Derrick White's tie-breaking 3-pointer with 45 seconds left sent the Boston Celtics into the NBA Finals for the second time in three years with a 105-102 win over the Indiana Pacers in Monday's Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

The top-seeded Celtics, who were ousted in seven games by the Miami Heat in last year's East finals, completed a sweep of this best-of-seven series by rallying from a nine-point deficit with under nine minutes left.

Jaylen Brown led Boston's comeback by scoring 10 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter and coming up with a key late block that preceded White's winning shot. The Celtics also received 26 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists from Jayson Tatum, as well as another strong performance from their backcourt duo of White and Jrue Holiday.

Holiday totalled 17 points and nine rebounds while White had 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting along with a game-high five steals.

The sixth-seeded Pacers were unable to extend the series while playing a second straight game without All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton, who injured his hamstring in Thursday's Game 2.

Andrew Nembhard led Indiana with 24 points and 10 assists, while Pascal Siakam posted 19 points and 10 rebounds.

The Celtics will face the winner of the Western Conference finals between the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves, and will host Game 1 on Thursday, June 6. The Mavericks lead that series 3-0 and can advance at home in Tuesday's Game 4. 

A tightly contested game saw neither side lead by more than eight points until the Pacers put forth a 5-0 run, capped by Nembhard's 3-point play with 8:57 left to play, to take a 94-85 advantage.

Indiana led 98-90 with under six minutes to go before the Celtics began catching fire. After Brown hit two free throws and Tatum knocked down a 3-pointer, Holiday drove the lane and was fouled while getting a layup to go down following a made basket by Nembhard. Boston's veteran guard calmly hit the ensuing free throw to bring the Celtics within 100-98 with 3:54 left.

It remained a two-point game until Brown knocked down a floater with 2:40 left to tie the score at 102-102. Shortly thereafter, the All-Star forward rejected Nembhard in the lane as Boston's Al Horford grabbed the rebound with the contest headed towards the final minute of play.

Brown then found an open White in the right corner, and the valued guard drained a 23-footer to send the Celtics ahead.

Indiana had one final chance to force overtime, but Nembhard's 3-point try missed the mark and the Pacers failed to get another shot off. 

 

 

 

Basketball legend Bill Walton died Monday at the age of 71.

The NBA announced he passed away following a prolonged battle with cancer.

During a 10-year professional career, Walton won a pair of NBA titles and was named the 1977-78 league MVP. He was also included on the NBA's 50th anniversary and 75th anniversary teams.

He was the No. 1 overall pick of the 1974-75 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers following a brilliant collegiate career that saw him win a pair of national titles at UCLA and earn three national player of the year awards.

"Bill Walton was truly one of a kind," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement.

He helped redefine the centre position, but his career was cut short by foot injuries.

After averaging 17.1 points and 13.5 rebounds in his first four seasons with the Trail Blazers, he averaged 10.2 points and 8.1 boards in his final six seasons with the Clippers and Celtics.

He led Portland to the 1976-77 NBA title, while being named Finals MVP, and later won a championship with Boston in 1985-86.

He retired after playing just 10 games in the 1986-87 season, and was inducted into the basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.

Following his playing career, Walton became a star broadcaster for decades. He became known for his colourful broadcasting style, where he enthusiastically offered high praise and also blunt criticism.

"What I will remember most about him was his zest for life," Silver said. "He was a regular presence at league events – always upbeat, smiling ear to ear and looking to share his wisdom and warmth. "

 

Luka Doncic says Kyrie Irving was "born for the clutch situations" as the Dallas Mavericks produced another late show to deny the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Mavs, who overcame a late two-point deficit, prevailed 116-107 in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals series, becoming the first NBA side in history to take a 3-0 series lead despite trailing in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter in each game.

Dallas had the second-best clutch record (23-9) and best clutch offence (127.1 points per 100 possessions) during the regular season, and have continued that momentum into the playoffs.

Indeed, they also came from behind late on in Game 6 of their conference semi-final series victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Irving scored 14 points in the fourth quarter in Game 3, and now has 31 such points this series; the most by any player in this year's conference finals.

"Unbelievable. That's why some people call him Mr Fourth Quarter, right?" Doncic said of his team-mate. "Just amazing. He's born for these situations. He's born for the clutch situations, so we just get the ball to him."

"Down the stretch, that's where we make our money," Irving added. "I think we have that poise now, and we're just showcasing our skill sets out there that a lot of teams have to guard, the depth that we have. A lot of teams have to guard each one of us, and you got to pick your poison."

Irving and Doncic scored 33 points apiece to become the first starting backcourt to each register at least 30 points in three playoff games over the past 50 seasons.

"I feel like we're both born for this if you ask me, but it's just basketball. You've got to give the game what it needs at times," said Irving, who called for focus in his franchise's quest for a second NBA title.

"It doesn't mean anything if we don't win a ring together. Right now, I want to show a lot of respect to the guys that have come before us and have actually done it. And our time will come."

Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving each scored 33 points to send the Dallas Mavericks a win away from reaching the NBA Finals with Sunday's 116-107 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals. 

WIth its star guard tandem leading the way, the fifth-seeded Mavericks dominated the game's final five minutes to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Dallas can eliminate the third-seeded Timberwolves and earn its first trip to the Finals since 2011 when it hosts Game 4 on Tuesday.

No team in NBA history has come back to win a best-of-seven play-off series after losing the first three games.

That's the challenge now facing Minnesota, which clung to a 104-102 lead with five minutes left before the Mavericks seized control for good with a 14-1 run.

Anthony Edwards finished with 26 points for the Timberwolves, but just four of those came in the pivotal fourth quarter. Minnesota's other All-Star, Karl-Anthony Towns, was held scoreless in the final period after recording 14 points over the first three quarters.

Irving had 14 fourth-quarter points and six during the deciding spurt, which he began with a driving layup that tied the game at 104-104 with 4:35 left. P.J. Washington then sent Dallas ahead by knocking down a 3-pointer on its next possession, and the Mavericks held Minnesota without a field goal until Edwards scored the game's final points on a layup with 15.3 seconds left.

Dallas built a lead as large as 12 points in the first half and went into the break with a 60-52 advantage behind Doncic's 15 points and 14 from Irving. The Mavericks were up by 10 near the midway stage of the third quarter before Minnesota reversed momentum with an 13-1 run.

Edwards had eight straight points during the flurry, along with an assist on Naz Reid's layup that gave the Timberwolves a 79-77 edge with 3:54 left in the third. 

Three-point shooting also played a part in Dallas' victory, as the Mavs finished 14 of 28 from beyond the arc. The Timberwolves were 9 of 30 from 3-point range, with Towns missing all eight of his attempts. 

 

The Boston Celtics were indebted to Jrue Holiday after they moved one win away from reaching the NBA Finals with Saturday's victory against the Indiana Pacers.

Holiday converted a three-point play with 38 seconds remaining, then made a game-saving steal as the Celtics overcame an 18-point deficit to beat the Pacers 114-111 for a 3-0 Eastern Conference finals lead.

Indiana's Andrew Nembhard seemed set to claw the Pacers back into Game 3 late on, yet Holiday stepped across for a "trademark steal" to guide his side over the line.

"That's a trademark steal that he always gets with the inside hand," Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said of Holiday.

"He gets that a lot usually when a guy is coming down the sideline, but he got it in transition. He made a big-time play."

As Nembhard looked to cut inside the court, Holiday suggested he always knew what was coming.

"He's a right-hand driver," the Celtics hero said after the game, "and he'd been very, very aggressive all night."

Nembhard managed 32 points and nine assists but even that brilliance was not enough to outsmart one of NBA's best defensive players.

"I was trying to get a shot up," said Nembhard. "He got in front of me. I lost the ball, slipped. Turnover."

Jayson Tatum impressed for Boston with 36 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists and no turnovers in 44 minutes, yet he put all the focus on the match-winning Holiday.

"I mean, can't speak highly enough about Jrue," said Tatum. "The ultimate teammate competitor, obviously a champion, wasn't at shootaround today, he was sick.

"Dealing with chills and stuff like that. And we've all been there, how tough that is, to fight through it, and for him to come out there and lay it all on the line for us, make the game-winning play essentially, especially on the defensive end.

"Jrue is just a big-time player, and he made a tremendous play."

The Celtics can clinch their second NBA Finals appearance in three seasons with a win in Game 4 on Monday in Indianapolis.

Jrue Holiday converted a three-point play with 38 seconds remaining, then made a game-saving steal as the Boston Celtics overcame an 18-point deficit to beat the Indiana Pacers 114-111 for a 3-0 lead in the Eastern Conference finals on Saturday night.

The Celtics can clinch their second NBA Finals appearance in three seasons with a win in Game 4 on Monday in Indianapolis.

Jayson Tatum matched his playoff career high with 36 points to go with 10 rebounds and eight assists. Jaylen Brown added 24 points and Al Horford had 23 points with seven 3-pointers to help Boston win its sixth straight playoff game and improve to 5-0 on the road.

Andrew Nembhard scored a career-high 32 points, but Holiday, who was questionable before the game due to an illness, stole the ball from him with 3.3 seconds remaining and Indiana down 112-111.

Indiana had a chance to tie the game but Aaron Nesmith's 3-pointer was off the mark. 

T.J. McConnell had 23 points, nine rebounds and six assists, while Myles Turner and Pascal Siakam added 22 points apiece for the Pacers, who played without All-NBA guard Tyrese Haliburton (left hamstring).

His presence was sorely missed as the Celtics closed the game on a 13-2 run to send Indiana to its first loss in seven postseason home games.

The teams combined to make six 3s in the fourth quarter, with Horford’s seventh of the night drawing Boston within 111-109 with 1:12 to play. Holiday then converted his 3-point play to give the Celtics their first lead since early in the second quarter.

The Indiana Pacers reportedly won't have star Tyrese Haliburton for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics on Saturday.

Haliburton exited in the third quarter of Thursday's 126-110 loss at Boston due to a left hamstring injury, and won't be able to play in the first game in Indianapolis, according to Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

Thursday's defeat dropped the Pacers to 0-2 in the series.

Haliburton experienced pain in the same hamstring earlier this season, missing 10 games in January.

The two-time All-Star had 25 points, 10 assists and made six 3-pointers in 40 minutes in the series opener before playing only 28 minutes in Game 2. He had 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting and eight assists before departing.

With Haliburton out, the Pacers will likely again rely on Pascal Siakam for offence and need Andrew Nembhard and T.J. McConnell to step up.

 

 

 

 

Luka Doncic loves the big stage, and that's what makes him "special" to Dallas Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd.

Doncic again displayed his ability to perform in the biggest moments on Friday as he drained a 3-pointer over four-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert to lead the Mavericks to a 109-108 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, one that leaves them 2-0 up in their Western Conference final.

The Mavericks came back from an 18-point deficit to tighten their grip on the series, with Doncic leading the way. The five-time All-Star ended the game with 32 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds, becoming just the fourth player in NBA history to manage four triple-doubles across a five-game postseason span.

Kidd hailed Doncic's game-winning impact, saying there was no other option but to try and get him the ball when deciding what play to run during the timeout with 13 seconds remaining

"As you've seen, he loves that stage," Kidd told reporters. "He doesn't run from it. He made a big shot. Luka is special. He loves those type of moments.

"The play was to get Luka the ball and let Luka do what he does in those moments."

Doncic believes the comeback, the Mavericks' third-biggest in their postseason history, was down to his team's mindset as he ruthlessly snatched the game away from the Timberwolves.

"Like I always say, stay together, positive energy," Doncic explained. "We believed until the end.

"I just saw some space and decided to shoot a 3. Get to my spot, step back. That's it."

Luka Dončić drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3 seconds remaining and finished with a triple-double as the Dallas Mavericks rallied for a 109-108 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves and a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference finals on Friday night.

Doncic had 32 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds for his eighth triple-double in 42 career playoff games for the Mavericks, who erased a 16-point deficit midway through the third quarter.

After winning two on the road, the Mavericks look to take a commanding 3-0 lead as the series shifts to Dallas on Sunday night.

Naz Reid scored 23 points with seven 3-pointers, but his last shot at the buzzer rimmed out as the Timberwolves endured another off night from stars Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns. Edwards had 21 points on 5-of-17 shooting and Towns scored 15 on 4 of 16 from the field.

Jaden McDaniels, who had 20-plus points in each of Minnesota’s last three games, didn’t make a basket until midway through the third. He finished with two points on 1-of-6 shooting.

Kyrie Irving scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, including a 3 from the corner with 65 seconds left that drew Dallas within 108-106.

Minnesota committed two turnovers, the last one by Edwards, who recklessly threw the ball out of bounds off a drive with 13 seconds to go.

Doncic took the inbounds pass and dribbled to set up a screen for Dereck Lively II that triggered a switch by the Wolves. Rudy Gobert covered Doncic, but the Mavs superstar sank the 3 and then flexed his arms and yelled at the stunned crowd as his teammates mobbed him.

The Wolves pushed their lead to 68-52 on Mike Conley’s free throw with 9:07 left in the third quarter, but Dallas scored eight straight points and was within 79-77 on Irving’s basket with 1:22 to play in the quarter.

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. 

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