Bucks, Rockets romp as Celtics fightback stuns Pacers
By Agence France-Presse
The Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets cruised towards the NBA playoff conference semi-finals on Wednesday as Kyrie Irving led a late Boston fightback in a dramatic win over Indiana.
In Milwaukee, Giannis Antetokounmpo gave a commanding display as the Bucks surged into a 2-0 series lead against the Detroit Pistons with a crushing 120-99 win in game two.
Antetokounmpo dominated in the second half as Milwaukee saw four players go into double digits against an outmuscled Pistons line-up.
Antetokounmpo finished with 26 points, 12 rebounds and four assists. Eric Bledsoe added 27 points while Khris Middleton finished with 24 points.
With Blake Griffin still nursing an injury to his left knee, Detroit’s offense was effectively shut down, Luke Kennard top-scoring with 19 points.
Milwaukee are chasing their first playoff series victory since 2001 and will look to extend their lead in game three in Detroit on Saturday.
In Houston, James Harden finished with a triple double as the Rockets romped to a blowout 118-98 win over the Utah Jazz to take a 2-0 lead in their Western Conference series.
Harden had 32 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists as the Rockets led from the start to record a straightforward win.
Chris Paul had 17 points while PJ Tucker and Eric Gordon chipped in with 16 points apiece for Houston.
– Irving leads fightback –
In Boston, Celtics star Irving scored 37 points and led a fourth quarter comeback to defeat the Indiana Pacers 99-91.
The Celtics now lead their Eastern Conference series 2-0.
The Pacers appeared to be closing in on a series-levelling victory after taking an 11-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
But some superb shot-making from Irving and a 26-point display from Jayson Tatum helped Boston outscore the Pacers by 31-12 in the final quarter to seal a roller-coaster win at the TD Garden.
The win puts the Celtics firmly in control of the best-of-seven series as the two sides head to Indianapolis for game three on Friday.
Irving warned his Celtics team-mates against complacency over the remainder of the series following Wednesday’s win.
“Tonight gives us confidence but anything can happen on the road,” Irving said. “We’ve got to go to Indiana, a tough place to play, and be ready for whatever. It’s going to be a war out there. We understand the type of team we’re playing against. It’s a series for a reason.”
The 27-year-old point guard said the Celtics’ never-say-die approach had helped them transform Wednesday’s game into a win.
“It’s just staying resilient, understanding that we’re never out of this game,” Irving said. “It’s the playoffs, anything can happen.
“I tell the guys all the time, we’ve got to stay communicative and do the little things in order to get the win.”
Irving finished with six rebounds and seven assists in addition to his points tally. Gordon Hayward had 13 points and five rebounds off the bench as the Celtics punished a disastrous Pacers display in the final period.
The Pacers shot only four of 17 from the field in the fourth quarter, and coughed up two vital turnovers in the final 15 seconds to gift Boston victory.
Bojan Bogdanovic led the scoring with 23 points for Indiana, with Thaddeus Young (15 points), Darren Collison (13) and Tyreke Evans (13) the other Pacers players to make double figures.