Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving has been fined $50,000 for flipping off Boston Celtics fans twice during Sunday's Game 1.

Irving, who was with the Celtics from 2017 and 2019, scored 39 points as the Brooklyn Nets lost 115-114 to the Celtics after Jayson Tatum's buzzer-beating game-winner.

The NBA announced the sanction on Tuesday in a release, where president of league operations Byron Spruell said Irving was fined for "making obscene gestures on the playing court and directing profane language toward the spectator stands."

The 30-year-old was open after Sunday's defeat about his response to the Boston fans.

"When people start yelling 'p---y' or 'b----' and 'f--- you' and all this stuff, there's only but so much you take as a competitor," Irving said.

"We're the ones expected to be docile and be humble, take a humble approach, f--- that, it's the playoffs. This is what it is."

Ben Simmons is making progress towards a return in the NBA playoffs after being cleared for contact says to Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash.

Simmons, who was traded to the Nets from the Philadelphia 76ers in February, has not played in the NBA all season after a fallout at his former franchise.

The 25-year-old three-time All-Star had struggled initially with him reconditioning after joining the Nets, before being plagued by a back problem which he is slowly overcoming.

"He's making progress," Nash told reporters after Tuesday's practice. "We'll just see how he responds and see if he's able to do more contact [on Wednesday]."

Simmons had joined in a 4-on-4 with teammates at a Monday workout with contact.

"So far, so good," Nash said. "I think he managed yesterday's activity well."

The Nets are currently 1-0 down in their seven-game first round playoffs series against the Boston Celtics.

Nash confirmed Simmons would not play in Game 2 on Wednesday but there is growing hope he will participate in the series in some capacity.

"I wouldn't be able to say anything about that because I'm not even sure how he's going to get through these weeks," Nash said.

"We have to also consider it's a nine-month absence or whatever it is, so it's not just like he had a six-week absence, so I think this is a pretty unique scenario. It's not as linear as maybe the other kind of in-season injuries."

Kyrie Irving has been fined $50,000 by the NBA after appearing to raise his middle finger to fans on two separate occasions during Game 1 of the Brooklyn Nets' playoffs opener against the Boston Celtics.

Irving defended his actions during the Nets' 115-114 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

The 30-year-old, 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.

Irving scored a game-high 39 points in Sunday's loss, and insisted he was only reciprocating the feedback from the Celtics fans.

"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 going to 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."

On Tuesday it was confirmed by the NBA that Irving would be fined for his actions, with a statement released by NBA Communications saying: "Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving has been fined $50,000 for making obscene gestures on the playing court and directing profane language toward the spectator stands, it was announced today by Byron Spruell, President, League Operations.

"Irving made the gestures and his comments to the spectators during the Nets' 115-114 loss to the Boston Celtics on April 17 at TD Garden."

Game 2 will take place at TD Garden on Wednesday.

Steph Curry is happy to have "healthy competition" from Jordan Poole, who has stepped into his shoes and produced an "incredible" impression of the two-time NBA MVP.

Long-time Golden State Warriors point guard Curry has started the postseason on the bench as he recovers from a foot injury, allowing Poole to make his first playoff starts.

The third-year guard scored 30 points in Game 1 against the Denver Nuggets, then 29 in Game 2, two wins to put the Warriors in control of the first-round series.

Poole is the first Warrior to score more than 25 points in each of his first two career playoff games; Curry, who also debuted against the Nuggets in 2013, had 19 and then 30.

The 22-year-old is merely picking up where he left off in the regular season, though, having averaged 18.5 points per game, up on 12.0 in 2020-21.

That ranked as the fifth-largest year-on-year improvement among those to play 58 games or more this season but was not enough to make Poole a finalist for Most Improved Player.

Shooting 65.5 per cent from the floor and 58.8 per cent from three so far in the postseason, however, Poole can have loftier ambitions moving forward, having drawn comparisons to one of basketball's greatest ever shooters.

"Jordan's doing some of the same stuff Steph does," Draymond Green said. "That's tough.

"You're going to game plan for Steph, you're going to game plan for Klay [Thompson], but now you've got to game plan for Jordan. That's a different beast.

"You're trapping Steph, okay, but if you're trapping Steph and you've got Jordan on the floor, too, it's hard to trap two guys."

Green added: "He's been watching Steph a lot. He's doing his best impression, and it is incredible."

Poole got plenty of shooting practice this year while Curry was limited to 64 games, and he edged his older team-mate in averaging 92.5 per cent from the foul line; Curry finished with 92.3 per cent free-throw shooting in the regular season.

Asked if Poole would now be taking technical free throws, however, Curry replied with a grin: "Never."

"I like that healthy competition, because I know he edged me out in the season-long race," he added. "We set high standards for shooting free throws, so it's going to take a lot more than one free-throw champ to get me off that line for techs."

But Curry has been amazed by Poole's progress, explaining: "The maturation of his game in these three years has been unbelievable. Just his confidence in his self to be able to take it up another notch at this stage, it's extremely impressive.

"You can give direction and the Xs and Os, but the player has to be able to go out there and do it.

"That's what JP's doing, night after night. That can't be taught. That's something you either have or you don't. I'm happy he has it."

Steph Curry was hailed as the "greatest sixth man ever in the playoffs" after a 34-point performance from the bench that made that case.

Two-time NBA MVP Curry is working his way back from a foot injury and has been kept out of the Golden State Warriors' lineup for their first two games against the Denver Nuggets in the first round.

The Warriors have won both, though, and Curry had a huge role to play in Game 2, scoring 34 points in just 23 minutes on 12-of-17 shooting to earn a plus/minus of 32.

"Jesus," said Draymond Green when he looked at the stat sheet. "Steph plus-32... that's incredible. Wow."

It was only Curry's fourth playoff appearance from the bench, and his 34 points still fell short of the 40 he scored against the Portland Trail Blazers in his first such appearance in 2016 – the most by any player coming off the bench in the postseason since at least 1985-86.

He has averaged 29.5 points across those four games, another record over that period.

The performance against the Blazers came in 37 minutes, however, with this latest display against the Nuggets the best performance by a bench player in 25 minutes or fewer. Only Paul George – 35 against the Dallas Mavericks in 2020 – has scored more in 25 playoff minutes as a starter.

"I'm back," Curry bellowed at one stage, later explaining: "In the first game, I didn't really feel normal, like I had the real flow. Then the first half [of Game 2] I had a little pep in my step and my body felt good.

"I was able to get to some spots, and when you make certain shots, it feels a little different. It feels a little bit more normal and more emotion comes out. It was a nice feeling."

Meanwhile, Jordan Poole, starting in Curry's place, followed up his 30 points in Game 1 with 29 in Game 2. Klay Thompson added 21.

Nuggets coach Michael Malone said: "You have three guys that are capable of putting up 30, 40 points.

"Jordan Poole had 30 points in Game 1, he had 29 tonight. Steph Curry is the greatest sixth man ever in the playoffs. They bring a guy off the bench like that, 34 points, five threes... and then Klay Thompson."

The Warriors have an issue now, Green acknowledges, working out how to get all three guards into the same lineup.

"We're not going to keep Steph in the sixth man role, forget that," he said. "But saying that, ultimately, Jordan is probably going to have to start, too.

"Ultimately, we've got to figure a bunch of stuff out. It's a good problem to have, a great problem to have."

Green was happy to let Steve Kerr "figure that one out", but the coach is very pleased with Curry's attitude to returning to action on the bench.

"Steph is Steph," Kerr said. "You don't need to sell him on anything.

"He's very unique. He's incredibly humble and incredibly arrogant on the floor – humble off the floor, arrogant on the floor. It's a great combination. Anything that is going to help the team he's all for."

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]."

Joel Embiid told reporters he is sick of the Toronto Raptors complaining about foul calls after the Philadelphia 76ers won 112-97 on Monday to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round series.

Embiid finished with a game-high 31 points on nine-of-16 shooting and hit as many free throws (12) as the Raptors attempted as an entire team.

The 76ers also received another terrific performance from ascending guard Tyrese Maxey, who had 23 points (eight-of-11 shooting) with nine rebounds and eight assists, while James Harden chipped in with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists.

Speaking with post-game media, Embiid said he knew the Raptors would try to raise the physicality in Game 2, but he wanted to beat them to the punch, earning a technical foul 90 seconds into the action.

"I didn't really want them to set that [physical] tone," he said. "I wanted myself and us to set that tone. That's why I picked up that early technical foul.

"On defense, I just wanted to make sure the refs to let us know how physical they wanted the game to be, so that's when [OG Anunoby and I] started pushing each other and got techs.

"I knew that was their game plan, I knew that was going to be their adjustment, but I wanted to be the first one to bring the physicality."

After such a physical contest, Embiid said he was tired of hearing Raptors coach Nick Nurse complaining about the refereeing and shared what the exchange was between the two late in the fourth quarter.

"[Nurse] is a great coach, what he has been able to accomplish, I have always been a big fan, but I told him, respectfully, to stop b****ing about calls," he said.

"If you triple-team somebody all game, they're bound to get to the free throw line. If you go and push them and hold them. I feel like every foul was legit, and there probably should have been more, honestly.

"I got a lost of respect for all these coaches, but I feel like they have self-awareness about when they say this kind of stuff [about] whether the referees are not calling [fouls] any more. It's also to motivate their guys to go out and play better and really put it in the referees' hands to not call it.

"But when the fouls are as obvious as they were tonight – they put me on the floor a few times – and to me, this is where it gets interesting to me. I'm like, cool, I'm going to come back with more power.

"I think that's part of the reason I got a few offensive fouls, too. If you're going to be physical, I'm going to come back with more power and make you stop me and make it more obvious if the refs don't want to call it. 

"I think [coaches] do it because they have to, but they don't actually believe it. If you watch the clips, every single foul is a foul."

76ers coach Doc Rivers also acknowledged his side expected a more physical approach from Toronto and shared the advice he gave his star player.

"No, Jo, you be the dominant guy," he said. "[Embiid] is the most dominant player in the league.

"They wanted to muck the game up and play physical. I just told our guys to just play through it."

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.

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."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.