Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been named the first guard since Gary Payton in 1996 to win Defensive Player of the Year.

Smart, 28, was the best defensive player on the best defense in the NBA (allowing 106.2 points per 100 possessions) as the Celtics beat out the Golden State Warriors (106.6) and the Phoenix Suns (106.8).

The primary source of his defensive value comes from his ability to fully unlock Boston's switching defense, seamlessly switching onto centers and power forwards and holding his own down low when big men try to post him up.

Smart was expected to have to compete for votes with teammate Robert Williams III, who has been a revelation on the defensive end this season, but the Celtics still maintained their quality late in the season when Williams was out with injury.

Of players this season to play at least 20 games, and average at least 20 minutes, Smart is top-10 in steals and defensive win shares.

The two other finalists for the award were Phoenix's Mikal Bridges, and the Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert.

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.

The Toronto Raptors will have to cope without star rookie Scottie Barnes against the Philadelphia 76ers, although the forward said he is already "feeling better".

Barnes sprained his left ankle in the fourth quarter of Game 1 in the first-round playoff series, a 131-111 defeat in Philadelphia.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse subsequently acknowledged the fourth overall pick was unlikely to play in Game 2, and he was officially ruled out at shootaround on Tuesday.

Gary Trent Jr., who is ill, and Thaddeus Young, with an injured thumb, were also set to miss out, but Barnes' absence was particularly damaging after a superb season.

The 20-year-old is a Rookie of the Year finalist after averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds in the regular season, ranking third and second respectively among rookies.

Barnes had 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in his playoff debut and at least assured Raptors fans he is on the road to recovery, even if there remains no return date.

"I thought it was going to be bad, man," Barnes said. "I hit the ground and I was like, 'Damn, it's just the beginning, just getting started'.

"But afterward, I was just still trying to have positive thoughts and keep myself into it.

"I don't know [when he will return]. Might be soon. We just have to see. Feeling better, though, each and every day."

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.

Scottie Barnes is set to be listed as doubtful for the Toronto Raptors' Game 2 against the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Raptors have confirmed Barnes, who is a Rookie of the Year finalist, sprained his left ankle in the fourth quarter of the series-opening 131-111 loss to the 76ers.

That would put the fourth overall pick's involvement in Monday's game in Philadelphia in significant doubt, as coach Nick Nurse acknowledged.

Gary Trent Jr. is ill, meanwhile, and Thaddeus Young has injured his left thumb.

"Listen, it doesn't look good for any of those guys," Nurse said after Sunday's practice.

"They're all going to be listed as probably doubtful, so it doesn't look good for any of them. We'll evaluate them as we go and see where we end up."

Chris Paul revealed he was spurred on by the New Orleans Pelicans' defensive strategy during the Phoenix Suns' 110-99 Game 1 win on Sunday.

The 36-year-old, who turns 37 next month, became the oldest player in NBA history to put up 30 points and 10 assists in a playoff game, including 19 points in a brilliant fourth quarter.

After the Pelicans rallied back from a 23-point deficit to make it a two-possession game, Paul took advantage of multiple instances where they went under on-ball screens against him.

Following the game, the 12-time All-Star said he wanted to make former team-mate and now Pelicans coach Willie Green pay for his strategy.

"That's like inviting me to shoot," Paul said. "I know Willie, that's my man. It's all a part of the game."

Paul, who only attempted 3.3 three-pointers per game in the playoffs last season and 3.1 this regular season, went four-of-six from beyond the arc, including three-of-four in the fourth quarter.

Team-mate Devin Booker said of Paul: "That man is a true competitor and a true winner.

"When he wants it that bad, you can see it in his demeanour and see it in his walk, so it shouldn't surprise anyone. He's built for these moments."

Meanwhile, on defense, the Suns kept C.J. McCollum, Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas to a combined 22-of-63 from the floor.

"We were just connected," Paul said. "We were making it tough on C.J., same thing with BI [Ingram] and closing out to their shooters. We were just on a string.

"I think a lot of times people think about our offense and how we move the ball and stuff, but our defense is what we really sort of hang our hats on."

Jayson Tatum clinched a memorable playoff win over the Brooklyn Nets with a Game 1 buzzer-beater and felt that moment was evidence of the Boston Celtics' progress this season.

The Celtics finished in the two seed in the East, meaning a daunting matchup with the Nets in round one after they progressed through the play-in tournament.

Game 1 was every bit as tricky as Boston might have feared, but they came through in dramatic fashion thanks to Tatum's last-gasp intervention.

It was Tatum who contested a Kevin Durant three after dogged Celtics defense, allowing Al Horford to grab the rebound and set in motion a flowing move in the final seconds.

Horford moved the ball on to Derrick White and then Jaylen Brown, who picked out Marcus Smart for what looked to be a make-or-break three-point attempt with the Nets still a point ahead.

Instead, Smart picked out a cutting Tatum for a spinning layup at the buzzer to claim a stunning 115-114 win at The Garden.

"I think we all thought Smart was going to shoot it," Tatum said. "Last-second shot, just crash the glass. If it doesn't go in, try to make a play.

"But when he took that dribble, we just kind of made eye contact and he made a great pass. I just had to make the layup.

"It doesn't get any better than that. A buzzer-beater in a playoff game at home."

Celtics coach Ime Udoka could have called a timeout when Durant missed but instead trusted his players to get the job done.

"You've got to give credit to Ime for trusting us in that situation with one timeout to just go," Smart said. "That's a big confidence builder for us.

"The coach trusted us to go out there and make a play and be basketball players."

The Celtics have come a long way from their start to the season, having been 17-19 at the turn of the year but 34-12 through to the end of the regular season – their .739 winning percentage third behind the Phoenix Suns (.787) and the Dallas Mavericks (.745) in 2022.

Reflecting on a win in which he scored a team-high 31 points – his ninth career 30-point playoff game and fourth against Brooklyn – Tatum said: "I think it just shows the progression of our team, how far we've come.

"In those first two months, obviously we were average and we were struggling. And we've just been playing the right way these last couple of months.

"And that's a reason why we've been so successful, especially in big moments. It's all about just trying to make the right play."

Smart added: "It was fulfilling for us, especially because of the way we started this year off; those types of games, we lost.

"We were probably crumbling, and for a moment there, it kind of looked like that was the direction it was going.

"But the resilience that we have, the approach we have, and the work we put in to make sure that doesn't happen – you just learn."

Kyrie Irving defended his actions during the Brooklyn Nets' 115-114 loss to the Boston Celtics on Sunday, where he appeared to raise his middle finger to fans on two separate occasions during Game 1 of their playoffs opener.

Irving, who played for Boston for two turbulent seasons before a sour exit in 2019, has been regularly booed by fans at the TD Garden, and the ill-feeling has only intensified with each meeting.

The 30-year-old has not hidden his feelings towards the organisation either, stomping on the Celtics logo at mid-court of the Garden following Brooklyn's win in Game 4 of last season's playoffs series between the two.

Scoring a game-high 39 points during his running battle with the crowd in Sunday's loss, Irving asserted he is only reciprocating the ill-sentiment.

"Look, where I'm from, I'm used to all these antics and people being close nearby," Irving said post-game. "It's the same energy, and I'm gonna have the same energy for them.

"And it's not every fan. I don't want to attack every fan, every Boston fan, but when people start yelling 'p****' or 'b****' or 'f*** you' and all this stuff, there's only but so much you take as a competitor.

"We're the ones expected to be docile and humble, take a humble approach. F*** that, it's the playoffs. It is what it is."


The seven-time All-Star relentlessly attacked on Sunday, playing with notable vigour on his way to 39 points, six assists, five rebounds and four steals in just over 42 minutes.

He also shot 60 per cent from the floor in both total and three-point categories, hinting that he was driven by the crowd.

"Embrace it," Irving said. "Embrace it. It's the dark side. Embrace it.

"I know what to expect in here, and it's the same energy I'm giving back to them. This isn't my first time at TD Garden so what you guys saw, what you guys think is entertainment, or the fans think is entertainment, all is fair in competition."

Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo have been announced as the finalists for the 2021-22 NBA MVP award, as was widely expected.

Denver Nuggets center Jokic is the favourite to win the award for a second consecutive year, again beating out Philadelphia 76ers big man Embiid.

Antetokounmpo took the two awards before that and was the NBA Finals MVP last season as he led the Milwaukee Bucks to the title.

Embiid led the league in scoring this year with 30.6 points per game, ahead of Antetokounmpo (29.9), who was second among players to play 58 games or more.

Jokic (27.1) was sixth in those standings and eighth for assists (7.9) but second in rebounds (13.8).

Although neither Devin Booker nor Chris Paul did enough to be considered for the MVP, the league-leading Phoenix Suns got plenty of love in other NBA Awards categories.

Monty Williams is up for Coach of the Year, against the Memphis Grizzlies' Taylor Jenkins and the Miami Heat's Erik Spoelstra.

Mikal Bridges is a Defensive Player of the Year finalist, facing the Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart along with three-time winner Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.

For Sixth Man of the Year, Cam Johnson faces competition from the Heat's Tyler Herro and the Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love.

Herro is the favourite, though, having scored 20.7 points despite making only 10 starts. Ricky Pierce in 1989-90 (23.0) was the last player to average more points while playing at least 50 games but starting no more than 10.

There is also recognition for the much-improved Cavaliers, with two of Love's team-mates up for awards.

Darius Garland averaged 21.7 points, up from 17.4 a year earlier, and is under consideration for Most Improved Player. His year-on-year improvement ranks 16th among players with 58 or more games.

Dejounte Murray (15.7 to 21.1) of the San Antonio Spurs ranks ninth, while the Grizzlies' Ja Morant only played in 57 games but improved from 19.1 to 27.4, which would have put him third.

Garland's Cavaliers team-mate Evan Mobley is a Rookie of the Year finalist, in competition the Detroit Pistons' first overall pick Cade Cunningham and the Toronto Raptors' Scottie Barnes.

Jayson Tatum's buzzer-beating layup gave the Boston Celtics a dramatic 115-114 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in their series opener on Sunday.

Tatum scored 16 of his 31 points in the second half, along with adding eight assists, four rebounds, two blocks and a steal. His final two points came in the frenetic final seconds, cutting towards the basket off Kevin Durant for Marcus Smart, spinning past Kyrie Irving and finishing with as time expired.

Smart particularly showed poise, forcing the closeout from Bruce Brown and Nic Claxton before dishing, along with adding 20 points, seven rebounds, six assists and two steals.

While Irving scored a game-high 39 points for the Nets, Durant put up 23 points but went nine-of-24 from the floor, including some open, trailing looks in transition. One miss at 102-98 would have made it a three-possession game in Brooklyn's favour midway through the fourth quarter, but a miss leading to a Jaylen Brown dunk brought it back to one.

It was also at that point where Boston were zero-for-seven for the quarter from the floor, and momentum suddenly shifted.

Giannis yields Bucks win in opener

Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 26 points and 17 rebounds as the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Chicago Bulls 93-86.

The defending NBA champions blew a 16-point lead, but recovered with a Jrue Holiday triple that triggered an 8-0 run.

The Bulls still had their chances, with Zach LaVine missing a game-tying three-pointer with 29 seconds remaining in what was a rough shooting night. LaVine and DeMar DeRozan shot a combined 12-of-44 as the team connected on only 32.3 per cent of field goal attempts.

Red-hot Robinson gives Heat opening victory

Duncan Robinson set a franchise playoff record with eight three-pointers in a catch-and-shoot clinic, leading the Miami Heat to a 115-91 win against the Atlanta Hawks in their series opener.

Robinson scored 27 points on nine-of-10 shooting for the Eastern Conference's first seed, who had three players see over 20 minutes of game time off the bench.

Trae Young had his worst-ever shooting night for the Hawks, making one field goal out of 12 attempts, as well as committing six turnovers.

CP3 takes over for Suns

Chris Paul scored 19 points in a brilliant fourth quarter, as the Phoenix Suns secured a 110-99 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

As the Pelicans cut a 23-point deficit to single digits to two possessions, the Suns needed the 36-year-old, who eventually finish with 30 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds and three steals.

Despite 25 points from CJ McCollum, the Pelicans finished with the unusual statistic of a better three-point field goal percentage (39.1) than total field goal percentage (37.9).

Klay Thompson was glowing in his praise of Jordan Poole, whose 30 points on his playoff debut propelled the Golden State Warriors to a 123-107 Game 1 win over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.

Poole's performance even overshadowed the return of the previously injured Stephen Curry to a degree, with the two-time MVP starting off the bench.

Thompson – the third-year player's starting teammate in the backcourt on Saturday with Curry's return being managed – was full of compliments after the game, claiming Poole should be guaranteed the NBA's Most Improved Player award this season.

"Jordan Poole, wow, what a playoff debut. I mean, all his hard work is paying off," Thompson said post-game. "If he doesn't get Most Improved Player, it doesn't make sense. Without him, we would not be where we're at.

"So, Dub Nation, we should be very grateful for Jordan's development and the type of player he's become, he's just incredible. What a star in the making."

Poole and Thompson have been able to develop handy chemistry for the Dubs in the run-in to the playoffs with Curry still out, combining for 49 points off 16-of-28 shooting from the floor, including 10-of-17 from beyond the arc.

Curry and Poole's quick releases and accuracy in shooting, as well as their ability to operate off the dribble out of the pick-and-roll, means three-guard lineups for Golden State will likely be prominent this post-season.

All the same, according to Thompson, for both Curry and Poole can provide him clean looks.

"I play off Jordan very well," Thompson said. "He's so good in the ball screen, that allows me to play off the ball and fly off screens. Allows me to be that catch-and-shoot sniper that I always was.

"He's like Steph with the ball in his hands, as far as his ability to shoot off the pick-and-roll, and we just developed a great chemistry over the last month or two just playing ball."

Anthony Edwards scored 36 points in his playoff debut, as the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 130-117 to take home-court advantage.

The second-year player went 12-of-23 from the floor while making all eight attempts from the free-throw line, along with adding six assists, two blocks and a steal. Meanwhile, Karl-Anthony Towns contributed 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting and 13 rebounds to start his second-ever playoff series.

The Wolves scored a franchise record for points in a first quarter on the way another record for points in a playoff game, shooting an even 50 per cent from the floor.

The Timberwolves, who beat the Los Angeles Clippers in the Play-In tournament to secure the seventh seed, also held a double-digit advantage in rebounding against the Grizz.  

The Grizzlies went cold from the perimeter at 25.9 per cent as a team, and Ja Morant wildly attacking the basket became a regular pattern, going 18-of-20 from the free-throw line on the way to 32 points.

Poole party for Curry's return

Jordan Poole also went off in his playoff debut, scoring 30 points in the Golden State Warriors 123-107 win over the Denver Nuggets.

The 22-year-old showed already characteristic composure, going nine-of-13 from the floor on the way to scoring 30 points, as Stephen Curry started on the bench in his return from injury, 

In his 22 minutes on the floor, Curry's return allowed the Warriors to move the ball and get great looks against the Nuggets, shooting 45.7 per cent from perimeter and creating 35 assists as a team.

Draymond Green's fingerprints were all over the game, coming up with 12 points, nine assists, six rebounds and three blocks in the series-opening win.  

Without Facundo Campazzo as well as Jamal Murray, Will Barton had to carry most of the offensive burden along with MVP candidate Nikola Jokic, with the two combining for 49 of the Nuggets' 107 points.

Maxey makes light work of Raptors

A Tyrese Maxey takeover in the third quarter handed the Philadelphia 76ers a comfortable 131-111 win at home to the Toronto Raptors to open their playoff series.

Maxey scored 21 points and connected on five three-pointers in the third term on his way.to a playoff career-high of 38 points, as fans at the Wells Fargo Center chanted his name. 

The likes of James Harden and MVP candidate Joel Embiid even deferred to him as the Sixers pulled away in the third. Harden provided a little bit of everything offensively though, shooting and distributing well as well as getting to the free-throw line, on the way to 22 points and 14 assists

The Raps simply could not keep up on the back of a poor shooting night from Gary Trent Jr. who went two-of-11 from the floor and losing Scottie Barnes to an ankle injury exacerbated matters.

In just under 32 minutes, the rookie center put up 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.    

Jazz take home-court against the Mavs

Donovan Mitchell took over for the Utah Jazz, who opened the playoffs with a 99-93 victory on the road over the Dallas Mavericks.

The 25-year-old put in a big effort playing just under 42 minutes and despite going 10-of-29 from the floor, scored 30 of his 32 points in the second half.

Also breaking the 40-minute barrier for the Jazz was Bojan Bogdanovic, who added 26 points from 11-of-20 shooting, along with five rebounds and four assists.

Luka Doncic was sorely missed for the Mavs, making their first playoff appearance since their 2011 NBA title, shooting 38.2 per cent from the floor and coming up with 17 assists as a team despite half the turnovers (7-14).

Jalen Brunson and Spencer Dinwiddie shot a combined 15-of-39 from field goal attempts, while the latter contributed eight of the team's assists.

The Los Angeles Clippers will play no part in this year's playoffs, but coach Ty Lue still believes they "can be special" next season.

The Clippers finished eighth in the West to enter the Play-In tournament, only to fall short of the postseason with consecutive defeats.

After losing 109-104 to the Minnesota Timberwolves with Paul George in the lineup, the seven-time All-Star was in health and safety protocols for Friday's make-or-break 105-101 defeat at home to the New Orleans Pelicans.

George's absence was a cruel blow for the Clippers, not that playing without him is a new experience.

Injury limited George to 31 games this year – in which he averaged a team-leading 24.3 points – but that was 31 more games than the team got out of two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who is still recovering from a partial ACL tear in last season's playoff run.

Even Norman Powell, signed in February, suffered a setback and could play only limited minutes in a bench role after returning ahead of the play-in games.

Since the Clippers signed George and Leonard ahead of the 2019-20 season, they have played together in only 104 games across the regular season and playoffs.

The Clippers have a 72-32 (.692) record in those games, versus 83-71 (.539) in the 154 when one of their superstars is missing.

For that reason, Lue can retain some optimism as they hope to have Leonard back for 2022-23.

"We get our main guys back, we can be dangerous," he said after the Pelicans game. "Health is part of it. We've got to stay healthy, continue to work.

"When you get Kawhi back, a top-five player, PG, a perennial All-Star, your team changes tremendously.

"Guys who have taken on bigger roles this year, who have never been in this position before, they can kind of fall back into their original roles.

"We could be very different with those two guys back and healthy. We can be special."

The Pelicans have themselves missed a big name this year, with former first overall pick Zion Williamson joining Leonard in sitting out the entire season to date.

In his stead, C.J. McCollum and, particularly in the play-in tournament, Brandon Ingram have stepped up to lead the Pelicans into a first-round series against title favourites the Phoenix Suns.

Ingram has averaged 18.5 points per game for his career and 22.7 in the regular season this year but 28.5 across play-in wins over the San Antonio Spurs and the Clippers.

His 30 led the team on Friday, prompting high praise from coach Willie Green.

"Brandon Ingram is the truth," Green said. "He just brought it. He had that look in his eye from the time we got on the plane. Shootaround, he's been locked in. He has been waiting for this moment, for this type of moment."

Trae Young knew he just needed to stay aggressive in the second half of the Atlanta Hawks' 107-101 play-in win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, and said he expects a fun series against the Miami Heat.

It was a tale of two halves for the Hawks' All-NBA point guard, as he struggled with six points in the first, before exploding with 32 after half-time.

Bogdan Bogdanovic was crucial off the bench for Atlanta, hitting six-of-eight shots for 19 points and three steals in his 29 minutes, while Onyeka Okongwu invigorated his side after Clint Capela went down with an injury, finishing with a plus/minus of plus 21 while Capela was minus 21.

Speaking to post-game media, Young said he was always looking to score, despite how tough the Cavaliers were making it for him early.

"Early in the game, they were making some reads and making some switches, and I was trying to get my teammates involved," he said. 

"I missed a couple shots, but I needed to stay aggressive, and that's all I did in the second half. We just took care of business.

"The team we beat tonight definitely deserved a playoff spot, but this year it's so tough. They weren't able to make it. It's just a testament to our team that we kept fighting."

Young then touched on the upcoming series against the Heat, saying he is looking forward to the playoff atmosphere when they head to Miami on Sunday.

"I mean, [Miami have] been clicking on all cylinders, especially recently, [and] they've got a little bit more rest than we have, so we got to be ready to bring it," he said.

"We know the crowd is going to be crazy, and the environment is gonna be fun, so [we have] got to be ready to be locked in and take care of business."

Hawks coach Nate McMillan was inspired by his team's fight, and his point guard.

"This team is built for moments like this," he said.

"Trae has a great deal of confidence in his game, his ability and he continued to believe. I didn't see any panic in his play. 

"He came out in the second half [and] remained aggressive. Those shots started to fall, the same shots that he was taking in the first half, they started to fall in the second half."

A Trae Young masterclass in the second half of the Atlanta Hawks' play-in clash against the Cleveland Cavaliers led his side to a 107-101 victory.

After only scoring six points in the first half, Young had 32 in the second, finishing with 38 points on 13-of-25 shooting (four-of-11 from deep) to go with nine assists.

It was a gutsy comeback from the Hawks, who trailed 28-14 in the first quarter and 49-61 with 30 seconds to play in the first half.

Overall, the Hawks outscored the Cavaliers 56 to 40 in the last two quarters, and after committing seven turnovers in the opening frame, cleaned things up significantly and only committed six more across the next three quarters.

Cleveland's Darius Garland had a difficult shooting night, finishing nine-of-27 from the field for his 21 points, but he showed excellent command of his side throughout, dishing nine assists, snatching three steals and finishing with a plus/minus of plus three in his 43 minutes. This means in the five minutes Garland was sitting on the bench, the Cavs were outscored by eight.

With the win, the Hawks have earned a seven-game series against the top seed of the Eastern Conference – the Miami Heat.

Pelicans survive Clippers comeback

The New Orleans Pelicans survived a massive second-half surge from the Los Angeles Clippers to fight back and win on the road 105-101. 

Through the first half, it looked like it would be smooth sailing for the Pelicans as they jumped out to a 56-42 lead with one minute to play in the second quarter.

Los Angeles were without star Paul George after it was announced he had tested positive for coronavirus and had to adhere to health and safety protocols, but they found a second wind to start the third period.

The Clippers started the second half on a 20-to-two run, flipping a 56-46 deficit to a 66-58 lead as Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris started to catch fire.

After being outscored 38-18 in the third term, the Pelicans began the final period trailing 84-74, but it would be their turn to make a run, rallying to tie the game at 88-88 with 7:35 to play.

Brandon Ingram was the star of the show, finishing with 30 points (14-of-21 shooting) with six assists and six rebounds, but the clutch long-range shooting from rookie Trey Murphy III was the catalyst for their surge down the stretch.

Murphy came off the bench and finished with a game-high plus/minus of plus 26 in his 24 minutes, hitting four-of-six threes, including three of them in the last 10 minutes.

Jackson and Morris finished with 27 points each for the Clippers, while the former also added eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals.

The win means the New Orleans Pelicans will face the Phoenix Suns in a best-of-seven series, beginning on Sunday.

 

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