NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown hit back-to-back 3-pointers less than two minutes into their matchup with New Orleans, foreshadowing a long, frustrating night for the Pelicans as they tried to defend the Celtics’ top two scorers.
Tatum scored 38 points, Brown added 31 and Boston beat New Orleans 107-97 on Saturday night.
“We obviously know we are much harder to beat when those two are kind of firing on all cylinders,” Celtics coach Ime Udoka said. “They’re obviously shooting better, attacking better, and making plays. That’s kind of what we expect from those two. It hasn’t always happened, but when it does, we’re obviously a really good team.”
Louisiana native Robert Williams grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked four shots for Boston, which led by double digits for most of the game en route to a third victory in four games, with two of those triumphs coming on the road.
“It’s incredible just what he brings to us,” Tatum said of Williams’ defensive presence, adding that he has enjoyed “seeing where he started and how far he’s come, and him starting to realize how important to us that he is.”
New Orleans undrafted rookie guard Jose Alvarado scored a career-best 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting, going 3 of 4 from 3-point range. But the Pelicans were outshot 53.1% to 43.9% and lost their third straight.
“At the start of the game, they knocked us on our heels early by getting to the paint,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “Everything was easy for them.”
For the second straight night, the Pelicans struggled to shot from outside.
Having missed 29 of 34 3-point shots in a loss to Denver on Friday night, the Pelicans made just two of 19 3s in the first half against Boston while falling behind by as many as 20 before halftime. New Orleans missed 24 of 32 3s for the game.
Tatum hit four 3s and also scored on slashing drives and mid-range jumpers, making 17 of 26 shots (65.4%) in all. Brown also hit four from deep and 11 of 20 shots overall.
Marcus Smart heeded Udoka’s pregame instructions to push the pace and had 12 assists, thanks in part to Tatum’s and Brown’s shooting.
“When they get those easier shots and they get that rhythm, they explode,” Smart said. “Getting those guys in the open court to let them be great is only going to help us.”
Tatum scored 11 points before the first five minutes had elapsed. When he left the game, Brown began pouring in points.
At halftime, Tatum and Brown alone were outscoring the Pelicans 38-34. The actual Boston lead was 52-34.
The largest Pelicans second-half comeback franchise history — 24 points — came against Boston in New Orleans last Feb. 21. On that night, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson combined for 61 points.
This time, Ingram missed his fourth straight game with a right ankle sprain. Williamson hasn’t played this season because of his protracted recovery from surgery to repair a right foot fracture. New Orleans also played a third straight game without second-leading scorer and top rebounder Jonas Valanciunas (non-COVID illness).
Still, Alvarado helped the Pelicans rally to as close as 78-70 at the end of the third quarter before Boston pulled away again.
“I’m just getting my groove. I work by butt off every day,” Alvarado said. “I had a pretty good night for me, personally, but I’m not worried about that. … I want to find a way to win.”
Celtics: Tatum scored at least 30 in a game for the 16th time this season, while Brown did it for the 11th time. They both did it in the same game for the fourth time this season and Boston is 4-0 when that happens. … Williams attempted a 3 for the first time this season. It missed off the rim as Celtics players on the bench rose to their feet hoping to celebrate for the Boston center. “We would have went crazy had he made that,” Tatum said. … Josh Richardson scored 10 points. … Boston attempted just 11 foul shots.
Pelicans: Josh Hart had 10 points and 13 rebounds for his 11th double-double this season. … Willy Hernangomez scored 14 points, Garrett Temple and Devonte’ Graham each scored 12 points, and rookie Herb Jones added 11 points.
Some Celtics players could be seen glaring and shouting at a spectator near their bench. Smart explained why after the game.
“There was fan heckling us,” Smart said. “When you start trying to make it personal, that’s kind of where the problems come in.
“Just keep it strictly basketball. We can take it, joke with you,” Smart continued, without getting specific about what the spectator said. “He said some things that weren’t basketball related and sometimes you got to let people know not going to put up with that.”
Celtics: Host Miami on Monday night in the first of two straight home games.
Pelicans: Visit Cleveland on Monday night to start a four-game road trip.
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