MIAMI (AFP) – Deandre Ayton scored 25 points as top seeds Phoenix overpowered Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks on Monday while Miami exploited the absence of Joel Embiid to rout Philadelphia in the NBA playoffs.
Doncic led the scoring with a game-high 45 points but it was not enough to stop Phoenix from claiming a wire-to-wire 121-114 victory in the best-of-seven Western Conference semi-final series opener.
Ayton shot 12-of-20 from the field for Phoenix while Devin Booker added offensive thrust with 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Chris Paul chipped in with 19 points and Cameron Johnson added 17 from the bench as six Suns players posted double-digit points totals.
Phoenix had sprinted out of the blocks to lead by 10 at the end of the first quarter and surged into a 69-56 lead at the interval.
They led by as much as 21 points in the final quarter before a furious late onslaught led by Doncic saw Dallas get to within five points in the closing seconds.
The Mavs rally ultimately fell short, however, leaving Phoenix 1-0 up ahead of game two on Wednesday.
– Herro spurs Heat –
Tyler Herro scored 25 points from the bench as the Miami Heat swept aside the depleted Philadelphia 76ers 106-92 in their Eastern Conference series opener.
Herro led a balanced offensive effort as top seeds Miami pulled away after trailing at half-time to go 1-0 up in the best-of-seven semi-final series.
Five Miami players finished with double-digit points tallies as the depleted Sixers faded from contention after a gutsy first-half display that left the fourth seeds leading 51-50 at half-time.
Philadelphia’s preparations were rocked on Friday after confirmation that star big man Embiid had suffered an orbital fracture and concussion in the Sixers’ first-round series-clincher against Toronto on Thursday.
Embiid’s presence was sorely lacking at Miami’s FTX Arena on Monday as the Heat outscored the Sixers 56-41 in the second half.
Herro led the scoring for Miami despite starting on the bench, shooting 9-of-17 from the field including four three-pointers with seven assists. Bam Adebayo meanwhile had a double-double