Duke in the NBA: Tatum leads Boston bounce back, Ingram and Williamson’s encouraging Pelicans futures

As the NBA Playoffs chug along, the Blue Zone takes a look at some Duke products making a difference for their teams:

Jayson Tatum helps Celtics level series

Despite Tatum’s team-high 21 points Saturday, No. 2-seed Boston lost to No. 3-seed Milwaukee at home 101-89. The Celtics got a much-needed win Tuesday to tie the series at one apiece before traveling to Milwaukee for Game 3, beating the Bucks 109-86. In that victory, Tatum notched 29 points from an efficient 50% clip from the field and 5-of-10 mark from three. His entire team came out aggressive that night, headlined by Jaylen Brown’s 25 first half points. Tatum was not far behind, as he scored 19 points in the opening two periods and finished the game with a team-high eight assists.

While the Celtics edged out a 26-point lead against the Bucks in the third quarter, the defending champions would not go away easily. With 4:30 left in the fourth quarter, Boston’s lead was cut to 12 points, but Tatum’s couple threes in the final minutes quickly put the game to bed. Tatum has established himself as a two-way player this postseason, affecting the game on both the offensive and defensive ends. Though the Celtics played without Marcus Smart, this year’s Defensive Player of the Year, due to a bruised thigh in Game 1, Tatum carried the burden with three steals and a block. The teams next meet Saturday at 3:30 pm EST in Milwaukee.

Elimination of Pelicans brings Duke products’ futures in perspective

While No. 8-seed New Orleans lost to No. 1-seed Phoenix in the first round, it did not go down without a fight as it took the series to six games behind the exquisite efforts of Brandon Ingram. The Duke product averaged 27 points from an efficient 49.5% rate from the field and 40.7% clip from downtown in that series, all while scoring over 30 points in three consecutive playoff games for the longest such streak in franchise history. That remarkable return also put Ingram alongside Allen Iverson and LeBron James as one of only three players in NBA history to have notched 30+ points in three of the first four playoff games of their careers.

One would be remiss to discuss the Pelicans without discussing All-Star Zion Williamson, who was sidelined for the year by a right foot fracture suffered during last summer’s preseason training. Despite a difficult year in New Orleans, Williamson said that if offered an extension by the Pelicans, he would sign it. While his team started the season rough and posted a negative 36-46 record before the postseason, it finished its campaign in the playoffs and gave the top-seeded Suns an unexpected run for their money. Despite an encouraging conclusion, it remains to be seen just how far Ingram and Williamson can take the Pelicans into future postseasons as they continue to improve and develop.

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