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Jayson Tatum (34 points), Celtics hold off undermanned Spurs

Jan 7, 2023; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown (7) lays in a basket during the first half against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Jayson Tatum scored 34 points and had the game-winning jumper with 33.7 seconds to play as the visiting Boston Celtics outlasted the short-handed San Antonio Spurs 121-116 on Saturday.

The Spurs were playing the second game of a home back-to-back and were without three regular starters but hung tough with Boston, the team with the best record in the NBA.

The Celtics led by 15 points late in the second quarter but led by just 114-113 after Romeo Langford’s layup with 1:12 to play. Robert Williams III’s alley-oop dunk on the ensuing possession put Boston back up by three points but Josh Richardson canned a 3-pointer with 37.4 seconds left for San Antonio to tie the game.

After a timeout, Tatum’s step-back jumper in the lane on Derrick White’s 11th assist of the game gave the Celtics the lead. San Antonio’s Jeremy Sochan then missed a 3-pointer and Tatum hit a free throw with 4.9 seconds remaining to stoke the lead to three points. He missed the second attempt, but Malcolm Brogdon grabbed the offensive rebound, was fouled and closed out the game with two free throws.

Jaylen Brown added 29 points for Boston, with Brogdon scoring 23, Williams hitting for 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds and Al Horford taking 11 rebounds.

Zach Collins racked up a career-high tying 18 points and 12 rebounds for San Antonio. Richardson and Tre Jones added 18 each while Langford had 14 points, Doug McDermott scored 13, Sochan tallied 11 and Stanley Johnson and Malaki Branham contributed 10 points each for the Spurs.

San Antonio was without Devin Vassell, who will have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee next week, leading scorer Keldon Johnson, who strained his left hamstring in Friday’s win over Detroit, and Jakob Poeltl, who was out with left Achilles bursitis.

The Celtics led 33-30 after the first quarter. San Antonio was within 57-49 after a 3-pointer by Richardson with 4:15 to play in the second quarter before Boston reeled off an 11-5 run to build a 14-point lead with 1:04 left in the half. Baskets by Branham and Jones pulled San Antonio to 68-57 at the break.

Brown led the Celtics with 18 points before halftime with Tatum hitting for 17 and Brogdon adding 11. Collins and Richardson paced San Antonio with 10 points each at halftime.

–Field Level Media