Friday's NBA playoffs: Tatum's 50 points carry Celtics over Nets 125-119

Associated Press

Jayson Tatum scored a playoff career-high 50 points to carry the Boston Celtics back into their series against the Brooklyn Nets with a 125-119 victory on Friday night in Game 3.

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) and fans celebrate his basket during the second quarter of Game 3.

In an emotionally charged atmosphere with the fans booing and chanting at Kyrie Irving every time he was involved in something, Tatum displayed an array of drives, step-back jumpers and 3-pointers to cut the Nets' lead to 2-1.

After scoring 50 points in Boston's play-in tournament victory, Tatum struggled in the two games in Brooklyn but steadied the Celtics in Game 3 after the Nets shot out to a quick 15-point lead.

It was Irving’s first game in front of Boston’s fans since he left via free agency in 2019.

James Harden led the Nets with 41 points, Kevin Durant had 39 and Irving finished with 16 on 6-of-17 shooting.

Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is set for Sunday night in Boston, where the Celtics will be allowed to have a near-capacity crowd in TD Garden when Massachusetts lifts the limits Saturday on crowd sizes due to the pandemic. It was limited to 25% on Friday.

For subscribers: Niyo: For Pistons' Jason Buckner, scouting more than an educated guess

Marcus Smart added 23 points for the Celtics, Tristan Thompson gave them a huge lift with 19 points and 13 rebounds and Evan Fournier added 17 points. Kemba Walker had a rough night, scoring only six on 3-of-14 shooting.

Irving was booed when he came out for warmups, during pregame introductions and each time he touched the ball, with those turning into loud cheers when he missed shots.

Things turned somewhat ugly when some fans briefly broke into a vulgar chant toward Irving a few times.

Brooklyn cut a 16-point, fourth-quarter deficit to five with just under a minute left but Tatum nailed a step-back jumper from the top and Boston held on.

Tatum scored 11 points in the final 4:46 of the third, helping Boston turn a one-point deficit into a 96-84 lead entering the final quarter.

For subscribers: Stay or go? A look at Pistons' free agents and what could happen

The Nets started fast, hitting 4-of-5 shots from behind the arc to pull in front 19-4 before Tatum sparked Boston’s comeback with 21 points in the opening half that carried the Celtics to a 61-57 halftime edge. Harden and Durant nearly matched him with 17 apiece.

Tatum returned to the lineup after playing just 21 minutes in Game 2 because he was accidently poked in the right eye by Durant.

More NBA playoffs

Hawks 105, Knicks 94: Shaking off a spitting incident at Madison Square Garden, Trae Young dazzled in the first home playoff game of his career, scoring 21 points and adding 14 assists to help Atlanta beat New York in Game 3.

Spurred on by a raucous crowd of 15,743, by far the largest of the season in Atlanta, the Hawks pulled ahead 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. Game 4 is Sunday in Atlanta.

During Game 2 in New York, a Knicks fan spit on Young as he was inbounding the ball during the fourth quarter of a tight contest — one of three incidents in a matter of hours at NBA arenas across the country, renewing calls for increased security and other measures to deal with unruly fans. A total of five fans in New York, Philadelphia and Utah were banned from games for their misbehavior.

Derrick Rose led the Knicks with 30 points.

Clippers 118, Mavericks 108: Kawhi Leonard scored 36 points, Paul George added 29 and the Los Angeles Clippers spoiled Luka Doncic's home playoff debut, beating the Dallas Mavericks 118-108 on Friday night to get back in the first-round playoff series.

The Clippers bounced back from two losses at home by withstanding a huge early surge by the Mavericks in front of their biggest — and loudest — crowd by far this season. Dallas takes a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 on Sunday night.

Doncic fed the frenzy of 17,705 fans, more than three times the size of any crowd in a season that started with an empty arena, by making his first four shots, three of them 3-pointers, on his way to a playoff career-high 44 points as Dallas took a 30-11 lead.

LA's 14-0 run erased most of the deficit before the end of the first quarter, and George gave the Clippers their first lead on a 3-pointer in the second quarter.

The Clippers ended a five-game postseason losing streak going back to last year's Florida playoff bubble, when LA beat Dallas in six games in the first round before blowing a 3-1 lead in the second round against Denver.