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Duke in the NBA: Tatum forces Game 7, Jones grabs first career playoff start

Tyus Jones started the last three games for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Tyus Jones started the last three games for the Memphis Grizzlies.

With the NBA playoffs edging closer to completion, the Blue Zone takes a look at former Duke players standing out for their teams:

Jayson Tatum ties the series with dominant performance

Whenever the No. 3-seed Milwaukee Bucks seem to take control in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the No. 2-seed Boston Celtics continue to make the series competitive. Last week, the Celtics arrived in Milwaukee with the series tied 1-1, but the Bucks won a tight Game 3 103-101. Boston’s superstar Tatum had an off night, shooting the basketball just 4-of-19 from the floor, and notched only 10 points in the loss. In Game 4, Tatum’s bounceback effort helped the Celtics steal the game on the road, logging 30 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. This 2-2 series poised a competitive Game 5 on Boston’s home court, where the Bucks snatched the 3-2 series lead behind Jrue Holiday’s late defense in their 110-107 victory, despite Tatum’s team-high 34 points. He only shot 18.2% from three that night, but his shooting struggles would not last for long.

Coming into Game 6, Tatum faced a must-win game to tie the series again and keep Boston's season alive. He delivered for his team in a big way, scoring 46 points and shooting 46.7% from downtown, and came out aggressive, starting the game 4-of-4 from deep through the start of the second quarter. While the Celtics could take comfort in their 14-point lead at the start of the fourth period, they had lost the same lead in their Game 5 defeat at home. Soon enough, the Bucks began chipping away to bring the score to 85-81 and déjà vu started to set in. Tatum scored the next 11 points for Boston, however, and was a clutch performer down the stretch to keep the Celtics’ remarkable season alive. On top of it all, he joined Boston great Sam Jones as one of only two players in franchise history to log multiple 45-point postseason games. A winner-take-all Game 7 takes place Sunday at 3:30 p.m. in Boston, where Tatum will have a chance to lift the Celtics into the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in three years.

Tyus Jones makes premier postseason start

In yet another thrilling second round matchup, the No. 2-seed Memphis Grizzlies faced the No. 3-seed Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Semifinals. After All-Star Ja Morant was sidelined due to a bone bruise injury, Jones was pushed into Memphis’ starting lineup from Game 4 onward. He tallied 19 points, five assists and six rebounds on efficient 42.9% shooting from beyond the arc in that encounter, though the Warriors were able to take control late to grab a 3-1 series lead over the Grizzlies. 

However, Memphis was able to recoup back home for a blowout 134-95 Game 5 win to stave off elimination. Jones tallied 21 points with a great 66.7% shooting night from the field and a 4-of-7 clip from three. His performance was well-rounded beyond scoring too, notching nine assists, two steals and a block. This hot streak faded away from home in Game 6, where Jones had a rough night to shoot 2-of-12 from the field and log just seven points. He still had a balanced performance, however, and almost snagged a triple-double from his eight assists, nine rebounds and two steals. Yet, it wasn’t enough to beat Golden State, and Memphis was sent home after a 110-96 loss. Despite an early exit, Jones helped his team extend the series against a tough Golden State team and mark a career milestone of his own.

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