Jayson Tatum made a layup at the buzzer on a pass from Marcus Smart to give the Boston Celtics a dramatic 115-114 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in the Game 1 of their first-round playoff series on Sunday in Boston.

Tatum scored 16 of his 31 points in the second half, the final two after a poised Boston possession in the frantic final seconds. Jaylen Brown dribbled toward the middle and swung the ball out to Smart, who fired it into a cutting Tatum, who spun around and dropped in his layup just before time expired.

Brown added 23 points. Al Horford had 20 points and 15 rebounds, and Smart finished with 20 points, including four three-pointers.

Kyrie Irving finished with 39 points, including 18 in the fourth quarter. But the Celtics forced the ball out of his hands the last time Brooklyn had it and Kevin Durant missed a jumper with a one-point lead that set up the Celtics’ final possession.

Durant added 23 points but shot just 9 of 24.

Boston charged out of halftime with a 23-8 run to open a 82-69 lead, sparked by Smart’s dead-eye shooting from beyond the arc.

The Celtics also seemed to tweak their approach to guarding Durant in the half court, fronting him and sending help over the top to limit his driving ability.

Durant and Irving still found ways to score at times, but they had to exert increased energy to get off their attempts.

It didn’t last.

With Boston leading early in the fourth, Irving got Brooklyn back in the mix with two straight three-pointers and a layup to trim Boston’s advantage to 98-97 with just over nine minutes left. Then, following an empty trip by Boston that saw Brown and Horford fail to convert from in close, Durant calmly drained a three on the other end to put the Nets in front.

Brooklyn had increased its lead to 107-102 when Durant was long with a jumper. Brown found space on the Celtics’ next possession and connected on a three from the wing. The Nets turned it back over on a offensive foul on Durant. Smart slid underneath Irving on Boston’s ensuring trip and tied it with a layup.

The score was tied again at 109 with less than two minutes left when Durant got a friendly bounce on a jumper to put Brooklyn back up. Horford’s follow shot tied it again. But Irving was good from deep on the next time down the floor give the Nets a 114-111 cushion.

Brown tied it coming out of a timeout with 38 seconds left.

In his latest trip to face his former Boston teammates, Irving received the loudest jeers during pregame introductions and was booed whenever he touched the ball the rest of the way.

Fans also showered plenty disdain on Bruce Brown, who made headlines last week after suggesting Celtics big men Horford and Daniel Theis might be easy to attack inside without injured centre Robert Williams III available to defend the rim.

Horford played the opening 12 minutes as if on a one-man mission to obliterate that notion.

Bucks edge Bulls to take series lead

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 27 points and 16 rebounds, and the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks recovered after blowing a 16-point lead to beat the Chicago Bulls 93-86 in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series Sunday.

Jrue Holiday sank a go-ahead three-pointer with 5:03 left as part of an 8-0 run that gave the Bucks an 85-78 edge. The Bulls got the margin down to one but could never regain the lead, as Zach LaVine missed a potential tying 3-pointer from nearly 30 feet away with 29 seconds left.

The Bucks have won 17 of their last 18 meetings with the Bulls, including all five matchups this season. The Bulls’ lone victory during this stretch came in the 2020-21 regular-season finale when the Bucks rested all their starters.

Milwaukee kept that pattern going Sunday by holding Chicago to the lowest single-game point total of any Bucks opponent this season. But the Bucks also continued their habit of struggling in opening games of series.

The Bucks won last year’s title despite dropping Game 1 in three of their four series. They had lost the opening game in five of their last six playoff series before Sunday, the exception coming when Khris Middleton hit a three-pointer in the final second of overtime against the Miami Heat last season.

Brook Lopez scored 18 points, Holiday had 15, Khris Middleton had 11 and Bobby Portis added 10. Portis also had 12 rebounds.

Nikola Vucevic had 24 points and 17 rebounds for the Bulls, making their first playoff appearance in five years. LaVine had 18 points and 10 rebounds. DeMar DeRozan had 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

After the Bucks grabbed an early 32-16 lead and threatened to put this game out of reach early, the Bulls chipped away and finally pulled ahead by scoring 13 straight points late in the third quarter. Coby White scored the last five points of the run, including a three-pointer that gave the Bulls their first lead at 67-64 with 3:11 left in the third.

White’s layup made it 69-64, but the Bucks ended the third quarter with a 10-2 spurt to pull back ahead.

Vucevic’s inside basket put Chicago back ahead 78-77 with 5:56 left. The Bucks regained the lead on Holiday’s three-pointer, which was just Milwaukee’s second basket of the fourth quarter.

Lopez made it 83-78 with 4:34 left by converting a three-point play for his first points since the opening period. Holiday capped the 8-0 run by sinking a jumper with 3:58 remaining.

The Bulls cut the lead to 87-86 on Alex Caruso’s layup with 1:36 left, but they wouldn’t score again.

Paul leads Suns past Pelicans

Chris Paul scored 19 of his 30 points during a brilliant fourth-quarter shooting display and the Phoenix Suns beat the New Orleans Pelicans 110-99 on Sunday night in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series.

The top-seeded Suns needed Paul’s big finish despite dominating most of the game. The Pelicans shook off a slow start, cutting a 23-point deficit to 79-71 by the end of the third.

New Orleans kept hitting shots in the fourth, but that’s when Paul took over, hitting three 3-pointers and a layup in 2 1/2 minutes in a flurry that kept the Pelicans chasing. The ageless veteran will turn 37 later in these playoffs if the Suns advance far enough, but once again looked a decade younger.

Paul has never won a championship, falling just short with the Suns last year when they lost to the Bucks in six games in the Finals. He’s fond of saying he never takes postseason basketball for granted and his 130th career playoff game was among his best.

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Phoenix.

Heat rout Hawks

Duncan Robinson set a franchise playoff record with eight 3-pointers, and the Miami Heat forced Trae Young into matching the worst-shooting game of his career on the way to a 115-91 win over the Atlanta Hawks in Game 1 of an Eastern Conference first-round series Sunday.

Robinson scored 27 points on 9-of-10 shooting for the Heat, 8 of 9 from three-point range. Jimmy Butler scored 21, P.J. Tucker added 16 and Kyle Lowry had 10.

Young went 1 for 12, matching his effort against Chicago on Jan. 23, 2019.

Danilo Gallinari led Atlanta with 17 points. De’Andre Hunter scored 14 for the Hawks and John Collins added 10.

Game 2 is Tuesday.

Robinson broke the record of seven threes that he previously shared with Damon Jones and Mike Miller.

He couldn’t miss. The Hawks, well, they couldn’t make.

Young was 0 for 7 from three-point range and finished with just eight points, a season-low. Bogdan Bogdanovic missed all eight of his shots, and the Hawks never led outside of a brief edge in the opening minutes.

Butler revealed the Heat game plan when it comes to defending Young: “Just make it physical on him, challenge every shot, keep him off the free throw line and make him pass,” he said.

It worked.

Atlanta went 3-0 in Game 1s last year, all three of those wins on the road, coming by two, four and three points, respectively.

That was then.

This was one-sided by halftime. The Heat set the tone by forcing Atlanta into a 1-for-11 start from the field — free throws were the only thing keeping the game close for much of the first half — and Miami took a 59-40 lead into the break.

A three-pointer from Kevin Huerter early in the second got Atlanta within 26-20. A 15-6 Heat run, capped by a three-pointer from Lowry, pushed the lead out to 41-26, and another three from Lowry later in the quarter made it 53-34.

Gallinari made a three-pointer to open the second half, getting the Hawks within 16. And that was as close as the Hawks got. Miami controlled the rest of the third, turning things into a complete runaway.

It was 86-60 after three, the Hawks managing only one more point through 36 minutes than Miami had through 24, and the outcome was decided.

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