Saturday, December 23, 2023

Celtics 145, Clippers 108: Jayson Tatum drops 30 in return to beat L.A.

The Celtics continued their hot shooting to beat the Los Angeles Clippers 145-108 at Arena Saturday.

Jayson Tatum returned from a one-game absence due to a left ankle sprain, to drop 30 points on 9-of-16 from the field, including 5-of-10 from behind the arc. Jaylen Brown scored 24 points, while Jrue Holiday had his second straight 20-point performance to go along with seven assists.

Derrick White added 18 points and Neemias Queta notched a double-double of 14 points (career-high), 12 rebounds off the bench for Boston, who hit 25-of-53 from 3-point range and shot 52.1% overall.
"I think when we get out into the open court, we're a pretty tough team with the type of firepower and the offensive ability we have on this team," said Holiday in his postgame comments. "We have shooters, we have guys who can penetrate and make plays. Once we make stops and get the rebound, we're pushing as quickly as possible and it's to our benefit."
The Celtics, a league-best 22-6, were playing without Kristaps Porzingis (left ankle sprain) for the third time in five games.

Paul George had 21 points, Ivica Zubac recorded 16 points, 10 rebounds and James Harden chipped in 14 points, nine assists for the Clippers -- who were without Kawhi Leonard (hip contusion) and dropped to 17-12 with back-to-back losses.

Boston set the tone early in the first quarter, when Tatum went for a baseline dunk over former teammate Daniel Theis (15 points), before having a scare in the second -- rolling the same injured left ankle again -- when he stepped on the foot of Kobe Brown on a made 3-pointer. The All-Star forward sank the ensuing free throw to complete the four-point play with 4:19 left in the half for a 59-40 lead.  

The Celtics connected on 9-of-15 from deep in the second period to take a 68-51 advantage into the break and used a 24-11 spurt -- capped with a pair of made free throws by Tatum -- to open up the third and go up 92-62 with 5:01 remaining in the quarter. The margin grew to as much as 39 in the same building that Boston will play again come Christmas Day against the rival Lakers.

It's the second time in three days the Celtics topped the 140-point mark for a total of 289 scored, making it the most points in a two-game span since November of 1966. They also set a franchise record with 47 made 3s against the Kings (23) and Clippers (25) -- the most in a two-game stretch.

Despite the impressive offensive showing by the Celtics in Los Angeles, coach Joe Mazzulla downplayed the victory when asked if he considered it a statement made by his players.
"I do not consider it a statement win," Mazzulla said. "I consider it a win (and) an opportunity where we played well and continue to figure out where we didn't play well. We left a lot on the table as far as our execution and the things we want to accomplish."
The Celtics, winners of seven over their last eight, will wrap their four-game west road trip when they take on the Lakers (15-14) in a 5:00 pm ET showdown on ABC Monday afternoon.

Game Notes:

The Clippers were 46.1% from the floor and 11-of-34 (32.4%) from 3-point range, while being out-rebounded 51-34. The Celtics dished out 33 assists (10 turnovers) on 49 baskets to Los Angeles' 25 dimes (11 turnovers) on 41 made shots. 

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of The Associated Press

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