WASHINGTON: Jalen Brunson scored a career-high 41 points and Germany’s Maxi Kleber added 25 points off the bench to spark the Dallas Mavericks over Utah 110-104 and level their NBA playoff series. The host Mavericks, playing without injured star Luka Doncic, deadlocked the best-of-seven matchup at 1-1 as the scene shifts to Salt Lake City. “We needed this win,” Brunson said. “I just tried to go out there and have fun. I’m just being aggressive, trying to make plays, trying to engage multiple people, trying to create problems. Just playing my game.”
Brunson sparked a 10-0 Dallas run to put the Mavs ahead 96-93 with 5:40 remaining. Utah scored the next five points but Kleber – who shot 8-for-11, all from 3-point range – followed with back-to-back 3-pointers for a 102-98 Dallas lead and the Jazz never matched them again. “Maxi was huge,” Brunson said. “We’ve just got to keep playing together, no matter what. We’re just taking one game at a time. This was great, but we’ve got to look forward.”
The Mavericks made a team-record 22 3-pointers but committed only three turnovers, tying an NBA playoff record. In other playoff games Monday, the host Philadelphia 76ers seized a 2-0 series lead by beating Toronto 112-97 and Golden State ripped Denver 126-106 for a 2-0 series edge. At San Francisco, the visiting Nuggets seized a 43-31 edge before Golden State closed the second quarter on a 26-8 run over the last seven minutes for a 57-51 halftime lead.
The decisive spurt, which began with a 16-0 run to give the Warriors their first lead, was sparked by the three-guard alignment of Stephen Curry, Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson. “We’re executing the best we can,” Poole said of the electrifying trio. “We’re ready to fight night in and night out.” Golden State seized command in the third quarter, leading 101-81 entering the fourth, and cruised to victory.
All-Star guard Curry, coming off the bench in his second game back from a foot injury, scored 34 points on 12-of-17 shooting, going 5-of-10 from 3-point range in 23 minutes. Poole had 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting and eight assists and Thompson contributed 21 points on 9-of-19 shooting. “We all want to see other people get going,” Poole said of the Warriors backcourt trio. “We love playing team basketball. We can all get hot at any time. “We all feel like we’re really special. Playing together makes us really lethal.” Serbian center Nikola Jokic, last season’s NBA Most Valuable Player, led Denver with 26 points but was ejected after a second technical foul with seven minutes remaining.
‘We’ve got it all’
Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, a Cameroonian center and like Jokic a 2022 NBA MVP finalist, delivered game highs of 31 points and 11 rebounds. Tyrese Maxey contributed 23 points, nine rebounds and a game-high eight assists for the Sixers while Tobias Harris added 20 points and 10 rebounds and James Harden had 14 points, six rebounds and six assists. As a result, Philadelphia coach Doc Rivers took his 100th career NBA playoff triumph. “We’ve got it all. We’ve just got to put it all together on the floor,” Embiid said. “We have to keep playing the way we’ve been playing. We know what we’ve got to do. We’ve just got to execute.”
Embiid was unhappy about the Sixers’ 14 turnovers but pleased with their physical play in outrebounding the Raptors 41-35. “These last two games we’ve been physical, rebounding the ball well, getting second chances,” Embiid said. “We didn’t do a good job taking care of the ball. We have to do a better job next game.”
Toronto jumped ahead 11-2 but the Sixers grabbed a 67-52 halftime lead and pulled away in the third quarter. The Raptors, led by 26 points from O G Anunoby and 20 points each from Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, trimmed their deficit in the final minutes but never threatened. Embiid suffered a right elbow injury late in the third quarter but played to the finish. “It was pretty sore,” he said. “But it’s the playoffs. Got to fight through it.” – AFP