Sunday's NBA playoffs: Nets, Hawks take 3-1 leads as Suns even series with Lakers
Boston — The Boston Celtics opened up to full capacity just in time for the local fans to jeer and swear at Kyrie Irving every time he touched the ball.
It might be their last chance.
Irving had 39 points and 11 rebounds to quiet the first post-pandemic full house at the TD Garden, and Kevin Durant scored 42 points to give the Brooklyn Nets a 141-126 victory over Boston on Sunday night and a 3-1 lead in the first-round playoff series.
James Harden added 23 points and a career postseason-high 18 assists for Brooklyn. Game 5 is in New York on Tuesday night, when the Nets will try to advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals for the first time since 2014.
Jayson Tatum scored 40 points for the Celtics, following up his 50-point effort in a Game 3 victory. But with Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker out with injuries, Tatum couldn't save the season on his own.
Marcus Smart had 16 points and nine for the Celtics, who reached the Eastern Conference finals in three of the previous four seasons. This year’s team flirted with a top seed early on and still was in position to host a first-round series well into April before losing 10 of their last 15 games and falling into the play-in game.
After dropping the first two games in Brooklyn, the Celtics were hoping their home crowd would help them make a series of it. Tatum delivered one win in front of a quarter-capacity crowd on Friday, before the COVID-19 restrictions were lifted as of Saturday.
The Bruins had 17,400 for their playoff game against the Islanders on Saturday -- the biggest crowd in the NHL this season. The Celtics left several rows around the benches empty on Sunday and officially announced a sellout crowd of 17,226, about 1,500 fewer than the building’s official capacity.
The fans — most of them attending their first home playoff game in more than two years — gave Durant the New York Yankees treatment in pregame warmups, chanting his name derisively and cheering for each missed practice shot. They were even more foul-mouthed toward Irving, who professed his love for Boston and the Celtics before opting out of his contract in 2019 to join the Nets.
But it wasn’t enough to make up for the absence of Walker and Brown.
The Celtics scored the first six points of the game and led by as many as nine in the first but the Nets erased that before the end of the quarter. Durant had 17 in the first and Tatum had 14, setting the foundation for a star shootout.
But the second was all Brooklyn.
Harden threw in 15 points with six assists in the quarter, and Irving scored 11 to help the Nets pull away, turning a 34-33 deficit at the start of the quarter into a 45-37 lead. They made it a 13-point game at the half.
Tatum was scoreless in the second. He responded with 18 points in the third quarter but Durant had 17 to help the Nets open a 27-point lead.
By the middle of the fourth, the fans were chanting for 7-foot-5 Tacko Fall to enter the game.
More NBA playoffs
Hawks 113, Knicks 96: Trae Young led the way for the Atlanta Hawks, as usual.
He sure had plenty of help.
Proving they are far more than a one-man team, the Hawks unleashed a dazzling array of weapons to take control of their series against the New York Knicks.
Young scored 27 points, John Collins added 22 despite a smack to the lip and the Hawks frustrated Julius Randle and the Knicks once again, pulling away in the second half for a 113-96 victory Sunday that gave Atlanta a 3-1 lead in the series
The Hawks will look to wrap up their first playoff series victory since 2016 when they travel to Madison Square Garden for Game 5 on Wednesday night.
Suns 100, Celtics 92: Chris Paul had 18 points and nine assists, Devin Booker and Jae Crowder added 17 points apiece and the Phoenix Suns evened their first-round series with a 100-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 on Sunday.
Deandre Ayton had 14 points and 17 rebounds for the second-seeded Suns, who took advantage of Anthony Davis' absence from the second half with a groin injury to reclaim home-court advantage in the series after two straight losses.
LeBron James had 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Lakers, who fell too far behind in the third quarter while Davis was being evaluated in the locker room. Before a last-minute surge, Los Angeles struggled in the absence of starters Davis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who injured his knee in Game 3.
Game 5 is Tuesday night in Phoenix.
Clippers 106, Mavericks 81: Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined to carry Los Angeles on the road again, and the Clippers are back in control of their first-round series with Dallas.
Leonard had 29 points and 10 rebounds, George scored 20 points and the Clippers manhandled the Mavericks in front of another big Dallas crowd, winning 106-81 in Game 4 on Sunday night to keep the road team perfect in a Western Conference series now tied 2-2.
Reggie Jackson added 15 points, and the Clippers are headed home for Game 5 on Wednesday night much more sure of themselves than when they left LA in a two-game hole.
Luka Doncic started slowly after being listed as questionable because of cervical strain, the diagnosis for the Dallas sensation after he said following Game 3 that he felt pain in his neck and down his left arm.
Playing with medical strips on his left shoulder, and wearing a large pad in that area when he wasn't playing, Doncic scored 19 points after averaging 38 in the first three games. He was 9 of 24 with series lows in rebounds and assists with six apiece.