Marcus Smart is questionable for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals with a mid-foot sprain.

Head coach Ime Udoka revealed the Boston Celtics star suffered the injury in their blowout win over the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 7 of their semi-finals series.

Smart is, therefore, a doubt to face the Miami Heat in the series opener in south Florida as the Celtics aim to steal the initiative against the East's one seed.

The 2021-22 Defensive Player of the Year, Smart has arguably not had the impact he would have desired so far in the postseason.

However, he played an instrumental role in forcing Game 7 against the Bucks, scoring 21 points and recording seven assists and five rebounds to help the Celtics set up a decider.

Smart had 10 assists and seven rebounds in Game 7, finishing with a plus-minus of plus-18 that was second only to Grant Williams (+25) as the Celtics routed the Bucks 109-81.

Perhaps his biggest influence in this postseason has been on the glass.

During the playoffs, opponents are averaging 43.6 rebounds per 100 possessions when Smart is on the court and 46.7 when he is off the court.

Similarly, opponents have averaged 13.5 second-chance points per 100 possessions with Smart out there compared to 15.3 against Celtics line-ups not including him in the playoffs.

The Celtics also do a better job of stealing the ball with Smart on court (7.3 per game) compared to when he is on the bench (6.2).

Boston will hope to have him out there to prevent Jimmy Butler and Miami from getting hot, and the Celtics will have center Rob Williams, who has not featured in any of the last four games due to a bone bruise, available with no minutes restriction.

It almost feels as though using the Ron Burgundy 'boy, that escalated quickly' GIF would be a little too on the nose.

The NBA Conference semi-finals proved to be just as dramatic as we all hoped, with two of them going all the way to all or nothing Game 7s.

In the East, despite a bit of a comeback once Joel Embiid returned from injury, the Philadelphia 76ers were unable to halt the number one seed Miami Heat, while defending champions the Milwaukee Bucks are also out after going down in Game 7 to the Boston Celtics.

Over in the West, the Golden State Warriors overcame the Memphis Grizzlies in a tempestuous series defined by Ja Morant's knee injury, while a sensational performance from Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks saw them destroy the Phoenix Suns in their own backyard in Game 7 on Sunday.

They may not be the Conference Finals many predicted, but they will be absolutely covered in compelling narratives, so Stats Perform is here to take a look at what should be two fascinating contests to determine this year's NBA finalists.

Eastern Conference Final

Miami Heat v Boston Celtics

Perhaps this pairing was to be expected given they are the one and two seeds respectively in the East, but with Giannis Antetokounmpo in their corner and an NBA championship to defend, many will have expected the Bucks to get the better of Boston.

The Celtics showed their mettle, though, in particular Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 28.3 points per game (PPG) in the postseason.

Tatum's 6.1 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game are supported by an impressive average of four turnovers as the 24-year-old has set about trying to drag his team all the way.

He has not been alone though, with Jaylen Brown averaging 22.2 PPG, while an unlikely hero emerged in the 109-81 win against the Bucks on Sunday as Grant Williams top-scored with 27, the first time he has done so for the Celtics. Williams hit seven of the Celtics' 22 made three-pointers in an incredible shooting barrage.

 

The Heat took full advantage of an Embiid-less Sixers in the opening games of their series with Philadelphia before losing their 2-0 lead, only to see it out 4-2.

Jimmy Butler shone throughout and is averaging 28.7 PPG in the playoffs so far, as well as 5.4 assists and 7.5 rebounds.

His 32 in Game 6 helped ease any nerves about going to a decider, while even the 40 he managed in defeat in Game 4 made the Sixers work harder than they should have had to.

The Celtics won two of their three meetings with the Heat in the regular season, but Miami were triumphant last time out in late March, winning 106-98 at TD Garden thanks to 24 from Butler and 23 from Kyle Lowry, who may not feature in Game 1.

Lowry injured his hamstring in Game 3 of the Heat’s first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks, and is a doubt for the start of this series.

Western Conference Final

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors

Can you stop Luka Doncic, or do you just watch in awe and hope the ball pops before he can score?

That probably won't be the question Steve Kerr and the Warriors will be asking, but they will certainly have to come up with some way of dealing with the dangerous Slovenian.

Doncic is averaging 31.5 PPG from his 10 playoff games so far and was unsurprisingly trending on social media on Sunday as his own personal scoring was such that he was single-handedly matching the Phoenix Suns in the first half at Footprint Center.

His 6.6 assists and 10.1 rebounds per game in the postseason also show how dominant he has been, but that should not take away from the fine work going on elsewhere in Jason Kidd's team.

Having had to carry the Mavericks through most of the first round against the Utah Jazz in Doncic's absence, Jalen Brunson demonstrated his worth with 24 against the Suns in Game 7, while Spencer Dinwiddie posted 30 points of his own too.

 

The Warriors are unsurprisingly just as good at spreading the wealth, even if Stephen Curry – like Doncic – is leading the way with his 26.9 PPG in the playoffs.

The three-point assassin is tied with team-mate Klay Thompson for shots from beyond the arc, with both sinking 42 efforts in the postseason so far, which emphasises the importance of Thompson as well, who has averaged 20.4 PPG.

Jordan Poole is playing his part too with 19.3 PPG, including a 50 per cent success rate on field goal attempts, making 74 from 148.

Dallas may have the upper hand going into this one, not just because of their complete undressing of the Suns in Game 7, but also because they won three of the four games against Golden State in the regular season, with Doncic scoring 41 in their last meeting in early March.

Klay Thompson said it felt "so special" to lead the Golden State Warriors into the Western Conference Finals after the Dubs got the better of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Playing close to his best, Thompson shot 11-of-22 from the field for a 30-point game, nailing eight of 14 attempts from long range in a 110-96 win in Game 6 of the semi-finals.

After clinching the 4-2 series success, the 32-year-old Thompson said it was a joy to be contributing on a high level again.

Major knee and Achilles injuries have seriously disrupted the career of one of the NBA's finest shooting guards, who won championships with the Warriors in 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Thompson finished the regular season with four 30-point-plus games in his last six outings, but he had managed just one such high-scoring performance in 10 of the team's postseason games until coming good on Friday night.

Speaking in an on-court ESPN interview, Thompson said: "I just tried to focus on the present, and I was thinking about the last couple of years and what the team has been through and what I personally have been through, and to have another closeout game at Chase Center it gave me butterflies.

"I was nervous all day, but I just had so much fun tonight, and I'm proud of this team for being so resilient."

The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to make 20-plus three-pointers and grab 70-plus rebounds in a single game, regular season or postseason.

Now they wait for the winner of Sunday's Game 7 between the Dallas Mavericks and Phoenix Suns.

The Western Conference Finals await, and the Warriors have not reached that stage since 2019, when they went one step further by sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers to reach the NBA Finals.

Thompson suffered an ACL injury in the Game 6 championship series-ending loss to the Toronto Raptors, forcing him to miss the entire next campaign.

His perspective on reaching the latter stages of the playoffs has changed with experience.

"I know that became routine in the 2010s for the Dubs, but that's a special, special opportunity," Thompson said. "We do not take that lightly. We're going to kick our feet up the next couple of days, watch this Suns-Mavs Game 7 and get the popcorn ready, but it's so special.

"I'm going to enjoy tonight, and I'm going to be hungry when that time comes because you can't take it for granted, nothing's guaranteed in sports."

Jayson Tatum said forcing a Game 7 in Boston "means everything" after he scored a game-high 46 points to carry his Boston Celtics to a 108-95 win in Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Tatum shot 17-of-32 from the field and seven-of-15 from long-range for his 46, while Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo had 44 points and 20 rebounds, becoming the first player since Shaquille O'Neal over 20 years ago to put up 40-and-20 in a playoff game.

Unlike Antetokounmpo, Tatum had strong support from his teammates, with Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart combining for an efficient 43 points, while Al Horford collected team-highs in rebounds (10) and blocks (four).

After a disappointing Game 5 showing at home, Tatum told reporters post-game that the timid performance was lingering in their memories, determined not to make the same mistakes.

"[The Game 5 comeback] was in the back of our mind… it's something we talked about," he said.

"We felt they beat us on 'winning' plays – hustle plays, 50-50 balls – they were tougher than us in the fourth quarter of Game 5. 

"I think just how much it stung – losing like that. Everyone had a bad taste in their mouth.

"That was in the back of my mind, it was in the back of everyone's minds. Our season was on the line, we knew that, and we had to dig deep and give everything we had. 

"[But] we were upbeat, we weren't defeated – knowing we still had an opportunity to save our season by coming in here and getting a win, and we believed that, we truly did. We believed in each other, and I think that showed tonight."

Touching on the Bucks and what makes them so good, Tatum emphasised their unity and cohesiveness, with everyone buying into their roles.

"They're a great team," he said. "I think everyone over there knows their role, and everyone is a star in their role – they compliment each other really well. 

"They're well-coached, they run great sets, and they're not going to beat themselves. They've done it before, and we know that, so coming into the series we knew it wasn't going to be easy – by no means – whoever wins was going to have to earn it.

"I was excited to play today – Game 6, you know, this is a big moment. For all of us, for myself and the team and how we would respond. 

"Losing Game 5 was going to make us or break us, and I think we showed a lot of toughness and growth coming out here and getting a win on the road and giving ourselves a chance."

Tatum was all smiles at the thought of Game 7 heading back to Boston, saying this is what competitors dream of.

"It means everything," he said. "It's the best atmosphere in the NBA, and Game 7s are the biggest and best games.

"I'm looking forward to it, truly… this is it, do or die. 

"This is going to be fun – it's supposed to be fun, it's basketball."

The Boston Celtics survived a historic performance from Giannis Antetokounmpo as Jayson Tatum scored 46 points to carry his side to a 108-95 win, tying the series at 3-3 and forcing a Game 7 in Boston.

Antetokounmpo became the first player since Shaquille O'Neal over 20 years ago to eclipse a playoff stat-line of 40 points and 20 rebounds, finishing with 44 points on 14-of-30 shooting, going 14-of-15 from the free throw line and an even 20 boards. He also added six assists, two blocks and one steal.

But Tatum was matching him every step of the way on the offensive end, shooting 17-of-32 from the field and seven-of-15 from long range, with nine rebounds and four assists to go with his 46.

It was a game that the Celtics controlled from the second quarter, restricting the Bucks to 17 points in the frame to grab a 10-point half-time lead, and although the home side made runs, Boston had all the answers.

The Bucks were a one-man show, but the Celtics had a number of solid contributors as Jaylen Brown shot seven-of-16 from the field and four-of-seven from deep for his 22 points, while Marcus Smart shot eight-of-16 and five-of-nine from beyond the arc for his 21.

Al Horford finished with just two points, but had a game-high four blocks and a team-high 10 rebounds as he made Antetokounmpo battle all day inside, while Derrick White also chipped in with 30 important minutes off the bench, complimenting the stars perfectly.

Jrue Holiday and Pat Connaughton were the only other Bucks to score more than six points as Milwaukee shot 40 per cent from the field and 24 per cent from three (seven-of-29).


'Game 6 Klay' returns to clinch series 

The Golden State Warriors booked their trip to the Western Conference Finals with a 110-96 win in Game 6 of their series against the Memphis Grizzlies, advancing with a 4-2 margin.

To the Grizzlies' credit, without Ja Morant, they stayed competitive through three quarters, before a 32-19 final frame for the Warriors put the game to bed.

While most Warriors players rose to the occasion, none played better than Klay Thompson, who lived up to his glittering reputation in Game 6s with 30 points, shooting 11-of-22 from the field and eight-of-14 from long range.

Stephen Curry added 29 points on 10-of-27 shooting, adding seven rebounds and five assists, while Andrew Wiggins was strong on both ends, scoring 18 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking three shots.

After being bullied on the interior in Game 5, the Warriors re-injected Kevon Looney into the rotation, and he collected a game-high 22 rebounds in 35 minutes, while Draymond Green had 14 points, 16 rebounds and eight assists.

The Warriors will play the winner of the Game 7 showdown between the Phoenix Suns and the Dallas Mavericks.

James Harden cannot be expected to consistently dominate NBA games but could have shown more aggression as the Philadelphia 76ers were knocked out of the playoffs, team-mate Joel Embiid said.

According to Embiid, a team-wide lack of aggression cost the 76ers as a 99-90 loss to the Miami Heat spelled the end for their season.

After being bounced out of the Eastern Conference semi-finals, much of the attention turned to Harden's quiet game.

He had just nine shots and scored only 11 points in almost 43 minutes on court, taking a mere two shots in the second half.

Embiid, who had a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds, said the 32-year-old Harden cannot be compared to the player who averaged above 30 points for three consecutive seasons with the Houston Rockets from 2017-18 to 2019-20.

Harden was the NBA MVP in 2018, but his points on the board have begun to tail off in the past two seasons.

Since joining Philadelphia in February 2022, after a stint with the Brooklyn Nets, Harden has averaged 21.0 points over 21 regular season games, and just 18.6 points per game in the postseason.

Harden's field-goal shooting record of 40.5 per cent over the Sixers' 12 playoff games was his lowest in the postseason since the 2013-14 season.

"Since we got him, everybody expected the Houston James Harden," said Embiid. "But that's not who he is anymore. He's more of a playmaker. I thought, at times, he could have been, as all of us could have been, more aggressive. All of us, whether it was Tyrese [Maxey] or Tobias [Harris] or guys coming off the bench.

"And I'm not just talking about offensively. I'm talking about as a whole, offensively and defensively. I didn't think we were good defensively as a team.

"They took advantage of a lot of stuff that we tried to do defensively. And then offensively just really everybody being on the same page, obviously, only having probably three or four months to all work together and try to figure it out. Maybe it wasn't a lot of time. I don't think we played our best basketball."

Lakers legend Magic Johnson was among those to question Harden's display, saying such a player "can't have a performance like that".

The 76ers won the last of their three NBA titles in 1983 and have not landed a conference title since 2001.

Asked how he and Harden could forge a stronger understanding, Embiid told a news conference: "Everybody's got to get better. It's not just about me and him."

Questions will be asked of Doc Rivers and the 76ers coaching staff, but Embiid said the players must look at themselves.

"I believe that we have the right people, but at some point you have to stop looking at coaching and you have to look at the players. Maybe you are just not good enough," Embiid said.

"I'm not trying to blame anybody, but the players have also got to do their jobs. It doesn't matter how much a coach or a GM talks to you or tries to motivate you, if you still go out there and don't do your job and the other team is more physical than you, that's on the players."

James Harden insisted he intends to stay with the Philadelphia 76ers next season after delivering a flat performance in the defeat that killed off the team's playoffs dream.

After posting just 11 points on four-of-nine shooting, NBA veteran Harden said he hoped the 76ers could realise their ambition to win a championship, and stressed he wanted to be a part of that.

Harden did not put any points on the board in the second half on a 99-90 defeat at home to the Miami Heat, who advanced 4-2 to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The 32-year-old guard spoke about his lack of impact, saying: "I feel like the ball moved, it just didn't get back to me."

The Heat dominated the third quarter 25-15 to open up an 11-point lead, including a 16-2 run, and Harden said: "We didn't score. They got some easy buckets in transition, and hit some big shots, and kind of broke the game open."

Acquired from the Brooklyn Nets in a February trade, Harden was asked whether he saw his future in Philadelphia.

"I'll be here," he said. "Whatever allows this team to continue to grow and get better, and do the things necessary to win and compete at the highest level."

He explained: "For me, it's been a long year, but since I've been here it's been great. We tried to build something so fast – tried to build a championship-contending team so fast – which I still think we are, but we're just missing a few pieces. Other than that, we tried to go for it right away, and we just came up a little short. It doesn't stop, we've still got to put work in and keep going.

"We're trying to win a championship, man. That's the goal. We'll continue to build, us individually, and continue to get better, us as a unit, and continue to get to know each other. We'll find out what works, what doesn't work, and things like that."

Harden has battled hamstring trouble in recent times, and he believes there is a pathway back to full fitness, where he would not feel impeded at all next season.

"I'm finally starting to feel okay again, so it will be a great summer for me to get my body right and get ready to go for next year. This last two years have been a whirlwind though," he said.

"I've been trying to get right throughout the course of a basketball season for two years straight, and that's not it. All last summer I was rehabbing, and it was a little frustrating because I'm not used to going through something like that. It is what it is, and I'm just happy to be healthy now, and I have a full summer to be straight and do the things necessary to come back even better next year."

The Miami Heat progressed to the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday, comfortably defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 99-90.

After the Golden State Warriors' anaemic performance in a closeout game on the road, the Heat showed no such trepidation and led by 20 at one stage, taking control in the third quarter with a 16-2 scoring run.

Jimmy Butler scored 14 points on six-of-nine shooting in that period as Miami put the proverbial foot on Philadelphia's throat, finishing with 32 points, eight rebounds and four assists against his former team.

James Harden went missing in the second half with Philadelphia's season on the line, meanwhile, taking only two shot attempts for the half while committing three turnovers to go with his four assists.

Now in their second ECF in three seasons, the Heat will face the winner of the series between the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks.

Mavs take Suns to deciding game

The Dallas Mavericks are taking the Western Conference's first seed to seven games, after they blew the Phoenix Suns out 113-86.

Luka Doncic was very close to a triple-double with his side's season on the line, but his fingerprints were nevertheless all over Game 6, finishing with 33 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Doncic's ability to find his teammates for open looks has been consistent in the series but their ability to knock them down has fluctuated. On Thursday, the Mavs shot 41 per cent from the perimeter for the win.

Devin Booker went two-of-10 with the game in the balance in the second and third quarters, as the Suns hoped to close the series out, finishing with 19 points on six-of-17 shooting.

Phoenix simply did not take care of the basketball, coughing it up 22 times with the Mavs scoring 29 points in transition off those turnovers.

Naomi Osaka has told Kyrie Irving there is "always room" after the NBA star asked if "hoopers" were welcome in her new agency.

The four-time grand slam winner – who withdrew from the Internazionali d'Italia this week due to an Achilles injury she suffered at the Madrid Open – announced on Wednesday she was leaving IMG to start her own agency, Evolve, with long-time agent Stuart Duguid.

Duguid told Reuters the venture will be a "small boutique and bespoke agency" that will only welcome athletes "who transcend their sports; or those with the potential to do so".

Irving is one of the leading players in the NBA, and the Brooklyn Nets star hinted at his interest on Twitter, messaging Osaka on Wednesday to ask: "yall got room over at your agency for hoopers. Just inquiring" with an emoji of two champagne flutes clinking together.

Osaka replied on Thursday simply saying: "always room" with the same champagne emoji as well as one of a basketball.

The 24-year-old said on Wednesday that the move was to make the "next step" in her journey "as an athlete and a businesswoman", telling Sportico: "I've spent my career doing things my way, even when people told me that it wasn't what was expected or traditional.

"Evolve is the natural next step in my journey as both an athlete and businesswoman, as well as a way to continue being myself and doing things my way."

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone has said he is "extremely grateful" to work with Nikola Jokic after the Serbian was confirmed as the winner of the NBA's MVP award for the second successive season.

Malone, along with other representatives from the Nuggets, flew out to Sombor in Serbia to surprise Jokic at his stables with the award on Wednesday.

During the 2021-22 regular season, the center led the league in points/assists/rebounds per game with 48.7, which marked an improvement on his 2020-21 numbers, which saw him rack up 45.5 PAR per game.

Jokic becomes the 13th player in NBA history to win the MVP award in back-to-back years, following the likes of Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and LeBron James.

Unfortunately for Denver, Jokic's regular-season form did not translate to success in the postseason for the Nuggets, who lost 4-1 to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the playoffs.

However, the Nuggets wanted to celebrate the 27-year-old's achievement, and presented him with the MVP award in his home city, with Malone saying: “I don’t know what else you can say about Nikola at this point.

"He's consistently improved his game, he's consistently proven people wrong when they doubt him and he's consistently the best player on the floor night in and night out.

"I've said it many times before, I'm extremely grateful to coach Nikola Jokic and just as grateful for the bond that we've built off the court in our seven years together."

Jokic was originally drafted to the Nuggets with the 41st pick of the 2014 NBA Draft, famously doing so during a commercial break.

His MVP win last season made him the player with the lowest draft position to win the award, and the first center to do so since Shaquille O'Neal in 2000.

Kenny Atkinson is expected to be interviewed for the role of head coach with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Atkinson is currently an assistant with the Golden State Warriors, who remain immersed in the postseason.

He has been given the go-ahead to talk to the Lakers about their vacancy, according to widespread reports.

The Lakers fired Frank Vogel after missing out on the playoffs and have since been linked with Atkinson's Warriors colleague Mike Brown, former Portland Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, Milwaukee Bucks assistant coach Darvin Ham and Toronto Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin. Former Warriors head coach Mark Jackson is another reputedly under consideration.

Brown has since accepted an offer to become head coach of the Sacramento Kings, ruling him out of the running.

Former Brooklyn Nets head coach Atkinson had a spell in Los Angeles as assistant with the Clippers in the 2020-21 season before taking up his current post with Golden State.

The 54-year-old had a 118-190 record across his four seasons with the Nets, and they reached the postseason only once in that time, losing in the first round to the Philadelphia 76ers.

In a disappointing 2021-22 season, the Lakers finished with a 33-49 record to miss out on the playoffs, two years after landing an NBA championship, despite having the likes of LeBron James and Russell Westbrook on their roster.

Giannis Antetokounmpo showed why many feel he is the best player in the world in the Milwaukee Bucks' 110-107 comeback win away against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.

The two-time MVP and reigning NBA Finals MVP was a dominant force in Boston, finishing with 40 points on 16-of-27 shooting, keeping his side in touch as they struggled in the first half, and making clutch plays down the stretch to help the Bucks win the fourth quarter 33-21.

It was a bright start in the first quarter for Milwaukee, with Antetokounmpo only scoring four points as role players hit shots and Jrue Holiday had nine early, but their star had to take over in the second quarter as the offense stalled.

Antetokounmpo had 15 of the Bucks' 19 second-quarter points as the Celtics threatened to pull away, leading 54-42 with two minutes remaining in the first half.

Both teams were clicking in the third quarter, but every time the Bucks closed the gap, the Celtics had an answer in front of their raucous home fans, with an Antetokounmpo pull-up three to end the quarter needed to trim the margin to an 86-77 Boston lead.

With 10 minutes to play, the Celtics led 93-79 – and then everything began to fall apart.

The once-fluid Boston offense devolved into a stagnant, turn-taking, isolation-heavy mess, consistently not even beginning to attack until there was less than 10 seconds on the shot clock, often resulting in tough, contested, long two-point jump shots by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Trailing 105-99 with two minutes remaining, Antetokounmpo drained a clutch three-pointer to make it a one-possession game, before Holiday tied it up via a long-ball with 42 seconds on the clock.

Two Tatum free throws put the Celtics back ahead, before Antetokounmpo earned two shots himself. 

He scored the first – with blood dripping down his face from a cut above his right eye – and missed the second, but Bobby Portis was able to come up with the offensive rebound in a scramble and put it back in to take a 108-107 lead with 11 seconds remaining.

The last 11 seconds was a chance for Holiday to make a statement. Widely considered the best defensive guard in the game, Holiday blocked the shot of Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart, snatching the ball out of the air in the process to win possession.

After two successful free throws from Pat Connaughton, Holiday put the finishing touches on the game by picking Smart's pocket once again as he tried to bring the ball up for one last attempt at tying it, taking a 3-2 series lead, with Game 6 headed back to Milwaukee.

In NBA playoff history, when a series has been tied at 2-2, the winner of Game 5 has won the series 82.2 per cent of the time (180-39).

If the Celtics can win Game 6, the Game 7 decider will head back to Boston.

 

No Ja, no worries for Memphis Grizzlies at home

With their season on the line, the Memphis Grizzlies dominated the Golden State Warriors 134-95 as nine players scored at least nine points each with star Ja Morant out injured.

The Grizzlies were expected to be competitive without Morant – going 20-5 in the 25 games he missed in the regular season – but they were far more than that, opening up a 119-67 lead at three-quarter time.

Illustrating the one-sided nature of the contest, the Warriors committed 22 turnovers compared to 10 for the Grizzlies, and grabbed just four offensive rebounds while the home side snatched down 18.

Overall, this meant the Grizzlies attempted 19 more field goals (47-of-99 compared to 36-of-80), as well as 17 more free throws (22-of-30 to nine-of-13).

Desmond Bane, Tyus Jones and Jaren Jackson Jr top-scored for Memphis with 21 points each, and all five Grizzlies starters finished with a plus/minus of at least plus 32.

Klay Thompson top-scored for the Warriors with 19 points on an efficient seven-of-12 shooting, but he had the worst plus/minus in the game at minus 45.

Game 6 will head back to Memphis, and if the Grizzlies can force a Game 7, it will be played in Golden State

Giannis Antetokounmpo never thought twice about putting up his clutch three-pointer, which was key in the Milwaukee Bucks coming back to beat the Boston Celtics 110-107 in Game 5.

The win gives the Bucks a 3-2 series lead, with Game 6 heading back to Milwaukee, and at times it was a one-man show as Antetokounmpo finished with a game-high 40 points on 16-of-27 shooting.

As the Celtics began to open up a sizeable lead, Antetokounmpo scored 15 of the Bucks' 19 second-quarter points to keep his side within touching distance, and hit an important three-pointer to close out the third quarter and trim the margin back to nine points.

With less than two minutes to play, trailing 105-99, and having shot the three poorly all playoffs (four-of-29, 13 per cent entering Game 5) Antetokounmpo nailed a clutch catch-and-shoot three to make it 105-102, before Jrue Holiday tied the game with another a minute later.

Speaking to the post-game media, the reigning NBA Finals MVP said the big moments are not for everyone, but he wanted the responsibility.

"In a play, when it's a close game and if you're not comfortable or confident enough to take that shot, for a person who is being criticised for his shooting, you don't take that shot," he said.

"You wait, you give the ball to the point guard and you have like a full play, set a pick-and-roll, make sure everybody touches the ball, drive-and-kick…but as I said, I worked on it.

"I felt good, the ball felt good in my hands and I was able to have the nerves and time to take that shot."

While Antetokounmpo was the driving force behind the win, Holiday was crucial in securing the result, becoming the first player in the past 25 years to have a steal and a block in the last 10 seconds of a playoff game.

Antetokounmpo made sure to credit Holiday and the Bucks defense, which held the Celtics to just nine points in the final eight minutes.

"Great block [by Holiday], and he was able to keep his balance then stay in the court," he said.

"Then at the end of the game he got that steal from Marcus Smart. Big-time plays down the stretch and that's what Jrue does.

"It's great. Some people take this for granted, but you can live or die with Jrue making decisions like that, going for a steal or putting his hands in there. We've won a lot of games with him doing that.

"[As a team] we just tried to keep guys in front of us, make them take that tough shot, being as active as we could – showing our bodies, showing our hands.

"Sometimes it's just luck, sometimes the ball just bounces our way and we were able to get some stops, but there was definitely effort behind it."

The passing of Hall of Fame center Bob Lanier prompted tributes from the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday.

Eight-time All-Star Lanier died on Tuesday following a short illness, the NBA said.

Commissioner Adam Silver described the popular former player, who was 73, as "among the most talented centers in the history of the NBA" but added: "His impact on the league went far beyond what he accomplished on the court."

After retiring on the Bucks in 1984 and briefly serving as a coach at the Golden State Warriors in the 1990s, Lanier was an NBA ambassador and a special assistant to both David Stern and Silver.

"I learned so much from Bob by simply watching how he connected with people," Silver said. "He was a close friend who I will miss dearly, as will so many of his colleagues across the NBA who were inspired by his generosity."

Lanier had his number 16 jersey retired by both the Pistons, where he spent nine and a half seasons, and the Bucks, finishing his career with four and a half years in Milwaukee.

He ranks third all-time for both points (15,488) and rebounds (8,063) as a Piston.

A Pistons statement read: "The Detroit Pistons organisation is deeply saddened by the passing of Bob Lanier, a true legend who meant so much to the city of Detroit and to generations of Pistons fans.

"As fierce and as dominant as Bob was on the court, he was equally kind and impactful in the community.

"As an ambassador for both the Pistons organisation and the NBA, he represented our league, our franchise and our fans with great passion and integrity."

The Bucks said: "Bob Lanier was an all-time great Milwaukee Buck and a Hall of Famer, whose retired number 16 hangs in the rafters at Fiserv Forum.

"In his five seasons in Milwaukee (1980-84), Bob led the Bucks to division titles each year and to two Eastern Conference Finals appearances in 1983 and 1984.

"But even more than his basketball success, which included his being an All-Star in 1982, Bob was one of the most popular players with Bucks fans and known throughout the community for his generosity and kindness.

"We send our deepest condolences to Bob's family and friends."

Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra lavished praise on Jimmy Butler following his side's 120-85 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday, labelling him the "ultimate competitor."

Without the injured Kyle Lowry, Butler led the Heat with 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists, while keeping turnovers to a relatively low two despite higher usage.

After scoring 33 and 40 points respectively in losses on the road, Butler had more of a supporting crew in Game 5, as six other Heat players scored in double digits.

Spoelstra singled Butler out not only for his versatility, and how that drives the Heat, but his character.

"Jimmy is just such a stable, high IQ…he's got a great feel for what the team needs, and he does it on both ends and that's what's really kind of lost on young players coming into this league," Spoelstra said post-game.

"He has orchestrated so many things for us offensively, particularly with Kyle [Lowry] out, and he's been able to toggle between those roles seamlessly, and make it look a lot easier than it is."

Shots fell for the Heat as they took a 3-2 series lead, converting on 39.4 per cent of attempts from the perimeter and finishing with 26 assists as a team.

Butler finished Game 5 with an impressive defensive rating of 87.7, and Spoelstra believes his competitive spirit is transformative in both individual and collective senses.

"In terms of being just a scoring option tonight, he was that scoring option but also facilitating for us, he was kind of initiating offense for us quite a bit," he said. "You just feel our whole team has a great sense of confidence when the ball's in Jimmy's hands and we leave the decision up to him.

"He's a great competitor in his heart and his soul. He's an ultimate competitor and when you get into competition, he understands the whole deal. You have to be able to do it on both ends.

"That's what he's been doing for us for three years, really competing for us on both ends, but he's able to compete with a ferocity and do it with an incredibly stable mind."

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