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Duke in the NBA: Tatum calls game, Ingram makes playoff debut

Brandon Ingram scored 37 points in the Pelicans' recent victory over the Suns.
Brandon Ingram scored 37 points in the Pelicans' recent victory over the Suns.

The first round of the NBA playoffs has begun. As teams make their push toward the second round, the Blue Zone takes a look at how former Blue Devils are faring:

Jayson Tatum hits game-winning buzzer-beater

The No. 2-seed Boston Celtics are facing the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Celtics have had a remarkable season, but facing Kevin Durant and former Blue Devil Kyrie Irving is a daunting task. During Game 1 on Sunday, however, Jayson Tatum proved that he can be a prolific scorer. He notched 31 points in his first game of the postseason, shooting an efficient 50% from the field and 42.9% from three. The St. Louis native had a well-rounded game, logging eight assists, two blocks and a steal. However, two points stand out more than the rest as Tatum hit the winning shot for Boston.

The heavily anticipated first-round matchup certainly lived up to its hype as the Celtics and Nets traded the lead in the fourth quarter. With Boston trailing by one, Tatum successfully contested a deep trey attempt by Durant. Time was winding down as Marcus Smart drove inside and passed to Tatum. Irving was well-positioned under the basket to take a charge, but it didn’t matter—Tatum spun by Irving and put up a layup, beating the buzzer and putting his team on top 115-114. The miraculous finish marked a special night for the 24-year-old and a sign of more spectacular performances to come. The Celtics are now up 2-0 in the series after a Game 2 comeback that included a dagger three from Tatum in the fourth quarter. Next, he will get the chance to replicate his performances in Brooklyn as the Celtics continue the series on the road.

Brandon Ingram makes playoff debut

Brandon Ingram has shown he belongs in the conversation of up-and-coming superstars. Last Friday, the No. 9-seed New Orleans Pelicans faced off against the No. 8-seed Los Angeles Clippers in a play-in game for the ages. The first few minutes went back and forth, but the Pelicans then jumped out to an early lead. Ingram started the game hot with 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting in the first quarter. The Clippers responded in the third quarter with a comeback to grab the lead themselves. The Pelicans were down by as much as 13 in the fourth quarter, yet hung around behind a well-rounded performance by their team. Ingram hit all three of his shots from the floor in the fourth quarter. His key pass out of a double team to center Jonas Valanciunas, who then dunked it, clinched the Pelicans’ win 105-101. Ingram tallied 30 points to send the Pelicans into the playoffs.

The young star was hungry in his postseason debut. With their play-in win, the Pelicans earned the eight seed and are facing the No. 1-seed Phoenix Suns in the first round, a series currently tied 1-1. While Ingram struggled shooting the ball on the road in Game 1 in Phoenix, those struggles did not last as he had a bounce-back effort in Game 2. The Kinston, N.C., native impressed with 37 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, including 12 points in the fourth quarter, to hold off the Suns. Ingram was unstoppable, shooting 61.9% from the field, and he will have a chance to put the Pelicans on top at home in Game 3. The 24-year-old has been must-watch TV this postseason, making a name for himself on the biggest stage of his career so far.

Kyrie Irving stars for Brookyln

While Kyrie Irving has been on the flip side of Tatum’s recent wins, his effort should not go unnoticed. In Game 1 of the Nets-Celtics series, Irving dropped 39 points, with 18 of those coming in the fourth quarter on four treys. His biggest shot was a 3-pointer to put the Nets up 114-111, but his thunder was quickly stolen by Tatum’s buzzer-beater. What’s even more impressive is that Irving is delivering these performances while fasting for Ramadan.

Game 2 in Boston, which former Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski attended, was during sundown on the East Coast. Irving was able to break his fast mid-game, returning to the locker room to grab a banana. Irving had an uncharacteristic 10 points in that contest, but fellow former Blue Devil Seth Curry did have 16 points, including 4-of-6 shooting from three. The Nets will have a chance to even up the series back home in Brooklyn. Through a tumultuous season, Irving has continued to show great play. Game 3 of the series will take place Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

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