Giant unleashed: Aussie’s NBA explosion
AUSTRALIAN duo Thon Maker and Matthew Dellavedova have inspired the Milwaukee Bucks to a 116-92 demolition of the Boston Celtics.
The Bucks went into game three in Milwaukee 0-2 in the first-round playoff series.
Dellavedova had played only four minutes in the two losses and Maker just one minute, but the Bucks' interim coach, Joe Prunty, unleashed the Australians in the first quarter and the result was stunning.
Maker pulled off four spectacular blocks in four minutes and Dellavedova delivered the aggressive defence his squad had lacked, electrifying the Milwaukee crowd and giving the Bucks a 27-12 first-quarter lead.
The Celtics never recovered.
Maker finished with a personal playoff high of 14 points, including three three-pointers, plus five blocks and five rebounds in 24 minutes.
Dellavedova had five points and four assists in 16 minutes.
The Australian was the first sub in the game and when he entered after only three minutes the Bucks trailed 5-6.
The Bucks then went on a game-changing 22-6 run as All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo registered 19 points, five rebounds and six assists, including a spectacular dunk from the top of the key and over the Celtics' Australian big man, Aron Baynes.
Baynes was one of the Celtics' best, accumulating eight points and eight rebounds. He also showed off his improved long-range shooting accuracy, sinking his two three-point attempts.
Game four is in Milwaukee on Monday.
Wizards cast a spell on Raptors
Bradley Beal heeded his coach's plea to "do his job" by scoring 21 of his 28 points in the first half to help the Washington Wizards beat the Toronto Raptors 122-103 in an occasionally heated game that cut their Eastern Conference first-round playoff series deficit to 2-1.
Beal's All-Star backcourt running mate, John Wall, delivered 28 points and 14 assists.
After letting the Raptors grab their first 2-0 series lead in the franchise's history, the Wizards came home and checked off every box that coach Scott Brooks presented.
They got Beal more involved, after he made only three shots in game two; they actually led after the first quarter, 30-29; and they played with enough defensive focus to get produce 19 turnovers by Toronto, leading to 28 points for Washington.
Add it all up and it was a rare recent victory for Washington, which had lost seven of eight games dating to the regular season.
DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 23 points on 10-for-22 shooting one game after scoring 37, and Kyle Lowry had 19 points and eight assists.
The start initially had the look of "here we go again" as Toronto moved ahead 27-18. The Raptors, after all, outscored Washington by an average of 11 points in the first period over games one and two.
But this time, Washington responded with a 12-point run, capped by Beal's three-pointer with under a minute left.
Beal scored 12 in the quarter a day after he, Wall and Brooks met to discuss ways to get the All-Star shooting guard more involved in the offence.
Entering Saturday's game, Beal was averaging only 14 points in the playoffs, well below his 22.6 average during the regular season.
"I'd like to see him be more aggressive," Brooks had said before the game. "I can do my job, but he's going to have to do his job."
The game was filled with some tense moments.
About two minutes in, Washington's Markieff Morris and Toronto's OG Anunoby needed to be separated after a near-fight.
Morris hit the deck after getting fouled by Anunoby, then got up and shoved the Raptors rookie, before teammates and officials got between the two. Morris and Anunoby drew technicals.
Early in the third quarter, Lowry was called for a flagrant foul when he swiped a hand across Beal's forehead as the Wizards guard went in for a breakaway lay-up.
Midway through that period, things nearly spiralled out of control. Beal grabbed at the ball when Jonas Valanciunas wouldn't let it go after being called for an offensive foul.
Several players got in each other's faces, including Serge Ibaka and Wall, prompting the latter's bodyguard to intercede.
The episode ended without any punches thrown. Wall and Ibaka continued jawing at each other from a safe distance, drawing double techs, along with the "T" given to Beal.
As that scene unfolded on the court, spectators directed "U-S-A! U-S-A!" chants at the opponents from Canada, and Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA blared over the arena's speakers.
Amid it all, the hosts just kept pulling further and further away. Washington led by as many as 22 points, at 98-76, late in the third, which ended 101-82.