Kawhi Leonard helps Clippers rout Mavericks to even series

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.

The Mavericks came home filled with hope of ending a 10-year run without a playoff series victory since the franchise won its first championship, knowing the number of fans was about to more than triple with loosened COVID-19 restrictions.

Instead, a pair of crowds exceeding 17,000 didn’t get much after a huge jolt of energy in Game 3 carried the Mavericks to a 19-point lead in the first quarter before Leonard and George took over.

The LA superstars didn’t give fans much of a chance to get into Game 4, beyond an early game of cat-and-mouse between the coaches over the size of the lineups.

Suns even up series with Lakers

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.

Davis scored six points on 2-for-9 shooting in the first half, then didn’t return after halftime. The superstar big man scored 34 points in each of the Lakers’ two victories in the series, but he hyperextended his leg in Game 3 and appeared to aggravate his accumulated injury woes in the second quarter of Game 4, falling awkwardly and grabbing his leg after a layup attempt defended by Crowder.

Aside from the latest setback for Davis, who missed 30 games in the regular season, the Suns sharply improved their effort against the defending NBA champions and showed solid poise. Phoenix collectively has little experience in the postseason, but Paul excelled again on the big stage in his first playoff run with his new team.

Paul, largely a non-factor in Game 3, ignored his injured shoulder and contributed 12 points and all his assists in the second half. Phoenix dominated the third quarter and hung on for the franchise’s first road playoff victory in over 11 years.

Brooklyn plays spoiler to Boston having a full capacity crowd

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.

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.

By the middle of the fourth, the fans were chanting for 7-foot-5 Tacko Fall to enter the game.

Hawks take commanding series lead

Trae Young scored 27 points, John Collins added 22 despite a smack to the lip and the Hawks frustrated Julius Randle and the New York Knicks once again, pulling away in the second half for a 113-96 victory Sunday that gave Atlanta a commanding 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.

Atlanta took control in the third quarter, stretching a four-point edge at the half to an 88-71 lead going to the final period.

After struggling to hit shots, Atlanta suddenly found its range. The Hawks went 10 of 19 in the period, including 5 of 9 beyond the arc. Young scored nine points, Collins added seven and Bogdan Bogdanovic closed out the third with a 3-pointer that had the big crowd bouncing in their seats.

Randle was serenaded again by chants of “Overrated! Overrated! Overrated!” every time he put one up. The roars were deafening after a sequence in the third when Randle missed on a drive and had a put-back rim out before the Knicks knocked the ball out of bounds.

Randle’s frustration boiled over less than a minute later when he slammed Collins to the court on another drive. Nothing was called initially, but Randle was assessed an offensive foul after a video review prompted by a challenge from Hawks coach Nate McMillan.

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Collins was caught in the face, forcing him to the locker room for stitches. He was able to return to the game in the fourth quarter.

Young led the way, as usual, but he had plenty of help. Six players scored in double figures, including Danilo Gallinari with 21, and a half-dozen knocked down 3-pointers.

Randle did have his highest-scoring game of the series with 23 points, but he was just 7 of 19 from the field and found himself surrounded by black-clad players every time he touched the ball.

The hefty contingent of New York fans began streaming toward the exits in the closing minutes. The Hawks were able to clear their bench in the final minutes, giving some little-used players a chance to get some playoff experience.



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