Joe Mazzulla warned the Boston Celtics that the confidence garnered from taking a 2-0 series lead against the Indiana Pacers is not enough to secure progress.

The Celtics won 126-110 on Thursday to move two games ahead in their Eastern Conference finals series against the Pacers.

Indiana were also dealt a blow when star player Tyrese Haliburton suffered a hamstring injury, which the Pacers will wait agonisingly on.

Yet with the Pacers having overturned a deficit to overcome the New York Knicks in the last round, Celtics coach Mazzulla knows the job is nowhere near done.

"The only thing we should be thinking about is, they were down 2-0 a series Tago and brought it to Game 7," Mazzulla said.

"They do a great job protecting their home court. They're undefeated at home. It's going to take a lot more than confidence to get the job done.

"We have to focus on the details and the execution and the mindset, the things that go into playing against a team like this at home.

"I know they're going to respond so it's up to us to do the same."

Jaylen Brown starred again for the Celtics, finishing with 40 points on the day he missed out on an All-NBA selection.

"We're two games from the Finals," he said when asked about that snub. "So, honestly, I don't have the time to give a f***."

Indiana, meanwhile, face the prospect of having to fight back against the NBA's best team without their key player.

"He does so many things for our team," T.J McConnell said of Haliburton.

"I think everyone has to move the ball more, get in the paint more. The ball movement has to be at another level. He gets 10 assists in his sleep, so it's hard for another person on our team to replicate that. It's a group effort when he goes down."

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle added: "We'll know more [on Friday] and then probably more Saturday."

J.B. Bickerstaff has been dismissed by the Cleveland Cavaliers after four years in charge of the Eastern Conference side.

Bickerstaff guided the Cavs to the playoffs in successive seasons, including their first Eastern Conference semifinals appearance since 2018 this term. There, they were beaten by the top seeds in the Boston Celtics.

The 45-year-old posted a regular season record of 170-159, with the youthful Cleveland winning at least 44 times in each of their last three campaigns.

Koby Altman, the Cavaliers' President of Basketball Operations, paid tribute to the outgoing coach as he revealed the franchise were seeking a change in direction.

"J.B. is a well-respected NBA coach and an incredible human being," Altman said.

"Over the past four years, he helped establish a culture that progressively drove players to become the best versions of themselves. Decisions like these are never easy, particularly when you look back at where this franchise rebuild started under his leadership.

"The NBA is a unique business that sometimes requires aggressive risk-taking to move a franchise forward and ultimately compete for championships. We owe a ton of gratitude for everything J.B. has contributed to the Cavaliers and his engagement in the Cleveland community."

Jaylen Brown scored 10 of his career playoff high 40 points during a first-half surge and the Boston Celtics pulled away for a 126-110 victory over the Indiana Pacers to take a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals on Thursday night.

After his 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left in regulation forced overtime in Game 1, Brown helped Boston turn a five-point deficit in the first quarter into a 15-point second-quarter lead.

The Celtics led 42-27 after that 20-0 run and never relinquished the lead.

Indiana missed nine straight shots and committed four turnovers during the drought that lasted more than six minutes. Brown had 10 points during the run and had 24 by halftime.

Jayson Tatum and Derrick White each scored 23 points and Jrue Holiday had 15 with 10 assists for the top-seeded Celtics, who lost Game 2 in both of their previous series this postseason.

The series shifts to Indiana for Game 3 on Saturday night.

Pacers star guard Tyrese Haliburton had 10 points and eight assists before leaving in the third quarter with a sore left leg.

Pascal Siakam led Indiana with 28 points and Andrew Nembhard added 16.

The Pacers got as close as 68-66 on Siakam’s 3 with 7:55 left in the third quarter, but Derrick White and Tatum dunked and White made a 3 a minute later to give the Celtics a 75-68 advantage.

Brown’s 3 with 4:32 to go in the third extended the lead to 80-71 and Indiana would get no closer.

The Cleveland Cavaliers won their first play-off series in six years earlier this month.

That wasn't enough, however, for J.B. Bickerstaff to keep his job as the team's coach.

The Cavaliers decided to dismiss Bickerstaff from his position on Thursday, according to a statement made by the team.

Since taking over for John Beilein in 2020, Bickerstaff went 170-159 in five seasons with Cleveland and led the franchise to the play-offs each of the last two years.

 

In 2023-24, Bickerstaff helped direct Cleveland to a 48-34 record and the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference play-offs.

The Cavs then beat the Orlando Magic in the first round for the franchise's first play-off series win since the team lost to the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Finals. It also marked Cleveland's first trip to the conference semi-finals without LeBron James on the roster since 1992-93.

The Cavs' season ended in the conference semis, where they lost to the NBA-best Boston Celtics in five games.

Bickerstaff's team, however, was significantly undermanned with five-time All-Star Donovan Mitchell missing the final two games against the Celtics with a left calf strain and fellow All-Star Jarrett Allen missing the last eight play-off games due to a right rib contusion.

"J.B. is a well-respected NBA coach and an incredible human-being," Cavaliers president of basketball operations Koby Altman said in a statement. "Over the past four years, he helped establish a culture that progressively drove players to become the best versions of themselves. Decisions like these are never easy, particularly when you look back at where this franchise rebuild started under his leadership. The NBA is a unique business that sometimes requires aggressive risk-taking to move a franchise forward and ultimately compete for championships. We owe a ton of gratitude for everything J.B. has contributed to the Cavaliers and his engagement in the Cleveland community. We wish J.B., his wife Nikki and their three children the best in their future endeavours."

Chris Finch lamented the Minnesota Timberwolves’ lack of composure in their Western Conference finals Game 1 defeat to the Dallas Mavericks.

The Timberwolves lost 108-105 on the road on Wednesday, failing to hold onto their lead in the final four minutes.

Minnesota sank just 11 of 18 from the free-throw line and committed five turnovers in the final frame, allowing Dallas to complete a late turnaround. 

Asked what the biggest problem was for his side in a tight contest, Finch said: "No composure.

"We haven't really closed quarters very well, closed halves very well over the last handful of games.

"It cost us a game in the Denver series. It certainly had an impact on this game tonight, too. We've got to be better in clutch moments."

Mike Conley echoed his coach’s thoughts and believes the Timberwolves can use this as a learning curve.

"I think we haven't been tested like this where we've had to trade basket to basket, late-game free throw situations or fouling situations, stuff that we have to be better at," Conley said.

"But we'll learn from it. I think each game we've learned a lot about ourselves, a lot we can get better at. Obviously, it's going to be a long series, regardless of what happened tonight."

Meanwhile, Luka Doncic starred for Dallas once again, scoring 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter to help them over the line to a Game 1 victory.

The Slovenian admits that the Mavericks wanted to make a statement by winning at home.

"We had to work really hard to get this one," said Doncic.

"I think we're known for losing game ones, so we were trying to make a point. But it's only one and we have three more [wins] to go."

Luka Dončić scored 15 of his 33 points in the fourth quarter and Kyrie Irving added 30 points as the Dallas Mavericks edged the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-105 on the road in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night.

Dallas trailed 102-98 after Anthony Edwards’ 3-pointer with 3:37 remaining but scored the next eight points- five from Doncic - before the Timberwolves scored on a tip-in with 10.5 seconds to play.

Game 2 is Friday night in Minnesota.

Jaden McDaniels had his third straight 20-plus point game with 24 points for Minnesota and Edwards, who went scoreless in the third quarter, had 19 on 6-of-16 shooting with 11 rebounds and eight assists. Karl-Anthony Towns needed a late burst to get to 16 points and finished 6 for 20 from the field.

The Timberwolves hit 18 3-pointers to just six for the Mavericks but were outscored 62-38 in the paint and sank just 11 of 18 from the free throw line.

P.J. Washington hit a huge 3 during Dallas’ late deciding run and finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Irving effectively sealed the win with a pair of free throws with seven seconds left. 

League MVP Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Oklahoma City Thunder were both unanimous selections to the All-NBA first team.

Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Boston Celtics guard Jayson Tatum and Giannis Antetokounmpo of Milwaukee Bucks were also named to the first team, which was revealed Wednesday.

Jokic, who has won three of the last four MVP awards, and Gilgeous-Alexander were both listed on all 99 ballots.

Doncic fell one vote shy of joining them, while Antetokounmpo received 88 first-place votes and Tatum garnered 65.

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson, Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, Phoenix Suns forward Kevin Durant, Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard and Los Angeles Lakers centre Anthony Davis were named to the second team.

The third team was made up of Lakers forward LeBron James, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, Sacramento Kings forward Domantas Sabonis, Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton and Suns guard Devin Booker.

This is the 20th consecutive season James has been named to an All-NBA team since being included on the second team in his second season.

At 39 years old, he became the oldest All-NBA player in league history. He was also the youngest All-NBA selection as a 20-year-old back in 2004-05.

Jokic, who won the 2023-24 MVP award in a runaway with 79 of a possible 99 first-place votes, was named to the All-NBA first team for the fourth time to go with a pair of inclusions on the second team.

Gilgeous-Alexander, who finished second in MVP voting, was named to the first team for the second straight season.

Doncic made the first team for the fifth year in a row, while Tatum is on it for the third consecutive season.

Antetokounmpo has been on the first team each of the last six seasons after being on the second team the previous two years.

Jaylen Brown hailed the Boston Celtics' never-say-die attitude after his last-gasp 3-pointer teed up their overtime win in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals.

The Indiana Pacers were just 6.1 seconds away from a 117-114 road win in the opening game of the series on Tuesday, only for Brown to sink a 3 over Pascal Siakam from the corner to level things up.

Two Tyrese Haliburton free throws put the Pacers back in front in overtime, but Jayson Tatum scored 10 of his game-high 36 points in the additional period as Boston triumphed 133-128.

Jrue Holiday supported Tatum with 28 points, while Brown added 26. All three players finished with three steals apiece as Indiana committed 21 turnovers.

Speaking after the dramatic finale, Brown said: "Welcome to the NBA playoffs! You've just got to manage your emotions. Anything can happen. 

"It's not over until the final buzzer sounds. It's not over until it’s over. We found a way to win the game at the very end."

Holiday echoed those sentiments, adding: "We've seen crazy stuff happen all the time. 

"We don't think we've lost a game until we've actually lost the game. That's part of the reason why we were so resilient towards the end.

"A couple of turnovers, a great shot, a great look by JB, or at the other end if we make a couple other shots that were wide open it could be a completely different game. 

"We're just the type of team that's going to keep on fighting no matter how long and no matter what it takes."

The Celtics host Game 2 on Thursday as they target a first NBA Finals appearance since 2021-22, when they were runners-up to the Golden State Warriors.

Asked how Boston will approach Game 2, Tatum said: "Don't relax, it'll be different circumstances. The first two rounds we won our Game 1 by a wide margin, so maybe human nature played into that. 

"But tonight being a close game, going into overtime, we certainly felt like we should have won and we could have played better."

Jayson Tatum scored 10 of his 36 points in overtime and the Boston Celtics capitalised on some sloppy play by the Indiana Pacers for a 133-128 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night.

Jrue Holiday had 28 points and Jaylen Brown added 26, none bigger than his tying 3-pointer with 6.1 seconds left in regulation.

The Celtics finished with 11 steals - three each by Brown, Tatum and Holiday. They became the first team in NBA playoff history to have three players record 25 points and three steals in a game. 

Game 2 is Thursday night in Boston.

Tyrese Haliburton had 25 points and 10 assists for the Pacers, who scored 56 points in the paint against a Celtics team missing injured 7-footer Kristaps Porziņģis. The Pacers, though, committed 21 turnovers.

Indiana twice turned the ball over with a three-point lead in the final 30 seconds of regulation. Brown’s 3 from the corner with Pascal Siakam in his face tied it at 117.

Tyrese Haliburton sank three free throws after he was fouled with 1:46 to go in overtime to put the Pacers ahead 123-121, but Tatum completed a three-point play 34 seconds later to give Boston the lead for good.

Tatum’s 3 following another Indiana turnover with 43 seconds left extended the lead, and he hit two free throws with nine seconds left to seal the win.

San Antonio Spurs star Victor Wembanyama became the first rookie to be voted to the NBA’s All-Defensive first team when the league unveiled the voting on Tuesday.

Wembanyama received 98 of a possible 99 first-team votes to add to an impressive list of accolades after his first NBA season.

Rudy Gobert, the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, was the only unanimous first-team selection.

Gobert and Wembanyama were joined on the first team by the Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans’ Herb Jones.

Gobert was voted All-Defence for the seventh time in his career, all on the first team.

Adebayo, long considered a top-tier defender, was selected to the first team for the first time in his career. Even the veterans, however, were appreciative of Wembanyama’s rookie campaign.

“Coming into this league, obviously he had high expectations because he's 7-3 and shooting step-back 3s. I think a lot of people paid attention more to that than what he actually did on the defensive end,” Adebayo said of Wembanyama. “So, for him to get first team, first come around, it's obviously a great accolade for him.”

Wembanyama led the league with 3.58 blocked shots per game, over a block more per game than any other player. The towering Frenchman was also eighth in the league at 10.6 rebounds per game and ranked in the top 25 with 1.24 steals per game.

This was the first season of position-less voting for the All-Defence teams, leading to a strong preference for interior defenders, but perimeter players were well-represented on the second team.

The Chicago Bulls’ Alex Caruso, the Orlando Magic’s Jalen Suggs, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Jaden McDaniels and Boston Celtics backcourt mates Jrue Holiday and Derrick White were voted to the All-Defensive second team.

The league will announce its three All-NBA teams on Wednesday.

 

 

San Antonio Spurs star Victor Wembanyama was unanimously selected to the NBA's All-Rookie first team.

The NBA revealed its All-Rookie teams on Monday, and Wembanyama's inclusion was hardly a surprise, considering he was unanimously named the league's Rooke of the Year two weeks ago.

Oklahoma City Thunder big man Chet Holgmren, who finished second to Wembanyama in rookie of the year voting, was also a unanimous selection to the NBA's All-rookie first team, appearing on all 99 ballots.

Joining Wembanyama and Holmgren on the first team are Charlotte Hornets guard-forward Brandon Miller, Miami Heat forward Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Golden State Warriors guard Brandin Podziemski.

Jaquez, who also appeared on all 99 ballots, finished fourth in All-rookie team voting with Miller finishing third and Podziemski in fifth. 

The NBA All-Rookie second team includes Derek Lively II of the Dallas Mavericks, the Houston Rockets' Amen Thompson, the Memphis Grizzlies' GG Jackson II, the Thunder's Cason Wallace and Keyonte George of the Utah Jazz.

Wembanyama, who became the first player to unanimously win NBA Rookie of the Year honours since Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns in 2015-16, averaged 21.4 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and a league-leading 3.6 blocks in 71 games in 2023-24.

After finishing second to Minnesota's Rudy Gobert in voting for the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year award two weeks ago, Wembanyama seems like a lock to be named to this season's All-Defensive team, which will be revealed Tuesday.

If he is named to either the All-Defensive team or All-NBA team, which is announced Wednesday, he'll be the first rookie to do so since fellow Spurs star Tim Duncan in 1998.

Michael Malone reflects on a hard end to the season after the Minnesota Timberwolves pulled off a historic comeback to beat the Denver Nuggets.

The Nuggets let a 20-point lead slip in the third quarter at home to lose 98-90 in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals as the Timberwolves denied them a chance at a second straight league title.

Minnesota trailed 53-38 at half-time – the largest deficit a Game 7 winner has overcome in NBA post-season history.

Asked what went wrong in the second half, Malone did not have too many answers.

"That's what's hard," Malone said. "F*** being up 20. Season's over. It's hard."

"This is just a momentary delay. It's a failure, it's not fatal. We'll be back.

"The better team won, so I'm taking nothing away from Minnesota ... but mentally, emotionally, physically, I think guys are gassed. They're dead tired.

"They gave me everything I could ever ask for, and that's why as much as this hurts, I'll walk out of this building tonight with my head held very high."

Denver dropped the first two games of the series at home but won the next three to get themselves back on track to challenge for a repeat NBA title.

Jamal Murray scored 35 points for the Nuggets, while Nikola Jokic added 34, but the former thinks the team were just lacking an edge at the end of the game.

"Just mentally and physically, conjuring up the energy to fight like you're being hunted," Murray said. "I think that's the emotion.

"When you're the hunter, you have so much more motivation and you grasp on to anything to prove everybody wrong and you have a constant chip on your shoulder.

"I don't know. I feel like we should have won tonight. That's the tough part. They beat us, but we had so many great opportunities, including myself, so it's just tough, man."

The Denver Nuggets will not be a repeat NBA champion, thanks to a historic comeback by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Minnesota rallied from a 20-point second-half deficit to come through with a shocking 98-90 road victory in Sunday's Game 7 of a Western Conference semifinal to deny Denver a chance at a second straight league title.

Karl-Anthony Towns and Jaden McDaniels each scored 23 points, while Anthony Edwards recovered from a dismal first half to put up 16 points as the third-seeded Timberwolves advanced to the conference finals for the first time since 2004. Minnesota will host the fifth-seeded Dallas Mavericks, who ousted the No. 1 seed Oklahoma City Thunder in six games, in Game 1 on Wednesday.

The Timberwolves' 15-point half-time deficit was the largest a Game 7 winner has overcome in NBA post-season history.

Minnesota trailed 53-38 at half-time and fell further behind when the second-seeded Nuggets scored the first five points of the third quarter, then began finding its stride to reverse momentum.

The Timberwolves got back into it via a 15-1 run, capped by 3-pointers from McDaniels and Mike Conley, to close the gap to 59-53 midway through the third. Edwards, who had just four points on 1-of-7 shooting through two quarters, later closed out the period with a 3-pointer to cut Denver's lead to 67-66 entering the fourth.

Conley's 3-pointer with 9:26 left to play put Minnesota ahead for good at 75-72, and the Timberwolves pulled away from there behind a defence that held the Nuggets to 37 points and under 36 per cent shooting in the second half.

Minnesota put the game away with a late 7-0 run Edwards capped with a 3-pointer off a Denver turnover that extended its advantage to 92-82 with three minutes left.

Jamal Murray led Denver with 35 points, though 24 of those came in the first half and the star guard was 4 of 12 from 3-point range on the night.

League MVP Nikola Jokić amassed 34 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists while accounting for 14 of the Nuggets' 23 points in the fourth quarter. 

 Pacers set NBA play-off shooting record to eliminate Knicks in Game 7

The Indiana Pacers rose to the occasion in Game 7, and rode a shooting performance for the ages in advancing to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in a decade.

The New York Knicks couldn’t keep up with the Pacers’ scorching shooting and couldn’t recover after losing their best player.

The Pacers shot an NBA playoff-record 67.1 per cent from the floor in Sunday’s 130-109 win at Madison Square Garden to eliminate the Knicks.

Tyrese Haliburton led the way with 26 points, while Pascal Siakam and Andrew Nembhard each scored 20 for Indiana, which advanced to face the top-seeded Boston Celtics on Tuesday.

The sixth-seeded Pacers, who had lost Games 1, 2 and 5 at Madison Square Garden, are in the East finals for the first time since 2014, when they lost to the Miami Heat.

Trying to reach the conference finals for the first time since 2000, the Knicks played the final quarter without Jalen Brunson after he suffered a fractured left hand.

Brunson had 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting and nine assists before exiting after averaging 31.8 points and 5.7 assists in the first six games of the series.

Donte DiVincenzo tried to carry New York’s offence, finishing with a play-off career-high 39 points while making 9-of-15 3-pointers, but the Pacers’ hot shooting made it virtually impossible for the Knicks to stay close.

Indiana shot a blistering 76.2 per cent in the first quarter, connecting on 16 of 21 shots – including 7 of 9 from 3-point range – to take a 39-27 lead after 12 minutes.

Haliburton led the early onslaught, draining four 3-pointers and scoring 14 points in the opening period, while Siakam made his first five shots and had 11 first-quarter points.

The torrid shooting continued into the second quarter, as the Pacers made 26 of their first 32 shots (81.3 per cent), and ended up shooting 76.3 per cent in the first half – the best by any team in the playoffs since 1997, when the NBA began tracking play-by-play for all four quarters.

After taking a 70-55 lead into half-time, the Pacers missed four of their first five shots of the third quarter and the Knicks were able to cut the deficit to six.

Indiana, however, responded with a 20-7 run to regain control and increase its lead to 93-74 late in the period. The Pacers took a 101-84 advantage into the fourth. 

Brunson’s broken hand was the latest injury setback for the Knicks, who were without Julius Randle (right shoulder), Mitchell Robinson (left ankle) and Bojan Bogdanovic (left foot).

OG Anunoby returned to the starting lineup after missing the last four games, but played just five minutes before aggravating his strained left hamstring and sat out the rest of the game.

By failing to close out the Pacers, it’s now been 24 seasons without an appearance in the conference finals for the Knicks – the third-longest active drought in the NBA behind the Washington Wizards (45) and Charlotte Hornets (34).

Jalen Brunson's Game 7 ended with a fractured left hand.

Shortly later, the New York Knicks' season ended.

Brunson sustained a broken left hand and sat out the fourth quarter in the Knicks' 130-109 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Sunday.

With the win, the Pacers reached the Eastern Conference finals, where they'll face the top-seeded Boston Celtics.

Brunson, who had averaged 31.8 points and 5.7 assists in the first six games of the series against Indiana, had 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting and nine assists before exiting.

Instrumental to New York's success in 2023-24, Brunson finished fifth in NBA MVP voting during the regular season after averaging 28.7 points, 6.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds.

 

Mavericks coach Jason Kidd hails Luka Doncic as “one of the best players in the world” after the Dallas Mavericks made it to the Western Conference finals.

P.J. Washington Jr. sank two free throws with 2.5 seconds remaining to seal a 117-116 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday to send them to the finals with a 4-2 series win.

Doncic finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for his third-straight triple-double to help Dallas on their way, with Kyrie Irving and Derrick Jones Jr. each adding 22 points as they rallied from a 17-point deficit in the third quarter.

Kidd praised Doncic for another inspired performance after the game, saying: "He's one of the best players in the world, but sometimes we lose sight that it's not just built [around Doncic].

"One guy can't get you there. You need a team. Right now, he's got a team that he believes in."

Doncic is just the fifth player to have three straight playoff triple-doubles in history, and he wants to soak in what he describes as a tough win.

"We won the series. That's what matters in the end," Doncic said.

"We won 4-2, [even though] we didn't have home advantage. It's great that we won, but just struggles are going to come. You got to stay positive and keep hooping.

"Today is about today's game, and tomorrow we'll think about the conference finals.

"I think we should all enjoy this, because this, I would say, was a really hard series."

Kyrie Irving matches his scoring high for the series with his 22 points, but was quick to admire Washington’s late impact.

"I think he [Washington] was just waiting for his moment.

"He's played well the majority of the series, so we had some confidence in him that eventually he would make some big-time shots and grateful that he knocked them down. Man, that's just pure confidence and belief."

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