In a battle of two teams fighting for their playoff lives, the Boston Celtics got the better of the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.
The 104-98 victory was an impressive one for the visiting Celtics, who topped a Pelicans squad that entered the game having won six of their last seven contests.
BRADLEY OUT, CROWDER IN
With Avery Bradley sidelined with an elbow injury (and likely to miss the next two games, as well), head coach Brad Stevens decided to shift forward Jae Crowder back into the starting lineup. Crowder has been a major contributor as part of highly productive reserve unit alongside Thomas and Jonas Jerebko, and he still logged several minutes with that group against New Orleans.
One of Crowder’s best games this season came back in January against these same Pelicans, when he racked up 22 points, three rebounds, three assists, four steals and two blocks in a win at TD Garden. He wasn’t quite as productive this time around, but he still managed to come up with 11 points, nine rebounds and four steals.
THOMAS STILL BENCHING
The other option to replace Bradley would have been Thomas, who long has made clear his desire to start.
“Hopefully, one day that time will come,” the point guard said before the game, via The Boston Globe.
Stevens, however, did not want to mess too much with the success the aforementioned second unit has enjoyed of late. He left Thomas on the bench, and Thomas again performed up to the high standards he’s set during his brief Celtics tenure. The diminutive guard scored 14 of his team-high 27 points in the fourth quarter and showed a knack for driving to the rim, as evidenced by this and-one floater over the outstretched arms 6-foot-10 Anthony Davis:
Bradley’s absence prompted Stevens to shorten his bench. Just nine players saw action for the Celtics in the win, with Gerald Wallace, Phil Pressey, Shavlik Randolph and Luigi Datome going down as DNPs.
BROW GONNA BROW
Davis again showed why he’s one of the NBA’s fastest-rising stars, pouring in 29 points for the Pelicans to go along with 14 rebounds and three blocks. The All-Star forward totaled 61 points in two games against Boston this season.
Tyler Zeller struggled defending Davis in the first half and was ineffective on the offensive end, as well, and Stevens decided to go with Kelly Olynyk over Zeller to start the third quarter.
Brandon Bass, meanwhile, did a much better job on the Pelicans big, whose production dropped off sharply after halftime. Bass also finished with 17 points and six rebounds.
Up next: The Celtics will be spending the weekend down in the Sunshine State. They visit the Orlando Magic on Sunday before concluding their three-game road trip Monday in Miami.
Thumbnail photo via Derick E. Hingle/USA TODAY Sports Images