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Duke in the NBA: Tatum takes Celtics to 2-1 NBA Finals lead, Snyder resigns as Utah Jazz head coach

Jayson Tatum had 13 assists in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, a record for a Finals debut.
Jayson Tatum had 13 assists in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, a record for a Finals debut.

As the NBA Finals near their end, just one Duke product remains. The Blue Zone checks out his recent performance, as well as a career update of another former Blue Devil:

Jayson Tatum propels Boston Celtics to NBA Finals lead

The NBA Finals are fully underway, and the Celtics and the Warriors have faced off three times over the past week. Golden State hosted the first two matchups at Chase Center in San Francisco, where the teams battled to take the first lead. Jayson Tatum was integral to Boston’s Game 1 triumph, with a strong offensive turnout that included 13 assists—a career-high and an NBA record for Game 1 of the Finals. Though the Duke product had a tough time notching baskets for his squad, scoring 12 points on 3-of-17 shooting from the field, he was pivotal in securing the victory late. One crucial play: Tatum assisted on a Marcus Smart 3-pointer, putting the Celtics up 14 with nearly two minutes left on the clock. 

He wasted no time in Game 2 improving his shooting. Tatum led the team with 28 points, going 6-of-9 from deep on the night, putting up a 21-point performance in the first half. But despite a two-point Golden State lead at half, the Celtics could not catch up to the dominating Warriors squad, which went on to win by 19. Even with a strong offensive showing, the small forward could not make a big enough dent to take the game away. 

That added fuel to Boston’s winning fire, with Game 3 at TD Garden beginning aggressive and fast. The Celtics finished the first half with a 12-point lead to pave the way for dominance in the second. Tatum wasn’t just impactful in scoring—on top of his 26 points, he had nine assists. Even when the Warriors dominated the third quarter to take an 83-82 lead at one point, the Celtics proved resilient. Tatum was dynamic in getting to the basket, where he drained two free throws, a layup and set up Grant Williams for a corner 3-pointer to get the team a seven-point lead at the end of the third quarter. Their highly physical defense allowed them to then win 116-100 to take a 2-1 series lead. The Finals resume Friday night in Boston.

Quin Snyder resigns from Utah Jazz head coaching post

Former Duke point guard and assistant coach Quin Snyder resigned from his position as head coach of the Utah Jazz, as announced by the team Sunday. The Mercer Island, Wash., native’s decision comes unexpectedly after eight years with the team. While Snyder still had a couple of years left on his contract, he explained that he feels the program needs "a new voice."

Snyder had a successful coaching stretch with the Jazz, winning nearly 60% of his games with the group and guiding them to six straight playoff appearances—the longest active postseason streak among Western Conference teams. Though Utah had a losing record of 25-57 the year before Snyder arrived, he turned the team into continuous playoff contenders throughout his time there and became one of the longest-tenured coaches in the league.

Despite those six straight playoff appearances, the Jazz had yet to make the Conference Finals. In the 2020 playoffs, Utah dropped its 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the first round. The following year in 2021, they made it to the second round but dropped a 2-0 lead to the Los Angeles Clippers. The group fell again in the first round this season to Dallas. Keeping the players in mind while making his decision, Snyder thought it best for him and the program to move forward. He leaves the team as one of the winningest coaches in Jazz history, along with Jerry Sloan. Given his success with Utah, Snyder is clearly primed for success in future endeavors.

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