The Boston Celtics came back to Earth in a big way Monday night at Smoothie King Center.
After winning two straight and seeming to right the ship, the Celtics laid a dud against the woeful New Orleans Pelicans in a 106-105 loss. Boston trailed most of the night before mounting a nice comeback down the stretch, but failed to execute during a wild finish to drop to 5-5 on the season.
Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with a season-high 37 points to go along with seven assists, while Avery Bradley added 19 points and 10 rebounds and Marcus Smart chipped in 15. Anthony Davis predictably paced New Orleans with 25 points, 16 rebounds and four steals, while Langston Galloway tallied 21.
Here’s how this one went down.
Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk
The Celtics relied heavily on the outside shot in the first quarter, with mixed results.
Boston attempted 11 3-pointers in the opening frame, hitting on five of them to score 15 of their 26 points via the deep ball. Bradley did the heavy lifting with 10 first-quarter points, including two threes.
But the Pelicans hung around, thanks almost exclusively to Davis, who racked up 11 points, five rebounds and three steals in the first 12 minutes to help New Orleans take a one-point lead into the second quarter.
The Pelicans stretched that lead to five at halftime by winning the battle inside.
A few Celtics defensive lapses allowed New Orleans to tally 28 points in the paint through two quarters, getting easy looks at the rim while also out-rebounding Boston 21-19. Galloway played a major part in the Pelicans’ second-quarter success with 12 points in the frame.
Jaylen Brown gave the C’s a spark off the bench to keep them within reach, but Boston missed five of its last six shots to trail 56-51 at the break.
SECOND HALF FLOP
Things didn’t get any better for the Celtics out of the break.
The C’s missed their first four shots of the second half, as New Orleans started the third quarter on a 9-0 run to extend its lead to double digits. Davis and Galloway continued their strong play, while the Celtics struggled to generate offense outside Thomas and Smart, who hit a pair of 3-pointers in the frame.
There was one highlight for Boston, though: Smart managed to turn Solomon Hill’s poster-esque dunk into an offensive foul.
The Pelicans took a 10-point lead into the fourth, though.
THOMAS TAKEOVER, LATE LETDOWN
Thomas wouldn’t let the Celtics go quietly. He willed Boston back into the game with several strong takes to the rim to cut New Orleans’ lead to two with about six minutes to play, then drilled a 3-pointer with 1:57 remaining that put the C’s up 102-100.
That set up a dramatic final sequence. Thomas hit a game-tying layup with seven seconds remaining, but Kelly Olynyk fouled Pelicans guard Tim Frazier on a deep jumper with just two seconds left. Frazier hit one of two free throws to seal the deal.
Frazier also picked off Smart’s inbound pass with 15.3 seconds remaining and the Pelicans trailing by one, thwarting Boston’s best chance to take the lead.
Thomas’ big game earned him a pretty special place in Celtics history.
PLAY OF THE NIGHT
Smart flashed his facilitation skills with this spin and dish to Bradley for the layup.
The Celtics are back at TD Garden on Wednesday to take on the Dallas Mavericks, who are off to a woeful 2-7 start. Tip-off at TD Garden is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Matt Bush/USA TODAY Sports Images