With the NBA playoffs in full swing, several former Blue Devils are contending for the league crown. The Blue Zone takes a look at a few standout performances:
Jayson Tatum leads Celtics past first round
Following a low-efficiency night in a Game 5 loss to the Hawks Apr. 25, Jayson Tatum had a bounceback performance two days later. In a Game 6 victory, the former Blue Devil scored 30 points on 11-of-20 shooting, including 4-of-10 from behind the arc. Tatum filled the stat sheet Thursday, adding 14 rebounds, seven assists, a steal and two blocks. He started Game 1 of the second round against the 76ers as well, garnering a 39-point double-double with five assists Monday. However, Boston was unable to overcome a 45-point performance by James Harden, who played incredibly without star center Joel Embiid to complement him. With Embiid’s return looming, Tatum and the Celtics will look to retake control over the series in the hopes of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for the fourth time in seven seasons.
RJ Barrett’s inconsistency flares up in second round
The Knicks’ return to the second round for the first time since 2013 opened with a loss to the No. 8-seed Miami Heat in Game 1 Sunday, and former Blue Devil RJ Barrett had moments of brilliance combined with troubling variability. On the surface, his stats were excellent - a team-leading 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting, with nine rebounds and seven assists tacked on. However, Barrett’s statline hides a tale of two games. In the first half, he shot an excellent 6-of-7, but went 4-of-13 in the second half, including 0-of-3 from three. Additionally, the Canadian committed three turnovers in the half, which saw New York’s halftime lead erode and result in a Heat win. He seemed to bounce back in Game 2 Tuesday in the Knicks’ 111-105 victory, scoring 24 points with three assists and five rebounds. In the 2022-23 playoffs so far, Barrett has averaged a strong 18.8 points but has shot 24.1% from outside the arc. The former Blue Devil will either need to improve his shooting consistency to aid the Knicks in making it past the second round for the first time since 2000.
Jones, Grizzlies bow out in stunning series loss
After a strong yet inconsistent regular season, the Grizzlies were expected to make a run in the Western Conference this postseason. However, Memphis lost to the Lakers in six games in the first round. The elimination game did not feature former Blue Devil and sharpshooter Luke Kennard, as he was absent with a sore shoulder, but guard Tyus Jones was available. He scored just three points on 1-of-5 shooting, but contributed four boards, dished out three assists and garnered four steals while playing 18 minutes. Jones will enter a contract year for the 2023-24 season and has proven his value as a rotational point guard, averaging 5.2 assists per game in the regular season.
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