by Carlisle, who left the team after 13 years at the helm.

Kidd sits second in the all-time list for assists (12,091) and steals (2,684), behind only John Stockton in both categories.

"We are excited to welcome J-Kidd and his family back to Dallas," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said.

"He possesses a winning mentality that carried him through a hall of fame career as a player and has helped him successfully transition to the NBA's coaching ranks.

"We are eager for him to get to work and lead our franchise and talented young players into the future."

The Mavs - who lost in the first round of the NBA playoffs for a second successive year - have also announced the appointment of Nico Harrison as general manager and head of basketball operations.

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.