Just one day after a disappointing road loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Boston Celtics traveled to New Orleans seeking redemption. They didn’t necessarily find the Sacramento-style beat-down they were looking for, but behind terrific performances from Jayson Tatum (38 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists) and Jaylen Brown (31 points, 11-of-20 shooting), they overcame a chippy performance from the depleted, young Pelicans and walked away with a 107-97 victory.
Tatum set the tone from the opening tip, responding to his 5-of-17 dud against Atlanta by connecting on five of his first seven looks en route to 11 first quarter points. Much as it was in the blowout win over the Sacramento Kings, he combined with Brown to lead the Boston offense, as the duo combined for 23 of the Celtics’ 27 first quarter points. They entered the second frame with a 12 point advantage, 27-15.
The game changed its tenor in the late minutes of the first quarter, as what looked like an impending Celtics blowout transformed into a competitive game. The Celtics endured a near-five minute scoring drought — in no small part due to a surprisingly stout zone defense from New Orleans — and the Pelicans capitalized with a run that cut the lead back down to the single digits early in the second quarter.
New Orleans’ run quickly turned out to be a mere blip, however, as the game became a “the Jays outscore the entire opposing team” affair. The duo cracked the Pelicans’ zone and continued their torrid scoring pace from the opening quarter. They combined for 38 first half points, surpassing the Pelicans’ 34 and guiding the Celtics to a 52-34 halftime advantage.
The second half opened with another small New Orleans run. The Boston offense seemed to stagnate once again, and the balanced-if-inefficient Pelicans scoring attack managed to gain a bit of ground, chipping and chipping at the Celtics’ lead until finally cutting it to 10 near the end of the quarter. A Jose Alvarado layup capped off a 36-26 third quarter in favor of New Orleans, and the Celtics entered the final frame clinging to just an eight point lead, 78-70.
It must be mentioned that, for as great as Tatum and Brown were tonight, no other Celtic besides Marcus Smart (12 assists) provided much offensive value. Through three quarters, Al Horford was the only Celtic to record more than two made baskets, and the bench was nearly nonexisted. Dennis Schröder was a particular lowlight, scoring just four points against four turnovers and posting a team-worst -11 for the evening.
It was up to Tatum and Brown to bring this game across the finish line, and they asserted themselves as the teams took the floor to open the fourth quarter. Both eclipsed the 30-point scoring mark in the first few minutes of the frame, and quickly reestablished a double-digit Boston lead. The Pelicans continued to fight back in admirable fashion, but a pair of emphatic Robert Williams blocks helped ensure that the lead never dipped below double digits, and the Celtics walked away with the victory.
For more postgame coverage of the Celtics victory over New Orleans, tune into the the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown.