The Boston Celtics on Friday shook off a sluggish start to beat lowly Washington, as the Los Angeles Lakers put on an offensive clinic in their NBA win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
The league-leading Celtics looked dull and disinterested in the early going against a Wizards team ranked second-from-bottom in the Eastern Conference.
Unable to contain Washington in transition, the Celtics surrendered 71 points in the first half and trailed by seven at the break, but they outscored the Wizards 36-16 in the third quarter to seize control, pushing their lead to as many as 15 points and holding off a late Washington rally to triumph 133-129.
Jayson Tatum scored 35 points with 10 rebounds and eight assists for Boston, while Kristaps Porzingis added 34 points and 11 rebounds for his former team.
Porzingis told NBC Sports Boston he did not think the Celtics’ first half was “all that bad.”
“But the second half we knew we had to take away their transition,” he said. “Second half we turned up our intensity.”
Tatum said it might not have been pretty, but he was satisfied with the Celtics’ 40th win of the season.
“We did a lot of good things out there and we had to figure it out, but a win is a win, so we’ll take it,” Tatum said.
In Los Angeles, D’Angelo Russell scored 21 of his 30 points in the first half as the Lakers put up 87 points on the way to a 139-122 victory over the Pelicans.
The Lakers scored 51 points in the second quarter and all five Lakers starters finished with at least 20 points.
In Sacramento, center Domantas Sabonis outdueled Denver’s two-time Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic, posting his 16th triple-double of the season to propel the Kings to a 135-106 victory over reigning champions the Nuggets.
“As a competitor you always want to go against the best,” Sabonis told NBC Sports California of taking on Jokic — who is now second behind Sabonis on the season triple-double list with 15. “Every matchup you get against him you’ve got that extra fire.”
Sabonis connected on seven of his nine shots from the field on the way to 17 points, adding 17 rebounds and 10 assists.
Malik Monk led the Kings with 23 points and Keegan Murray — who went scoreless in the Kings’ Wednesday loss to last-placed Detroit — added 17.
Jokic led the Nuggets with 23 points, but Denver missed a chance to edge ahead of Minnesota for the sole Western Conference lead.
In Toronto, the Raptors saw a 22-point lead dwindle to one, but held on for a 107-104 home win over the Houston Rockets.
Immanuel Quickley scored 25 points and R.J. Barrett added 21 — Barrett’s two free throws sealing the victory after Houston’s Dillon Brooks cut the deficit to 105-104 with a three-pointer with 23.3 seconds remaining.
In Milwaukee, Damian Lillard returned from a two-game absence with a sprained ankle and scored 26 points for the Bucks, who led by as many as 42 in a 120-84 rout of the Charlotte Hornets.
Atlanta halted a two-game slide in Philadelphia, where Trae Young scored 37 points and handed out 12 assists to lead the Hawks to a 127-121 victory over the injury-depleted 76ers.
Kelly Oubre Jr led the 76ers with 28 points, Tobias Harris added 21, while Buddy Hield and Cam Payne — making their 76ers debuts after being acquired before Thursday’s trade deadline — added 20 apiece.
Philadelphia were without reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid, who will miss at least a month after surgery to repair a meniscus injury in his left knee.
Sixers president Daryl Morey said before the game that the team remain hopeful that Embiid can return for a possible playoff run.
“We’re hopeful,” Morey said. “Feedback has been more good than bad since we first heard about what led to his procedure. So we’re hopeful and we’re building the team to make it better this year.”
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