Celtics get back on track

BATTLE FOR THE BALL. New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson ( No. 1) battles for the ball with Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis ( No. 8) and guard Derrick White in the National Basketball Association (NBA) game in New Orleans. /
BATTLE FOR THE BALL. New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson ( No. 1) battles for the ball with Boston Celtics center Kristaps Porzingis ( No. 8) and guard Derrick White in the National Basketball Association (NBA) game in New Orleans. / AP

NEW ORLEANS — Jayson Tatum scored 23 points and the Boston Celtics rebounded from back-to-back losses to Atlanta, pulling away in the third quarter for a 104-92 win over the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday, March 31, 2024 (PH time).

Kristaps Porzingis added 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots and Jaylen Brown scored 17 as the Celtics, who at 58-16 have the NBA’s best record, avoided what would have been their first three-game skid of the year.

Derrick White had 15 points and Jrue Holiday had 13 points, seven assists and eight rebounds.

Zion Williamson scored 25 for New Orleans and CJ McCollum added 24.

Porzingis said stopping the two-game skid — only the Celtics’ third losing streak of the season — was less important than simply playing well.

“Last year Denver lost four in a row at one point, and I think the team that won before that lost five in a row,” he said. “But winning is a nice habit for sure.”

Ahead 59-57 at halftime, Boston took control in the third quarter, limiting New Orleans to 11 points while Porzingis had two of his blocks. The Celtics went ahead 79-68 on Tatum’s 3-pointer with 4:12 left in the quarter and led by double digits the rest of the way, going up by 22 in the fourth quarter.

The Celtics took away open 3-point shots and funneled the Pelicans to the basket, where Porzingis was waiting.

“That has to be our identity defensively,” Porzingis said. “The guys (on the perimeter ) do everything up until that point, and when the opponent gets to the rim, they meet me. We played at a very high level.”

The Pelicans shot 4 of 23 in the third quarter and Williamson missed all five of his attempts, guarded primarily by the 6-foot-6 Brown. New Orleans did not score after Trey Murphy’s 3-pointer with 4:37 left, going 0 of 6 with three turnovers. / AP

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