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Celtics, Mavericks sustain winning streaks

LUKA Doncic dazzles his way to a 41-point performance to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 123-113 victory over the Phoenix Suns in the resumption of the NBA regular season. | GLENN JAMES/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — The Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks picked up where they left off when the National Basketball Association resumed following the All-Star break on Thursday as both notched their seventh straight victories.

Luka Doncic scored 41 points with nine rebounds and 11 assists and Kyrie Irving added 29 points for the Mavs in a 123-113 home victory over the Phoenix Suns.

Derrick White scored 28 points and Jayson Tatum scored 25 to lead the Celtics, who used a big third quarter to take control on the way to a 129-112 victory over the Bulls in Chicago.

It had looked like business as usual for league-leading Boston when they took a 16-point lead in the first quarter. But the Bulls outscored them 39-28 in the second period and led by three at halftime before the Celtics righted the ship.

White and Tatum made five three-pointers each as the Celtics connected on 23 from beyond the arc.

Nikola Vucevic led Chicago with 22 points and 14 rebounds but the Bulls had no answer when Boston clamped down defensively in the second half.

In Dallas, the Mavericks also found themselves down by three at halftime. But they opened the third quarter on a 16-0 run to seize a double-digit lead and didn’t trail again.

“It’s always tough to come back from All-Star, the first game’s always tough,” Doncic told broadcaster TNT.

“We played against an amazing team, but we showed out.”

Devin Booker scored 35 points to pace Phoenix and Kevin Durant added 23.

But the Suns couldn’t reel the Mavs back in late, Irving pushing Dallas’s lead back to double digits early in the fourth quarter with a thrilling coast-to-coast that saw him dribble behind his back before spinning to the rim.

With the win the Mavs matched Phoenix’s 33-23 record and earned the tiebreaker over the Suns.

“I think it was a very big game,” Doncic said after the Mavs climbed into playoff position at sixth in the West, but added: “We’ve got to get ready for the next game and just keep going like that.”

In Oklahoma City, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 points to lead the Thunder to a 129-107 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in a clash of Western Conference contenders.

Lu Dort added 19 points as all five starters scored in double figures for the Thunder, who moved within one game of West leaders Minnesota.

Kawhi Leonard scored 20 points and Norman Powell added 19 off the bench for the third-placed Clippers.

Brooklyn’s coaching change brought no quick change of fortune as the Nets fell, 121-93, to the Raptors in Toronto in their first game since Kevin Ollie took over as interim coach after Jacque Vaughn was fired.

Gary Trent Jr. scored 25, Immanuel Quickley added 24 and Scottie Barnes scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for the Raptors.

Mikal Bridges scored 21 points to lead the Nets, who were hampered by a season-high 20 turnovers, leading to 32 Toronto points.

The New York Knicks, fueled by 22 points off the bench from Bojan Bogdanovic and 21 points and 12 assists from Jalen Brunson, beat the 76ers, 110-96, in Philadelphia.

All-Star Tyrese Maxey scored 35 points to lead the 76ers, but with reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid sidelined with a knee injury, they had little offensive support despite the Sixers debut of six-time All-Star Kyle Lowry.

Lowry, who won a title with Toronto in 2019, signed as a free agent last week with his hometown club. He received a standing ovation when he entered the game, which he finished with 11 points and some stitches after taking an inadvertent elbow to the forehead.

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