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Duke in the NBA: Tatum rallies Celtics, Barrett and Williamson duel in New Orleans

RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson duked it out for the first time since the pair joined the league, with Barrett's Knicks snagging the win.
RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson duked it out for the first time since the pair joined the league, with Barrett's Knicks snagging the win.

The late-season drama is in full swing. Let's take a look at how former Blue Devils are faring in the NBA:

Tatum, Celtics stay hot

Boston Celtics forward and former Duke standout Jayson Tatum picked up right where he left off after last week’s career-high, leading an impressive 31-3 run to down Denver before flashing some late-game heroics against Portland in a gutsy 116-115 win. Finally, Tatum ended the week in fashion by out-dueling Golden State’s Stephen Curry with a 44-point masterpiece Saturday night, extending Boston’s winning streak to six consecutive games. With Tatum at the helm and playing some of his best basketball of the season, the Celtics appear to be rounding into form at just the right time.

Barrett’s Knicks get the better of Ingram, Williamson in the Big Easy

RJ Barrett’s New York Knicks got the best of former Duke teammate Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and the New Orleans Pelicans Wednesday in a 116-106 win for the surging New York squad. Despite just six points from Barrett, New York kept the red-hot Williamson to 25 points while Ingram, the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player, continued his run of high scoring with 28 points. Ingram would go on to net 34 points in Friday’s overtime loss to the Wizards, as the Pelicans now find themselves on the outside looking in at a spot in the first-ever NBA play-in tournament.

Irving returns to lead shorthanded Nets

Kyrie Irving returned from a short personal leave of absence Wednesday as the Brooklyn Nets took on the Philadelphia 76ers in a much-hyped battle for the Eastern Conference lead. Irving did all he could to propel the shorthanded Nets, dropping an efficient 37 points in 33 minutes during the loss. Irving exited with the game seemingly out of hand early in the fourth quarter, but head coach Steve Nash curiously elected not to reinsert his star player when the Nets cut the Sixers’ lead to three late.

Allen’s costly mistake overshadows big night

It was not Grayson Allen’s proudest moment Wednesday night—the third-year Duke product and then-90.6% free throw shooter missed two shots at the stripe with 2.2 seconds left and the Memphis Grizzlies leading the Dallas Mavericks 113-111, setting up Dallas star Luka Doncic’s remarkable game-winning shot just moments later. Allen’s unfortunate mishap might make all the headlines, but he still led Memphis with 23 points and a career-high six 3-pointers, continuing his under-the-radar breakout campaign and putting the Grizzlies in position to win, if not for Doncic’s heroics.

Carey seizes the opportunity

Duke’s most recent ACC Freshman of the Year and Charlotte Hornets rookie Vernon Carey Jr. took a big step forward in his NBA career Friday night with his first start at the professional level. Carey did not disappoint, as he came out of the gates hot against Brooklyn and even flashed some range en route to 21 points and six rebounds in the 130-115 loss. While the spot start mainly resulted from injuries up and down Charlotte’s roster, Carey’s stellar outing will surely earn him more opportunities down the stretch as the Hornets work to stay afloat in the tight Eastern Conference playoff race.

Redick debuts for Dallas Mavericks

While this week didn’t feature any memorable performances from the veteran sharpshooter, JJ Redick debuted for his sixth NBA team Monday night in Philadelphia. The 2006 College National Player of the Year has yet to see more than 17 minutes in a single game, but his shot was sharp in three games this week, potentially earning him a steady rotation spot as the playoffs near. Redick appeared in the playoffs in each of his first 13 seasons before finally missing out with the Pelicans last year, but his arrival in Dallas all but ensures that he will get another opportunity to play postseason basketball once again.

Parker gets another chance

Former Blue Devil forward and 2014 second overall pick Jabari Parker signed a two-year deal with the Celtics Friday afternoon, a wonderful development for the NBA journeyman who saw little playing time with the Sacramento Kings before being released in March. Injuries have derailed the once-promising prospect’s professional career, but Boston could be an ideal landing spot—the Celtics need an offensive spark, and the talented Parker could be the man for the job as the regular season comes to an end. The new contract seems to be a golden opportunity for Parker to revitalize his career—he scored 11 points in his Boston debut Saturday.

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