The Boston Celtics broke out of their funk on Thursday as Jayson Tatum’s 29-point triple-double propelled them to a 124-95 victory over Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.
The Celtics boast the best record in the NBA but had dropped two straight coming into the contest in Dallas and knew things needed to change.
“It was a tough one the other day,” Tatum said in an on-court post-game interview of the Celtics’ loss to the lowly Thunder in Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
“We lost two in a row but we had a responsibility just to respond, to play better. That last two games hasn’t defined our season.
“We’re one of the best teams and we just had to come out and play like it and get back to playing like we know how.”
Tatum connected on just eight of 22 shots from the field but he added 14 rebounds and 10 assists in just his second career triple-double.
Jaylen Brown scored 19 points for the Celtics, who ended the Mavericks’ seven-game winning streak.
Tatum said the Celtics defensive strategy on Doncic was to “just try and make it tough for him.
“He’s obviously a hell of a player that can get any shot he wants.”
Doncic, who had averaged a stunning 46.2 points, 12.7 rebounds and 10 assists over the prior five games, scored 23 and sat out the entire fourth quarter after the Celtics took a 24-point lead into the final period.
The Slovenian star, who appeared to be hindered by a sore left ankle, made seven of his 23 attempts from the field and missed all six of his three-point attempts.
Despite the defeat the Mavs remained in fourth place in the West.
The Denver Nuggets remained atop the West with a crushing 122-91 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.
Jamal Murray scored 18 points to lead seven Nuggets players in double figures. Denver led from wire to wire and were up by 43 points going into the fourth quarter — in which the starters for both teams sat out.
Murray said consistency was the key to the Nuggets’ big win, despite the lack of a big game from star center Nikola Jokic — who scored 12 points.
“We kept the same defensive energy the whole game and obviously we just had it rolling,” Murray said in an on-court interview.
“I think the best thing about us is we did good in the first half but we kept it going throughout the game.”
The Clippers’ star duo of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for nine points as not a single Los Angeles starter scored in double figures.
Grizzlies top Magic
The Memphis Grizzlies kept the pressure on the Nuggets at the top of the standings with a 123-115 victory over the Magic in Orlando.
Ja Morant scored 32 points and Jaren Jackson added 31 points and set a strong defensive tone for the Grizzlies, who led by as many as 25 points midway through the third quarter.
A late push by the Magic wasn’t enough, despite 30 points from Orlando’s number one draft pick Paolo Banchero.
Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said his players got “a little casual” with too many late turnovers.
He said they were troubled by Orlando’s full-court press but added: “When we got organized we came up with some big-time plays.”
In Houston, Finland’s Lauri Markkanen scored a career-high 49 points to lead the Utah Jazz to a 131-114 victory over the Rockets, Utah snapping a five-game skid.