Jayson Tatum scored 33 points as the Boston Celtics overturned a double-digit deficit to extend their lead at the top of the NBA Eastern Conference on Saturday with a 122-106 road victory over the lowly Charlotte Hornets.
The Celtics entered the game heavily favored to record their sixth straight victory against a Hornets team propping up the conference table with just 11 wins.
But Boston were startled by a confident first-half performance from Charlotte, who at one stage surged into a 16-point lead at 58-42 midway through the second quarter.
Boston trimmed the gap to just four points at halftime, with Charlotte leading 66—62, Then the Celtics cut loose in a devastating burst of scoring after the break.
The Celtics outscored Charlotte 33-19 in the third quarter to turn the game on its head and maintained a comfortable cushion through the final quarter.
Malcolm Brogdon had 30 points for Boston, while Al Horford added 16 and Marcus Smart 13.
LaMelo Ball led the Hornets’ challenge with 31 points.
In other games on Saturday, the Memphis Grizzlies bagged their ninth win in a row with a 130-112 blowout of the Indiana Pacers.
The win leaves Memphis level with Denver at the top of the Western Conference with both teams at 29-13.
Desmond Bane drained five three-pointers in a 25-point haul while Ja Morant finished with 23 points and 10 assists in an emphatic win for Memphis.
Vincent, Heat scorch Bucks
In the early game on Saturday, Gabe Vincent scored 27 points and snaffled five steals as the Miami Heat took full advantage of the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 111-95.
Miami extended their winning streak to three games after dominating Milwaukee from the outset to improve to 24-20 in the Eastern Conference standings.
Vincent was one of five Heat players in double figures, with Victor Oladipo and Bam Adebayo catching the eye with 20 points each.
Adebayo hauled in 13 rebounds with two assists while Jimmy Butler added 16 points in his 26min 35sec on court at the Miami-Dade Arena.
Nigeria international Vincent, who re-signed with Miami in 2021 after going undrafted in 2018, credited “perseverance” with his latest impressive showing, which followed 28 points in a win over Milwaukee on Thursday.
“Just keep going. It’s been a long road, an untraditional route (into the NBA),” Vincent told ABC television in on-court remarks after the win while praising his teammates.
“My guys are getting me open, and I’m finally knocking down some shots — that always helps,” Vincent added.
Miami, who were beaten in the NBA Finals in 2020 and who reached the Eastern Conference finals last year before losing in seven games to Boston, are now within striking distance of the automatic playoff places in seventh place.
Vincent meanwhile says improving defensively will be crucial to Miami’s chances in the second half of the season.
“We’ve got to get back to being a defensive team like we know we can be,” Vincent said.
Milwaukee meanwhile struggled to build offensive pressure against Miami in the absence of Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
Two-time MVP Antetokounmpo was ruled out early Saturday with a knee complaint.
Bobby Portis led the Bucks scorers with 15 points while Jrue Holiday was restricted to 12 points.