Boston’s bench came up big Wednesday to help the Celtics notch an eighth straight NBA victory, 126-101 over the Hawks in Atlanta.
Jaylen Brown led the Celtics with 22 points and his fellow All-Star Jayson Tatum added 19, but Brown said it was the 44 points from the Boston reserves that ultimately made the difference.
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“We got some big plays, some great energy from guys coming off the bench,” Brown said. “We’ve got a really good team from top to bottom.”
The Celtics took their league-leading record to 12-3 while the team that beat them to the title in last season’s Finals, the Golden State Warriors, fell to 6-9 with a 130-119 loss to the Suns in Phoenix.
Golden State star Stephen Curry poured in 50 points, but with little offensive aid for Curry and lacklustre defence the Warriors fell to 0-8 on the road – their worst road start since they went 0-9 in 1989.
“There’s no collective grit, we lack grit right now,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “And when you don’t have grit the game is really easy for the other team.”
Cameron Payne, standing in again for injured All-Star point guard Chris Paul, led the Suns with a career-high 29 points, Devin Booker added 27 and Mikal Bridges chipped in 23.
Curry did what he could to set an early tone, scoring 31 points in the first half. But Golden State trailed 72-65 at the break, and the Suns opened the third quarter on a 6-0 scoring run to push their lead to 13 points.
Phoenix, who made 21 three-pointers and shot 51.2% from the field, led by 14 going into the final period on the way to their second win over the Warriors this season.
In Atlanta, the Celtics drained 21 three-pointers and held the Hawks to 41.6% shooting from the floor.
Sam Hauser and Luke Kornet scored 15 points apiece off the bench for Boston and Payton Pritchard added 14, Brown saying the reserves’ effort made up for the injury absences of Marcus Smart and Malcolm Brogdon.
Milwaukee’s reserves made a key contribution, too, as the Bucks handed the Cleveland Cavaliers a fifth straight defeat, 113-98.
Bucks star Brook Lopez connected on seven of nine three-pointers on the way to 29 points.
Superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 16 points with 12 rebounds and eight assists while Jordan Nwora scored a season-high 21 off the bench as the Bucks reserves out-scored Cleveland’s bench 45-20.
SGA rolls for Thunder –
Oklahoma City guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (SGA) grabbed the game-winning three-pointer in the Thunder’s 121-120 come-from-behind victory over the Wizards in Washington.
The Thunder trailed by 17 in the first quarter and were down by 13 at the half, but clawed their way back in a game that featured 15 lead changes.
Bradley Beal put the Wizards up 120-118 with a fadeaway jumper with 6.7 seconds remaining.
But Gilgeous-Alexander had the answer with a step-back trey with 1.9 seconds on the clock.
The Wizards had one more possession, but inbounds pass lofted across the court toward Beal was sent out of bounds by Lu Dort as time expired.
Gilgeous-Alexander matched his career-high with 42 points – 30 of them in the second half.
He added six rebounds and seven assists for his third straight game of at least 35 points and five assists.
Beal, returning from a five-game absence because of Covid protocols, scored 25 points. Kristaps Porzingis led Washington with 27, but the Wizards’ four-game win streak ended.
The Indiana Pacers stung the Hornets 125-113 in Charlotte, a defeat made even more painful for the hosts when guard LaMelo Ball, who missed the first 13 games of the season, reinjured his left ankle with a couple of minutes remaining when he stepped on a fan’s foot trying to chase down a loose ball.
The Minnesota Timberwolves romped to a 126-108 victory over the injury-depleted Magic in Orlando while the Houston Rockets sprung a surprise in Dallas with a 101-92 victory over the Mavericks.
Jalen Green and Kevin Porter scored 17 points each to lead seven Rockets players in double figures.
But Houston’s most astonishing statistic was 19 blocked shots – including five from centre Alperen Sengun.