Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets are on the cusp of being swept in the first round of the 2021-22 NBA play-offs after a third straight loss to Boston.
Jayson Tatum scored 39 points and Jaylen Brown added 23 as the Celtics strode into the Barclays Center to take a 3-0 lead over the Nets with a 109-103 victory.
Again making things difficult on Durant and Kyrie Irving with their suffocating defense, the Celtics can seal a sweep Monday night in Brooklyn.
Jayson Tatum produced a heroic 39-point performance to put Celtics 3-0 up in Brooklyn
Kevin Durant (right) and Kyrie Irving (left) are facing the prospect of being swept in first round
Durant has struggled badly in this series so far and Game 3 was no different, managing just 11 shots, finishing with 16 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.
Irving was not much better, going six for 17 as he also had 16 points for the Nets.
The Celtics forced 21 turnovers that led to 37 points. Tatum had six of their 13 steals.
‘My message is, nobody plays harder than we do,’ Tatum said.
‘We know what it is,’ Durant said. ‘I don’t think no speech or anything will do at this part of the year.
‘You know what it is. We’re down 3-0. We got another game on Monday. Just come out and play.’
Boston led most of the way before the Nets cut it to three with just over a minute remaining in the third quarter. But Marcus Smart scored on a follow shot, made a jumper in transition before Brown got a steal and dunk to make it 81-72 going to the fourth.
Brown kept the Nets at bay from there, repeatedly finding a 1-on-1 matchup and driving to the basket. He set up Tatum for a 3-pointer in the corner after the Nets had gotten back within four, then made a jumper before Tatum converted a three-point play that made it 96-84 with 6:25 to play.
‘We’re not being forceful in our actions. We’re second-guessing ourselves a little bit. Throwing a lot of passes that are second thoughts. They’re too good a team for us to do that,’ Nets coach Steve Nash said.
Tatum has swarmed Nets on both ends so far in this series, and it could conclude on Monday
UTAH 100-99 DALLAS
Rudy Gobert gave the Jazz the lead with an alley-oop dunk with 11.0 seconds left and the Jazz held off the Mavericks 100-99 on Saturday in Game 4 to tie the first-round series.
It could have been so much different on Luka Doncic’s return as Spencer Dinwiddie missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer for Dallas to win it and go up 3-1.
Utah stepped up their intensity and held the Mavericks to 18 points in the fourth quarter after surrendering a double-digit lead in the second half.
Dallas made just two baskets through the first seven minutes of the fourth and shot 33 per cent overall in quarter.
‘This is the team we want to be,’ Gobert said. ‘This is who we are.’
Jordan Clarkson scored 25 points for Utah, Donovan Mitchell added 23 points and seven assists. Gobert had 17 points and 15 rebounds – 10 off the offensive glass. He was three of eight from the free throw line in the fourth quarter and nine of 18 overall.
Luka Doncic scored 30 points on his Mavericks return but saw Utah Jazz grind out a victory
Dallas star Doncic had 30 points, 10 rebounds four assists in his return from a three-game absence because of a strained left calf.
‘Getting my wind back,’ Doncic said. ‘A little bit tired now but it felt great to be back.’
Jalen Brunson added 23 points, and Dorian Finney-Smith, Dwight Powell and Reggie Bullock had 11 points apiece.
‘We were down 12 at the half and we stayed the course, and it comes down to the last possession,’ Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said.
‘If you’re on the road in the playoffs and it comes down to the last play, you can’t ask for a better situation.’
‘I thought the way we responded to that was not like a blitzkrieg type response,’ Jazz coach Quin Snyder said.
‘It was a response over time which requires more mental toughness. You can’t just make a spurt and all of a sudden get it back. You have to grind it out.’
MINNESOTA 119-118 MEMPHIS
Karl-Anthony Towns roared back from two rough games with a career play-off-best 33 points and 14 rebounds, helping the Timberwolves move past their Game 3 collapse and pull out a 119-118 victory over the Grizzlies on Saturday night to even the first-round series at 2-2.
Anthony Edwards scored 24 points and Jordan McLaughlin went four for four from 3-point range to pitch in 16 points as the Timberwolves relentlessly attacked the basket and went 31 for 40 from the foul line.
The series shifts back to No 2 seed Memphis for Game 5 on Tuesday night.
Desmond Bane, who hit his eighth 3-pointer at the buzzer to finish with 34 points, and Dillon Brooks with 24 points kept the Grizzlies going on another quiet night for star point guard Ja Morant. Morant went just four for 13 from the floor, and had 11 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds.
Karl-Anthony Towns (left) produced his play-off career high of 33 points to equal their series
Jaren Jackson Jr. fouled out with seven points, and 25 of the Grizzlies’ 33 fouls were called on their starters.
Towns, who took four shots and had just eight points in Game 3, hit 14 of 17 free throws and was the catalyst down the stretch with 13 points in the fourth quarter.
Patrick Beverley missed two free throws with 43 seconds left. With the Wolves leading 115-110, Morant answered with a layup and Edwards missed a pull-up 3. But Tyus Jones had his 3-pointer fall short with 10.5 seconds to go, and Edwards grabbed the rebound. He sank both free throws as the crowd chanted, ‘Wolves in six! Wolves in six!’
McLaughlin’s first 3 put Minnesota in front in the second quarter to start a 17-1 run that maxed out with a 50-35 lead – the largest of the night that quickly got whittled by the Grizzles back down to single digits.
The Wolves might have been better off playing a tighter game this time, after their pair of 25-point advantages in Game 3 went for naught.