Celtics

Final: Pelicans 120, Celtics 115 – Celtics collapse in 4th quarter, blow 24 point lead

The Boston Celtics blew a 24 point lead, mostly in a disaster of a fourth quarter, to lose the first game of this three-game road trip. What was a great defensive effort and ball-moving offense devolved into iso-ball and a ton of short-rimmed jumpers while the Pelicans ramped up the aggression, attacked, and got to the free-throw line.

The Celtics had plenty of opportunities to win this game, but it will go down as one of their tougher losses of the season. This was the biggest comeback in New Orleans' history.

Tatum: 32 pts (10-24 fg, 3-7 3pt)
Brown: 25 pts (7-23 fg, 3-10 3pt), 9 ast, 6 reb
Wakler: 14 points (5-21 fg, 1-12 3pt)

WHO: Celtics (15-14) vs. Pelicans (12-17)
WHEN: 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: Smoothie King Arena
RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub
TV: ABC

LIVE COVERAGE

Overtime

  • Boston opens the OT with a nice set play to get Robert Williams a lob
  • Kemba Walker is having a rough shooting day. 1-11 from 3 halfway through OT
  • Williams has impacted a lot defensively, blocking and challenging shots down the stretch
  • A rare double lane violation turned a Brandon Ingram made free throw into a jump ball which the Pelicans secured, and turned into an Ingram 3, which sealed the game for New Orleans

Fourth quarter

  • New Orleans came out with a ton of energy in the fourth, cutting the lead to 7 with consistent attacking and much crisper offense. Boston's offense has stagnated a bit at the same time, making this a dangerous time for the Celtics.
  • Brown's 3-pointer broke a more than 4-minute scoreless drought that saw Boston's lead cut to 3.
  • No matter, Brandon Ingram erases the entire 24 point lead with a 3-pointer.
  • Every Celtics miss is short. Meanwhile, New Orleans now has a 3 point lead. Tatum answered, though, tying the game again
  • The

Third quarter

  • The Celtics have, so far, avoided their all too familiar third quarter letdown. They're up 8-4 in the opening minutes behind Tatum who has five of those points
  • Theis and Thompson continue to challenge Zion Williamson well at the rim
  • This quarter has featured a casual back-and-forth trading of buckets for most of it.
  • Immediately on cue, New Orleans went on a 7-0 run to cut it to 14, but a Nesmith 3-point play stopped the run and made it 87-70
  • Williamson came back into the game and sparked another spurt and cut the lead to 13 going into the 4th.
  • A pair of Tatum baskets bailed out the Celtics, who were on the verge of blowing the game. It's going into overtime

Second quarter

  • Celtics came out on a 16-6 run
  • Payton Pritchard's passing is on display in the second quarter, finding Daniel Theis and Tristan Thompson for buckets.
  • Boston is forcing a lot of live-ball turnovers, meaning they're getting out and running. They have 11 points off 6 Pels turnovers at the 8:07 mark of the second quarter.
  • The Celtics, so far, have done a very good job keeping Zion Williamson contained. He only has 4 points at the half on 1-5 shooting.
  • Tatum and Brown have each attacked with patience and precision.
  • Kemba Walker took two charges in the lane this quarter.
  • Tatum has been very decisive in this game, maybe the most decisive he's been with his moves all season. No waiting. No jab stepping. Just getting the ball, making his move, and scoring or drawing a foul. 15 of his 17 points came in the second quarter

First quarter

  • New Orleans hit 5 of their first 6 shots to start the game on an 11-2 run
  • The Celtics are doing a good job early of digging at Zion Williamson's dribbles and forcing early turnovers. Celtics answered with a 7-0 run
  • Jaylen Brown has matched the Pelicans' hot shooting, scoring 9 points in the first six minutes to help Boston tie the game.
  • Robert Williams, again, came into the game and made a big impact, catching a ridiculous alley oop, recovering on defense to block a shot, and rebounding.
  • Brown's first quarter: 11 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds. He shot just 3-11, but 2-5 from 3 (40%) and 3-3 from the line.

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS

Celtics
G: Kemba Walker
G: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Daniel Theis
C: Tristan Thompson

Pelicans

G: Lonzo Ball
G: Eric Bledsoe

F: Zion Williamson
PF: Brandon Ingram
C: Willy Hernangomez

The Boston Celtics (15-14, 15-14 ATS) begin a short trip to the ailing south, uncertain if it will extend beyond this afternoon's game in New Orleans against the Pelicans (12-17, 12-17 ATS) at 3:30 EST. They're scheduled to move on to Dallas on Tuesday, where the Mavericks had games on Wednesday and Friday postponed by the Texas deep freeze and snow emergency.

Marcus Smart (calf) and Romeo Langford (wrist) remain out for Boston. Steven Adams (ankle) is out for New Orleans.

Smart did make the trip with the team.

"He's been going at a decent rate the last few days," Brad Stevens said before the game. "I don't know what that means for the rest of the trip, or what he's going to be allowed to do tomorrow if we decide to go with a small practice. But he is on the trip."

Pregame notes:

- There have been calls for more Robert Williams in recent games, but Brad Stevens says the team is being a little cautious to maintain the health of his left hip.

"The hip is not bothering him, but we’re just trying to manage it over the course of the long season so that he’s available more often than not, and then able to peak in minutes late," he said. "I guess it’s more of a just be alert to it. Obviously he had the two games that he sat our because it was bothering him, but we’re just alert to it... We need him to be able to play higher minutes as the season gets later. And so right now, I guess you would call that managing it appropriately."

- Afternoon Games have presented the Celtics a bit of a challenge this year, and part of it has nothing to do with basketball.

"It's really significant, just because our guys have to (get a COVID-19) test at 11pm before the afternoon games the night before, and then again in the morning," Stevens said. "And so, whereas generally you'd go testing at 5 for a night game and then you'd go testing late morning. So the 11pm is the biggest difference from a testing standpoint. But I think most guys, we've played enough afternoon games, or a couple afternoon games now, I think we're probably more used to it, but that's the unique part of playing in the afternoon with the testing."

- Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy isn't fooled by the Celtics up-and-down start.

"They're going to be hard to guard. I mean that's three outstanding guys," he said before the game. "(Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum) average over 25 a game. Kemba's (Walker) been there in his career doing that. So yeah, I mean a really good trio of players to play around, and then very active bigs on the glass too. So when you have to come and help, they're cleaning up on the glass. I mean as they get all their people back and have Kemba in there playing with those two guys, it's a really good team that will contend in the East for sure."

According to the online sports book Betonline.ag, the Celtics are 2.0 point favorites

  • Celtics vs. Pelicans spread: Celtics -2
  • Celtics vs. Pelicans over-under: 231 points
  • Celtics vs. Pelicans money line: Celtics -140, Pelicans +120

The Skinny 

The Pelicans (29th) and Mavericks (27th) are two of the worst teams in defensive rating, presenting a chance for the Celtics to build a winning streak. Dallas will enter Tuesday's game on the back half of a back-to-back if their game against Memphis on Monday is played.

Starting with New Orleans, Stan Van Gundy's defensive rotations have been a mess all season. The Pelicans allow 116 points per 100 possessions, 115.1 points per game, 47.4% shooting from the field and 39.8% from three. They don't foul often or block shots.

The Pelicans fare better into some of their bench units, particularly when Jaxson Hayes plays, but their regulars all hold defensive ratings above 115. JJ Redick is unplayable in a game like today's for New Orleans defensively, and Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Adams have all had bad years on that end of the floor. Eric Bledsoe's addition and the loss of Jrue Holiday haven't helped.

Offense is a different story of this group, surviving by scoring 115.8 points per 100 possessions to close the gap on what they give up. Zion scores just short of 30 points per 36 minutes, shooting 63% at the rim with the ability to torture Boston's interior. Ingram, Bledsoe and Lonzo Ball are all shooting better than 38% from three.

Prediction 

A shootout and regression from Friday's defensive success seem predictable for these inconsistent Celtics. Zion torched a better Celtics team defensively in New Orleans last year and opponents continue to succeed going to the middle. A better Celtics interior performance on the defensive end still resulted in 52 points in the paint for Atlanta after they dropped 60 on Wednesday.

Zion is a nightmare matchup given where Boston is weak, but the emergence of Robert Williams opens more defensive possibilities for Brad Stevens. Williams thrived as a rim protector, blocking shots and cutting off entry passes into the lane during a 33-19 second quarter. The Celtics allow 101 points per 100 possessions with Williams on the floor this year, which would rank first among any team by five points.

The Celtics need more of that impact, even if they have to swallow Williams nearly fouling out in that quarter and committing a ridiculous goaltend on a Trae Young jumper. Tatum, dominant defensively on Friday, has regressed in his own end this year, but largely thrives in tandem with Williams in those units.

They'll have their hands full with Ingram's improved creation ability, while Bledsoe presents Kemba Walker with the opposite level of resistance he saw from Young last week. This one looks like a one-possession game. I'm betting on the better defense.

Boston 115, New Orleans 111 (14-10, 10-12 ATS)