Grant Williams scored a career-high 27 points as the Boston Celtics advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, defeating the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks 109-81 in Game 7 on Sunday.

Williams went seven-of-18 from the perimeter to lead the Celtics, with four others scoring in double digits in Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown and Payton Pritchard, who added 14 points off the bench.

The 23-year-old's seventh triple of the night came at an important time, too, with the Bucks starting to gather momentum at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Tatum was pivotal on both ends despite seven turnovers, putting up 23 points on 50 per cent shooting, eight assists and six rebounds.

The Celtics were able to restrict Giannis Antetokounmpo from scoring easily, with the reigning finals MVP getting 25 points but on 10-of-26 shooting, along with his 20 rebounds and nine assists.

With the series-deciding win, the Celtics have set up a rematch of the 2020 Eastern Conference finals, facing the first-seeded Miami Heat.

Doncic dominates as Mavs demolish Suns

Both of the contestants in the 2021 NBA finals were knocked out in same night in Game 7s on Sunday, with the Dallas Mavericks blowing out the first-seeded Phoenix Suns 123-84.

The Suns scored a disappointingly low 27 points on their home floor in the first half, as threes rained in on the other end, and the Mavs went into the main change with a 30-point lead.

Chris Paul and Devin Booker went missing when they were needed most, generating little in terms of dribble penetration and combining for 21 points on seven-of-22 shooting.

Conversely, Luka Doncic had come into Game 7 with shooting splits of 45.7 and 29.6 per cent but lit the Suns up with the season on the line, finishing with 35 points on 12-of-19 shooting.

More importantly, Doncic was able to get his teammates good looks, with Dallas shooting an 48.7 per cent from the perimeter.

The Mavericks will now face the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals. 

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.

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."

Al Horford's career-best playoff haul of 30 points drew acclaim as the Boston Celtics secured Game 4 with a superb fourth quarter in a 116-108 road win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

The 35-year-old veteran and five-time NBA All-Star delivered 11-of-14 shooting with eight rebounds and three assists as Boston levelled the NBA Eastern Conference semi-final series at 2-2.

Horford rose to the occasion after a third-quarter dunk from Giannis Antetokounmpo left him smarting, and steered the visitors to a crucial win at the Fiserv Forum in Wisconsin.

The center returned the favour on his opponent in the final act, with both handed technical fouls, but it was the sheer energy of the Dominican that captured the attention.

"That was a hell of a play," team-mate Jayson Tatum said. "Especially anytime Al turns back the clock and he looks like his old self, it gets everybody off the bench.

"Al plays with so much passion. When Al is playing with passion like that, everybody else has to follow."

Marcus Smart also hailed Horford, in particular for his dunk, adding: "It's a big-time play in a big-time moment.

"It's a physical game. We were on the other end a couple of times, so it felt kind of good to have that one."

Horford himself admitted the Celtics were driven to victory by a desire to close out the game after the Bucks held on for a 103-101 win on Saturday in Game 3.

"We felt that at the end of Game 3 that we were in a position to win the game, and we didn't," he added. "I was just really locked in.

"I understood the moment and what we needed to do as a group. Just come out and we were gonna do whatever it took tonight. It was one of those types of nights."

The two sides return to Massachusetts now, and will contest Game 5 at the TD Garden on Wednesday.

The Boston Celtics produced an incredible fourth quarter to take Game 4 116-108 on the road against the Milwaukee Bucks, tying the NBA Eastern Conference semi-final series at 2-2.

A strong start for home side Milwaukee saw them hold the Celtics to just 18 points in the first quarter, but the tough play of Al Horford, Derrick White and Jaylen Brown helped the visitors back into the game, trailing 48-47 at half-time.

Performances went up a gear in the second half, as a massive Giannis Antetokounmpo dunk on Horford was then reciprocated, with both players receiving technical fouls after their respective dunks.

After a quiet start, Jayson Tatum began to find his footing, eventually taking over to score 20 of his 30 points in the second half, going 11-of-24 from the field overall with 13 rebounds and five assists.

Tatum was vital to the Celtics, but Horford was their best player, with 30 points on 11-of-14 shooting with eight rebounds and three assists, while also being their primary source of interior defence.

There were times when it appeared Antetokounmpo simply would not be denied, going on to post game-highs in points with 34 (14-of-32 shooting) and rebounds with 18, but he needed far more offensive help from Jrue Holiday, who shot just five-of-22 from the field for his 16 points to go with his nine assists and seven rebounds.

Antetokounmpo's 13 points in the third quarter guided the Bucks to a 80-73 lead at three-quarter time, but there would be nothing they could do about the offensive onslaught that was to come.

In the final frame, the Celtics shot 16-of-19 from the field (84 per cent), four-of-five from three-point range and seven-of-seven from the free-throw line, winning the quarter 43-28 and pulling away down the stretch.

Game 5 will head back to Boston, with Game 6 scheduled to return to Milwaukee. Game 7, if needed, will be played in Boston.

Chef Curry cooks up late comeback

The Memphis Grizzlies lacked the firepower to match the Golden State Warriors down the stretch, going down 101-98 as the Warriors established a 3-1 series lead in their Western Conference semi-final.

Without Ja Morant, who missed the game after suffering a knee injury in Game 3, the Grizzlies fought gallantly, leading at quarter-time, half-time and three-quarter time as their defense rose to the occasion and turned it into a scrap.

With Jaren Jackson Jr dominating around the rim – blocking five shots and snatching two steals – the Warriors were held to just 38 points in the first half, but poor shooting from Jackson (seven-of-21) and Dillon Brooks (five-of-19) bogged down the Grizzlies offense.

Needing a hero in the fourth quarter, Warriors superstar Stephen Curry stepped up, scoring 18 of his 32 points, including eight consecutive clutch free throws in the final minute, as his team edged ahead and clung on to a narrow lead.

Curry shot 10-of-25 from the field across the game, and four-of-14 from long range, with eight assists and five rebounds.

Andrew Wiggins was arguably the Warriors' strongest performer across all four quarters, shooting seven-of-13 for his 17 points, with five of his 10 rebounds coming on the offensive end, and he added two blocks and one steal to finish with a team-high plus/minus of plus 12.

Otto Porter – who is still just 28 years old and set to become an unrestricted free agent – continues to make himself money this postseason as he played a crucial 26 minutes off the bench, shooting four-of-six from long range and adding three assists with two steals.

The Milwaukee Bucks escaped with a win in Game 3 against the Boston Celtics, claiming a 103-101 victory after a frantic final exchange on Saturday.

Boston trailed 103-100 when Marcus Smart was fouled by Jrue Holiday just before attempting a three-pointer to tie the game with 4.6 seconds remaining.

After making the first free-throw from a non-shooting foul, Smart intentionally missed the second attempt and got the rebound, but he missed his putback attempt.

Robert Williams flew in but the ball bounced off the glass, before Horford picked up the rebound, missed his putback attempt, got his own rebound and banked it in, but his final shot came just after the buzzer sounded, denying overtime.

Giannis Antetokounmpo put up a massive performance on the other end, coming up with 42 points on 16-of-30 shooting, 12 rebounds and eight assists, as well as two steals and blocks.

Dubs defend home court after slow start

The Golden State Warriors blew the Memphis Grizzlies out despite a slow start and poor shooting night from Stephen Curry beyond the arc, taking Game 3 out 142-112.

The Warriors coughed up seven turnovers as the Grizzlies created a double-digit lead in the first quarter, but once the home side took care of the ball, their shooting facilitated a comprehensive turnaround.

Despite two-of-eight from Stephen Curry beyond the perimeter, he and Jordan Poole were able to penetrate off the dribble and get the team great looks. The Dubs went 53-of-84 for the night with an extraordinary true shooting rate of 76.1 per cent.

Curry still finished with an even 50 per cent from the floor and hit all 14 free-throw attempts, getting 30 points and six assists. Poole contributed 27 points off the bench, while the team outside of Curry went 17-of-24 from the perimeter.

Ja Morant limped off late following a knee injury, finishing the night with 34 points and seven assists.

Jaylen Brown said he and his Boston Celtics team-mates wanted to play "like our season was on the line" after a 109-86 win in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semi-final against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Brown only shot four-of-13 for 12 points in the Celtics' Game 1 defeat, but followed up by scoring 30 points, with six assists and five rebounds as Boston levelled the series at 1-1 at TD Garden.

The 25-year-old also sank a playoff career-high six shots from beyond the arc and stated after the victory just how much the Celtics had wanted to square things up.

"We knew we had to come out and play like our season was on the line and we did that," Brown said.

"It's the playoffs. Survival of the fittest. Every game counts."

As well as Brown's performance, Jayson Tatum also stepped it up as he shot 29 points, with eight assists and three rebounds.

Boston coach Ime Udoka pointed to what his team had learned in their Game 1 defeat, namely not to get "outmuscled", and just as they were dominated for large periods on Sunday, they followed up with a physical performance of their own on Tuesday.

"We adjusted well," Udoka said. "We learned some things from Game 1 and felt like we knew we didn't react accordingly to the way that we're playing.

"Two big teams but we haven't been outmuscled like that all year. I think our guys took pride in that, took that to heart and we knew we would come out with the right effort tonight."

 

His opposite number, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, acknowledged the game-plan from the Celtics had worked, particularly on star player Giannis Antetokounmpo, who still finished with 28 points, with nine rebounds and seven assists.

"The guys on him, they're solid, good, good defenders and then quite a bit of help," Budenholzer said. "That's where he's just got to see and feel it. Do we kick it and get more threes? Or he's got to finish against one-on-one defense. So, I think it's a little bit of both.

"But Giannis, he always figures things out."

Jaylen Brown found his range with 30 points and Jayson Tatum added 29 as the Boston Celtics squared up their Conference Semifinals series against the Milwaukee Bucks with a 109-86 win on Tuesday.

Brown shot four-of-13 for 12 points in Game 1 but shook that off with a masterful first-half display, scoring 25 of his 30 points before the main break, going nine-of-10.

The Celtics led 65-40 at half-time and held off the reigning champions' best efforts to get back into the contest.

Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 28 points, with nine rebounds and seven assists and Jrue Holiday added 19 points but shot seven-of-20 from the field and one-of-six from beyond the arc.

The Bucks only managed three triples for the game, while Boston landed 20-of-43 beyond the arc, along with 24 points from turnovers.

Brown also had five rebounds and six assists to go with his 30 points, while Grant Williams chimed in with 21 points for Boston who were without Marcus Smart (quad).

 

Morant dominates as Grizzlies edge home

Ja Morant starred with 47 points as the Memphis Grizzlies edged the Golden State Warriors 106-101 to level up their series at 1-1 at the FedExForum.

Morant shot 15-of-31 and made five triples among his 47-point haul along with eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals, as the Grizzlies got home after scores were locked at three-quarter time.

Stephen Curry did not shoot at his best, making 11-of-25 from the field and three-of-11 from three-point range for his 27 points with nine rebounds and eight assists.

Jordan Poole added 20 points off the bench, while Klay Thompson could only manage 12 points with three steals. Draymond Green returned after his Game 1 ejection with 10 rebounds.

Boston Celtics coach Ime Udoka remains upbeat despite his side losing home court advantage on Sunday, with the Milwaukee Bucks' 101-89 win in Game 1.

Those expecting a defensive slugfest were not disappointed, with both teams managing to restrict the other's offensive sets.

While the Bucks shot a low 41.1 per cent from the floor, the Celtics were almost spectacularly poor on the offensive end, shooting 33.3 per cent (28-of-84) and committing 18 turnovers.

Udoka tried to take the positives out of the ultimate negative, saying his side can only improve as the series progresses.

"Offensively, not the best night," Udoka said post-game. "I felt we guarded them well enough, holding them to one-on-one but to have 89 points and a lack of penetration and paint touches is alarming.

“To lose a 12-point game when we shot so poorly bodes well for us. In a way it’s good to get this dud out of the way offensively.”

In their 4-0 sweep over the Brooklyn Nets in the previous series, the Celtics averaged 34.5 three-point attempts per game.

To underline their inability to penetrate, Boston put up 50 from beyond the arc in Game 1 against Milwaukee, connecting on 18.

Jaylen Brown's three-of-nine from the perimeter to go with seven turnovers for the game was particularly microcosmic, and Udoka believes his side need to make better decisions in their offensive sets.

"As we know, that's what they want to do – protect the paint and make you shoot threes," he said. "We had some open ones, but we played in a crowd too much. That obviously shows in the amount of turnovers – 27 points off 18 turnovers.

"For the most part, I don't think our decision-making was great, whether it was a drop-off or kick-out for threes, but we need multiple [outlets] for penetration, multiple paint touches and they did a good job."

The Boston Celtics failed to take Game 1 at home despite locking up Giannis Antetokounmpo, with the Milwaukee Bucks managing a 101-89 win on Sunday.

Antetokoumpo shot nine-of-25 from the floor and coughed up five turnovers as the Celtics went at him defensively - trapping upon receiving the ball in the post, along with crowding the paint and staying physical as he drove to the basket.

Boston did not capitalise on the other end however, shooting a playoff low 33 per cent (23-of-84) from the floor in the loss.

While it was evident in the Brooklyn series, Jaylen Brown as one of the Celtics' ball-handlers hurt the team, giving up a game-high seven turnovers as he scored 12 points off four-of-13 shooting.

The assist count was naturally low for both teams - 22 for Milwaukee, 21 for Boston - in what became a defensive stoush, setting the tone for this series.

Warriors take home court from Memphis

Later on Sunday, the Golden State Warriors dramatically took home court from the Memphis Grizzlies, claiming a 117-116 win in Game 1 on the road.

The win was all the more impressive given Draymond Green was ejected early for a Flagrant 2 foul, after he pulled Brandon Clarke down by the jersey.

It also came with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson only converting on a combined 14-of-39 from the floor, even walking into open looks down the stretch after offensive rebounds.

Notably, the Warriors almost dared Ja Morant to shoot, taking 11 three-point attempts in Game 1, which is a contrast to the 20 he attempted for the series against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Morant still had the final possession, but after rimming both free-throws to make it a three-point game, Thompson forced the 22-year-old into a miss as he attacked the basket.

Narratives are being readied all over the place to make this season's NBA playoffs potentially one of the most exciting of recent times.

The first round may not have provided quite as much drama as hoped, with none of the eight clashes going to a Game 7, but looking at the contests in prospect in the Conference semi-finals, we should not be far away from some.

The top four seeds in both Conferences ultimately made it through, though that's not to say some were not given a bit of a fright, and the semis were set after the Memphis Grizzlies eventually put away the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday in Game 6.

There are stories to be written when it comes to the star players in the league, though, with some excelling as they look lead their team to glory, while others are struggling to stay on the court and off the injured list.

This leads us into some potentially fascinating encounters in the final eight, and Stats Perform has taken a look at what we can expect over the next two weeks.

Eastern Conference

Boston Celtics v Milwaukee Bucks

Frankly, these two should be perfectly fresh heading into this one.

The Celtics whitewashed the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, barely breaking a sweat in the process, while the Bucks dropped just one game in overcoming a depleted Chicago Bulls.

Jayson Tatum has unsurprisingly been the star so far for Boston in the postseason, averaging 29.5 points per game, including 39 in Game 3, as well as averaging 7.3 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game.

Equally unsurprisingly, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been leading the way for the defending NBA champions, averaging 28.6 points per game from five postseason outings so far for the Bucks, as well as 6.2 assists and 13.4 rebounds.

The continued absence of Khris Middleton will be a blow for Mike Budenholzer, with the swingman still recovering from a knee injury suffered in the first round, and reports suggesting he will miss the entirety of this round as well.

These two beat each other twice during the regular season, with the Bucks getting the final win just over three weeks ago at Fiserv Forum, so it promises to be a much tighter affair than either experienced in round one.

Miami Heat v Philadelphia 76ers

The number one seeds in the East were barely inconvenienced by the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, with the Heat winning 4-1.

Jimmy Butler is bringing it in the playoffs so far, averaging 30.5 points, with an additional 5.3 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game. He missed Game 5 against the Hawks with a knee inflammation, but it is hoped he will return for Game 1 against his former team.

Kyle Lowry's participation is more of a question mark, with the 36-year-old missing since suffering a hamstring injury in Game 3.

There is an arguably worse injury situation in Philadelphia, though, with Joel Embiid out "indefinitely" with a right orbital fracture and mild concussion. The Cameroonian was averaging 26.2 points across the 4-2 first round win over the Toronto Raptors.

Despite playing with an injured thumb, Embiid was dominant as the Sixers took out Game 6, putting up 33 points on 12-of-18 shooting from the floor and nine-of-10 from the free-throw line, as well as adding 10 rebounds and three blocks, but it is unclear when he will play a part in this round.

Tyrese Maxey, along with James Harden, will need to step up even more in the absence of Embiid if the Sixers are to dump out the top seeds.

Like the Celtics and the Bucks, these two traded two wins apiece in the regular-season meetings, with the Sixers winning 113-106 at Wells Fargo Center in March without Embiid, with Maxey top-scoring with 28 points.

 

Western Conference

Golden State Warriors v Memphis Grizzlies

Despite the best efforts of Nikola Jokic, the Warriors strolled past the Denver Nuggets 4-1 in the first round, but can expect a sterner test here from the Grizzlies.

Stephen Curry is on his game, averaging 28 points across those five outings, although only 3.8 three-pointers per game so far, being outshone in that metric by team-mate Klay Thompson, who has averaged 4.4.

Curry and Thompson combined to great effect in Game 5 against the Nuggets, scoring 33 and 32 points respectively.

Memphis probably struggled more than they thought they would against the Timberwolves, securing a 4-2 win in the end but being made to work for it.

Ja Morant recorded 30 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and three steals in Game 5. Only five players in the last 35 seasons have recorded such a stat line in a playoff game, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Morant himself.

Morant has continued his great form, but Desmond Bane is also shining in the postseason, with the top average point score for the Grizzlies of 23.5, and 4.5 three-pointers made per game.

The Grizzlies could have a psychological edge in this contest, having won all of their last three meetings in the regular season, with the 28-point difference in the 123-95 win at FedExForum in late March the largest defeat of the Warriors' season.

Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks

Although ultimately through with a game to spare, it was surprising to see the Suns struggle as much as they did against the eighth-seed New Orleans Pelicans.

The outstanding Suns, who won 64 regular-season games, eventually prevailed 4-2 against the Pelicans, who by comparison won just 36 in the regular season, but that is what the playoffs bring, the threat of upsets.

Monty Williams and his team will have hardly been panicking, though, even when they were tied at 2-2 after Game 4, with a Chris Paul-inspired win in New Orleans in Game 6 sealing their passage through.

Having Devin Booker back is a big boost for West's number one seeds, with the 25-year-old returning from a hamstring injury for Game 6 that ruled him out of Games 3-5, having registered a combined 56 points in Games 1 and 2.

The Mavericks made it through the first round for the first time since they won the championship in 2011, seeing off the Utah Jazz 4-2, in a series that was also previously tied at 2-2.

It was made all the more impressive considering Luka Doncic could only play in three games, though still averaging 29.0 points in those he did, as well as 5.7 assists and 10.7 rebounds.

That meant someone else stepping up, and that someone else was Jalen Brunson, who scored 41 in Game 2 and a further 31 in Game 3, averaging 27.8 across the six games.

Dallas will need to do something about their record against Phoenix, though, having lost their last nine meetings with them, including three this season. The Mavs have not recorded a win against the Suns since November 2019.

Mike Budenholzer says the Milwaukee Bucks showed their strength in depth by reaching the Eastern Conference playoff semi-finals without Khris Middleton.

The defending champions beat the injury-hit Chicago Bulls 116-100 in Game 5 at Fiserv Forum on Wednesday to advance from the first round of the postseason.

Middleton sprained the medial collateral ligament in his left knee during the fourth quarter of Game 2, but the Bucks proved they could cope without the All-Star.

Budenholzer confirmed Middleton will miss the start of the playoff semi-final series against the Boston Celtics.

But the Milwaukee head coach is confident other players can continue to step up in his absence.

"We've been talking about the depth of the roster, the quality of the roster, a lot this season," Budenholzer said.

"Other guys have gotten opportunities and played well. Our defense has tightened up, and we've leaned hard on that these three games. We've got depth. We've got a good group.

"We miss Khris; I don't think anybody underestimates how important and how effective he is for us. While we don't have him, we've got to be our best all up and down the roster."

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo played a big hand as the Bucks ended the Bulls' season, putting up 33 points and nine rebounds in Game 5.

The two-time MVP said being "desperate" to get the job done in the absence of Middleton was vital.

"After Game 2, the team knew what the deal was," Antetokounmpo said. "We knew what we had to do, we had to be desperate.

"We had to go out there and compete at a high level. Pay attention to detail as much as possible. Help one another defensively. We've got to do it as a team. It's not a one-man show or two-man show.

"Now we're going to a different series, playing a different team, a very, very good team, and hopefully we can do it again."

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