Tatum leads Celtics over Heat; Clippers thrash Mavs in NBA playoff openers

Agence France-Presse
Tatum leads Celtics over Heat; Clippers thrash Mavs in NBA playoff openers
Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics goes to the basket as the Miami Heat defense looks on during the second half of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round Playoffs at the TD Garden on April 21, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts.
Winslow Townson / Getty Images via AFP

WASHINGTON – Jayson Tatum posted his first playoff triple-double to propel Boston to an NBA playoff series opening victory over Miami on Sunday (Monday Manila time), as the Los Angeles Clippers thrashed the Dallas Mavericks.

Eastern Conference top seeds Boston raced out to a 14-0 start, setting the tone for a 114-94 wire-to-wire victory that was never in doubt despite Miami making the score more respectable in the fourth quarter.

In Los Angeles, the Clippers also led from start to finish, shrugging off the injury absence of Kawhi Leonard in a 109-97 victory over the Mavs — who put up just eight points in a shocking second quarter performance.

Other series-opening games on Sunday saw the Indiana Pacers at the Milwaukee Bucks while the Western Conference top seeded Oklahoma City Thunder hosted the New Orleans Pelicans.

With Leonard sidelined with inflammation in his surgically repaired right knee, James Harden scored 28 points and handed out eight assists for the Clippers, drilling six of their 18 3-pointers.

Paul George added 22 points and Ivica Zubac scored 20 points with 15 rebounds for Los Angeles, who seized control early as Dallas, and NBA regular-season scoring leader Luka Doncic struggled.

The Mavs connected on just two of 21 attempts in the second quarter, putting up 30 in the first half to trail by 26 at the break.

Eight-time All-Star Kyrie Irving made all eight of his attempts on the way to 20 points in the third quarter as the Mavericks buckled down.

Doncic would finish with 33 points and 13 rebounds and Irving scored 31, but they had dug too deep of a hole to escape and trail by one in the best-of-seven Western Conference series.

In Boston, the Celtics used a barrage of 3-pointers to grab a 60-45 halftime lead and extended that advantage to 91-74 by the end of the third quarter.

The Heat, without injured star Jimmy Butler, had reached the best-of-seven first-round series as the eighth seed after beating the Chicago Bulls in a play-in eliminator on Friday.

Miami took the same route into the playoffs last season, going on to upset the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals before they were beaten by the Denver Nuggets in the championship series.

The chances of such a run this time look remote with Butler battling a knee ligament injury. In his absence, Bam Adebayo led Miami with 24 points and six rebounds.

Tatum scored 23 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and provided 10 assists.

The five-time All-Star was one of six Boston players to score in double figures, Derrick White adding 20.

"That was a beautiful game from him," teammate Kristaps Porzingis said of Tatum. "Getting those assists, especially early on — he wasn't forcing anything at all, getting everyone involved. Huge credit to him."

But Tatum was disappointed that the Celtics took their foot off the gas in the fourth.

"We had some turnovers, some mistakes," he said. "They're not going to give up, they're not going to lay down. "Human nature can play a factor, but you can't relax."

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