Duke in the NBA: Former Blue Devils lead teams through first round of the playoffs

Tatum currently leads the Celtics with 26.6 points per game.
Tatum currently leads the Celtics with 26.6 points per game.

As the first round of the NBA playoffs heats up, several former Blue Devils are vying for a spot in the next round. The Blue Zone takes a look at some of their performances:

Jayson Tatum helps Celtics push Hawks to the brink

Star forward Jayson Tatum led the No. 2-seed Boston Celtics to a 129-121 victory over the No. 7-seed Hawks in Atlanta Sunday. With 31 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the field to go along with seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks, Tatum helped the Celtics claim a commanding 3-1 series lead in their first-round playoff matchup. 

After returning to Boston Tuesday night for a potential series-clinching Game 5, however, the Duke product faltered as the Hawks were able to come from behind to eke out a narrow victory and keep their season alive. Tatum finished with an inefficient 19 points on 21 shots, including a 1-of-10 night from deep, although he did contribute eight rebounds and eight assists. He will look for a bounce-back scoring performance in State Farm Arena Thursday night in Game 6 of the series.

Pair of former Blue Devils keep season alive in Memphis

Tyus Jones and Luke Kennard both had excellent seasons for the No. 2-seed Memphis Grizzlies. The former is one of the top backup point guards in the league and led the NBA with his regular-season assist-to-turnover ratio for the fifth straight year, while the latter paced the league in 3-point shooting percentage at 49.4%. However, Jones and Kennard found themselves facing a 3-1 hole in their first-round playoff series against the No. 7-seed Los Angeles Lakers heading into Wednesday night’s win-or-go-home Game 5.

The Duke duo was able to stave off elimination, with Jones contributing three points, three assists and two steals off the bench. Kennard added six points and five rebounds as the Grizzlies beat the Lakers 116 - 99. The former Blue Devils and Memphis will go on the road again for Game 6 of the series Friday in another must-win contest.

RJ Barrett heats up in New York

The No. 5-seed New York Knicks earned their first playoff series victory since 2013 Wednesday, defeating the No. 4-seed Cleveland Cavaliers 106-95 in Game 5. After a slow start to the postseason, former Blue Devil RJ Barrett has been stellar during the past three games, all of which were Knicks victories. 

After going an ice-cold 6-for-25 from the field in his first two outings, he poured in 19 points in Game 3 on 8-of-12 shooting, including 3-of-6 from 3-point territory. Game 4 saw Barrett up the stakes as he increased his scoring total to 26 points despite going 0-of-6 from beyond the arc. 

He finished with 21 points, four rebounds and four assists Wednesday night as the Knicks closed out the Cavaliers and punched their ticket to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.

Grayson Allen, Bucks fall victim to major upset

Grayson Allen had a solid year as a role player for Milwaukee, averaging 10.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists, while helping the Bucks finish with the NBA’s best regular-season record. In their opening-round playoff series against the Miami Heat, the sharpshooting Duke alum increased his scoring output while maintaining excellent efficiency, averaging 11.6 points per game while shooting 46.3% from the field and 48.3% from beyond the arc. 

Despite his efforts, however, his top-seeded Milwaukee team was upset by the No. 8-seed Miami Heat in just five games. After entering the playoffs as favorites to win it all, the Bucks dropped two of their first three games as former MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo missed time with an injury. Even after his return, they lost their final two games to fall to the underdog Heat 4-1 in the series. Allen, who played an otherwise solid game, had an opportunity during the final seconds of overtime in Game 5 to tie or take the lead, but could not get a shot off before the clock expired on the game and the season for Milwaukee. 


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