Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics will look to keep building positive momentum when Brandon Ingram and the New Orleans Pelicans come to town for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee on Monday.
Boston appeared destined for another late collapse after blowing a 12-point first half lead and falling behind by seven with just over four minutes remaining in Saturday night’s game versus the Chicago Bulls.
But a spark from Robert Williams III helped the Celtics find late life as the center scored six of his team’s final 10 points amid a game-ending 13-4 push to secure an encouraging 114-112 win over the Bulls.
It was the fourth win in five games for the Celtics.
“It’s a moment everybody in this league wants and waits for,” said Williams, whose two free throws with 9.7 seconds left provided the winning margin. “I’m just glad I made ’em, glad my teammates had my back and boosted my confidence.”
Tatum amassed a team-high 23 points and 12 rebounds while Jaylen Brown added 19 points in the Boston win. Dennis Schroder scored 16 with eight assists, Al Horford added 15 points and Williams totaled 14 points, 13 boards and six helpers.
Boston’s win came without starting guard Marcus Smart, who missed a third straight game on Saturday while in the NBA’s COVID-19 protocol. Smart was initially sidelined with a right thigh contusion he suffered last Monday against Indiana.
New Orleans had won three of four heading into Saturday’s matchup with Eastern Conference powerhouse Brooklyn. Ingram’s team-best 22 points and eight assists weren’t enough to keep the Pelicans from a 120-105 road loss against the Nets.
Ingram continued to provide a silver lining for New Orleans with his fifth straight game with 20 or more points. The forward has been the team’s top point producer in each of the last five games, averaging 26.6 points.
The overall offense was also an area of encouragement for the Pelicans, as all five starters and seven players total scored in double figures.
Josh Hart added 14 points and 11 rebounds, Jonas Valanciunas and Herbert Jones scored 13 apiece, Jaxson Hayes added 11 and both Devonte’ Graham and Nickeil Alexander-Walker chipped in 10 apiece for New Orleans.
Asked what his team could have done better after falling behind 69-41 at halftime, Hart quipped, “Not play like (expletive), biggest thing.”
Added Hart, “Could have came out with more energy. Defensively, we were atrocious. It was basically like they were running script offense, five-on-(zero) offense. They didn’t feel us at all, they didn’t know we were there.”
New Orleans continues to navigate life without star forward Zion Williamson. The former Duke star and No. 1 overall pick remains away from the team facilities while rehabbing a foot injury. Guard Kira Lewis Jr. is also on the shelf with a torn ACL in his right knee.
The Celtics dropped both games against the Pelicans last season despite Tatum averaging 33 points across the two meetings. The teams will meet again on Jan. 29 in New Orleans to conclude the season series.
–Field Level Media