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Duke in the NBA: Jayson Tatum joins elite company

Tatum put Boston on his shoulders in an incredible Game 7 display.
Tatum put Boston on his shoulders in an incredible Game 7 display.

With the conference semifinals nearly over, the list of former Blue Devils left in the NBA postseason is quickly shrinking. At this point in the proceedings, superstars are tasked with living up to expectations.  In line with this principle, one particular performance from a former Duke standout made waves across the entire league on Friday night. Let's get you caught up with some Duke in the NBA. 

Tatum joins his idol in the record book

Jayson Tatum had an impressive Game 7 performance against the Toronto Raptors on Friday night, leading the Boston Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals. Tatum racked up 29 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists, becoming the second youngest player to record at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a Game 7, with the youngest being the late great Kobe Bryant. Tatum, who idolized Bryant as a child and worked out with the Los Angeles Lakers legend during the summer of 2018, spoke at length postgame regarding the significance of being mentioned alongside one of the greatest players to ever grace the court.

Both teams battled during the final matchup of the series, and the game was close throughout. However, it was Tatum’s offensive rebound in the final minute  that helped seal the win for the Celtics.

Looking back on this series, Tatum had an explosive start against the Raptors. The small forward played hard in Games 1 and 2, averaging 27.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and four assists in the first two contests. Tatum had a weaker performance in Game 3, with just 15 points in a last-second Toronto victory. Tatum will likely not be able to afford a cold performance like he did in Game 3 when competing in the next round. The St. Louis native hopes to build off his success against the Raptors, as the Celtics take on Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. 

Rockets—and Rivers—get bounced

The Rockets are out of the playoffs, losing in five games to the top-seeded Lakers. In Saturday's Game 5 loss, Austin Rivers spent 24 minutes on the court, contributing nine points, three rebounds and three assists. It was a difficult 119-96 defeat for the Rockets, and while there was cold shooting all around for the team, Rivers has struggled with inconsistency more than others during the past few weeks. In Game 4 of the series, Rivers finished with 14 points, five rebounds, and five assists, but just a few days before he went did not score in 11 minutes of play in Game 3. Rivers had to leave the bubble earlier in the playoffs due to urgent family matters, so at least now he will be able to spend more time with his family after being only 20 minutes away from them all this time. Overall, Rivers has appeared to find a role in Houston, and the upcoming free agency period could see his value be rewarded should he decide to opt-out. 


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