SUNDAY’S OTHER NBA PLAYOFF GAMES
Rockets 104, Timberwolves 101
James Harden scored 44 points and powered a big fourth-quarter run that allowed Houston to outlast Minnesota in Game 1 of the first-round playoff series. Minnesota scored four straight points to get within 3 with about 30 seconds left. Chris Paul added two free throws after that for Houston, but a tip-in by Karl-Anthony Towns got Minnesota back within 3. After a bad pass by Paul gave Minnesota a chance to tie with 1.5 seconds left, Jimmy Butler’s shot was short. The top-seeded Rockets had their hands full with the No. 8 Timberwolves on a night where Houston made just 10 of 37 3-pointers. Harden made 7 of 12 3-pointers, but Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, Eric Gordon and Paul combined to make just 3 of their 22 tries. Houston kept All-Star big man Towns in check, limiting him to just eight points. Andrew Wiggins scored 18 points to lead Minnesota. Game 2 is Wednesday night in Houston.
Celtics 113, Bucks 107, OT
Al Horford had 24 points and 12 rebounds and Boston overcame Khris Middleton’s long 3 that beat the fourth-quarter buzzer to top Milwaukee in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference series. The Celtics led 99-96 with 0.5 seconds left in regulation when Middleton took an inbounds pass on the far right wing and hit a contested 35-footer. Terry Rozier added 23 points, four rebounds and three assists for Boston in his first career playoff start. Jaylen Brown finished with 20 points, and rookie Jayson Tatum added 19 points and 10 rebounds. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 35 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists before fouling out in overtime. Middleton had 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Game 2 is Tuesday night in Boston.
Thunder 116, Jazz 108
On Saturday, Thunder forward Paul George told reporters about an alter-ego he calls “Playoff P.” On Sunday, he gave the media, his teammates and the Utah Jazz a formal introduction. He scored 36 points to help Oklahoma City defeat Utah 116-108 in Game 1 of their Western Conference playoff series Sunday night. George lived up to it. He set an Oklahoma City playoff record with eight 3-pointers, blowing past the previous mark of five. He made eight of 11 shots from long range, and 13 of 20 shots overall. It was his first playoff game with the Thunder since being acquired in a trade with the Indiana in the offseason. He had averaged more than 27 points per game in the playoffs for the Pacers the past two years.
Russell Westbrook had 29 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists and Anthony added 15 points for the Thunder, who will host Game 2 on Wednesday. Westbrook, who seemingly was Oklahoma City’s only scoring option for much of last season, appreciated the help. Many of George’s makes were contested. His success made it difficult for the Jazz to cover other players. Utah doesn’t expect George to keep making those tough shots. Mitchell left the game in the second half with left foot soreness. He returned, but played sporadically. Rudy Gobert scored 14 points, and Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder each added 13 for the Jazz. The Thunder recovered from a 16-4 deficit to tie it at 25 at the end of the first quarter. Oklahoma City led 54-48 at halftime behind 20 points from George and 14 from Westbrook. George hit his seventh 3-pointer to push Oklahoma City’s lead to 79-66. He hit a deep 2-pointer to close the quarter and give the Thunder an 81-72 lead.
Alex Abrines hit two 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to give Oklahoma City a 92-80 lead and force Utah to call timeout. The Thunder held off a surge in the final minute.