NBA play-in tournament: Tatum’s 50 lift Celtics to No 7 seed as Pacers romp
Jayson Tatum scored 32 of his 50 points in the second half, and the Boston Celtics rallied to beat the Washington Wizards 118-100 in the play-in round on Tuesday night.
Kemba Walker added 29 points for Boston, which secured the seventh seed for the playoffs and a first-round matchup with second-seeded Brooklyn. That series opens on Saturday.
Washington will host Indiana, which rolled over Charlotte in Tuesday’s other play-in game, for the eighth seed on Friday. The winner of that game will face Philadelphia, the top seed for the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Bradley Beal scored 22 points for the Wizards. Russell Westbrook added 20 points and 14 rebounds. Ish Smith had 17 points.
The Celtics played without second-leading scorer Jaylen Brown, who had season-ending wrist surgery last week. He sat courtside to support his teammates, but they missed his offensive production in the first half while they struggled to get into a flow.
That changed in the third quarter. Boston opened the second half on a 22-4 run, opening a 74-58 lead.
Boston followed Tatum’s lead. The All-Star forward created space for open jumpers and drew contact in the lane. He was 17 of 17 from the free-throw line.
Washington closed to 91-84 in the fourth quarter, but Boston responded with a 15-6 run to push the lead to 106-88 with 5:32 to play.
Beal, who is dealing with a tender left hamstring, didn’t have his usual explosiveness early on. He did his best to keep pace with Tatum and Walker, but the Wizards struggled with turnovers and cold outside shooting for most of the night.
Washington led 54-52 at halftime, shooting 50% from the field and getting a boost from its reserves, which outscored its Boston counterparts 22-6 in the opening 24 minutes.
The Celtics didn’t help themselves by shooting just 35% in the half, including 29% (7 of 24) in the second quarter.
No 9 Indiana Pacers 144, No 10 Charlotte Hornets 117
Domantas Sabonis had 14 points, 21 rebounds and nine assists, and the short-handed Pacers routed the Hornets 144-117 in the Eastern Conference’s first play-in game Tuesday night.
Led by Sabonis and Doug McDermott, who scored 16 of his 21 points in the first quarter, the ninth-seeded Pacers snapped a franchise-worst nine-game losing streak in the postseason. They also moved within one victory of making a sixth consecutive playoff appearance.
Indiana will visit No 8 Washington on Thursday with the winner advancing to face the top-seeded Philadelphia 76ers in the East quarter-finals.
It was Indiana’s first postseason win since a blowout victory against Cleveland in April 2018. And the Pacers won this one despite losing forward Caris LeVert to the league’s health and safety protocol.
Charlotte was led by Miles Bridges with 18 points and former Indiana University star Cody Zeller with 17. The Hornets finished the season with six straight losses.
The difference: Indiana’s playoff experience, which showed right from the start.
With McDermott leading the charge, Indiana started 7 of 11 from three-point range, continually beat the Hornets to loose balls and stayed in front of Charlotte on defense.
Indiana pulled out to a 23-9 lead, and then extended the margin 40-24 after one, 69-45 at halftime and 76-45 early in the third quarter. The Hornets were never close after the opening minutes.
The Pacers finished 16 of 35 on threes and shot 55.2% from the field overall.