Celtics hold on to beat Clippers, Raptors edge Nets with Durant out

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LOS ANGELES, United States (AFP) — Jayson Tatum scored a team-high 34 points and Kemba Walker delivered a late surge as the Boston Celtics rallied from a first-half deficit to hold on and edge the Los Angeles Clippers 119-115 on Friday night.

Walker tallied 24 points and Carsen Edwards came off the bench to score 16 as the Celtics took over in the third quarter, setting the stage for a thrilling back and forth final quarter.

Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points and Lou Williams added 18 for Los Angeles, who saw its six-game win streak at Staples Center arena halted.

Both teams were without key starters. Boston was missing Jaylen Brown who sat out with a sore knee and the Clippers, were minus Paul George because of a toe injury and Patrick Beverley (knee).

The Clippers led by as many as 16 points late in the second quarter and went into halftime with a 62-51 lead.

In Brooklyn, Pascal Siakam scored a season-high 33 points as the Toronto Raptors recorded a 123-117 win over the Brooklyn Nets, who lost forward Kevin Durant twice in the same game due to COVID-19 contact tracing protocols.

Siakam added 11 rebounds and six assists while shooting 12 of 23 from the floor and Kyle Lowry scored a season-high 30 points for the Raptors, who won for the eighth time in 12 games.

Lowry tied a season-best with a half-dozen threes and helped clinch the victory by scoring on a layup with 35 seconds left to give Toronto a 121-113 lead.

“We missed some open looks and Lowry made some big shots,” Nets Coach Steve Nash said. “You add it all up and they found separation in the last couple of minutes.”

The Raptors also took advantage of the loss off Durant who was held out of the starting line-up.

Durant was pulled from the starting line-up shortly before the opening tipoff and then allowed to come into the game in the first quarter. He scored eight points in 19 minutes before he was told by Nets officials to leave the bench and return to the dressing room midway through the third.

It was the first time in his 867-game career that Durant entered a game as a reserve.

In Florida, Nikola Vucevic scored a career-high 43 points and added 19 rebounds as the Orlando Magic held off the Chicago Bulls for a 123-119 victory.

Vucevic’s hot start included scoring 13 points in the game’s first three minutes.

Vucevic set his career high with two free throws with two seconds left in the game. He surpassed his previous high of 41 points, which he scored in 2017 against Brooklyn.

“It felt great to have a career high in a win because the last one was a loss,” Vucevic said. “It’s much better when you win because you can enjoy these things more when you win. I’m most happy about the win because I thought we had great effort from the beginning.”

Chicago’s Zach LaVine took over late, scoring 24 of his team-high 26 points in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough to get Chicago the win.

Also, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 33 points as the Milwaukee Bucks opened a six-game road trip with a 123-105 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Antetokounmpo echoed the comments from LeBron James a day earlier that the 2021 all-star game should not go ahead because of the short off season due to the pandemic.

“The big dog says he has zero excitement and zero energy for the all-star game, and I’m the same way. I really right now don’t care about the all-star game. We cannot see our families,” he said.

Elsewhere, Brandon Ingram scored 30 points and Lonzo Ball added 20 as the New Orleans Pelicans held off the Indiana Pacers for a 114-113 victory in Indianapolis.

Zion Williamson scored 18, Steven Adams had 12 points and 12 rebounds, JJ Redick scored 12 and Josh Hart scored 11 for New Orleans.

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