The Boston Celtics and Charlotte Hornets on Monday tipped off the NBA’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day slate with a matinee showdown at Spectrum Center.
The Celtics seized control early, building a 66-55 halftime lead, but the Hornets stormed back in the second half, trimming their deficit to two points before Boston pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 130-118 victory in Charlotte.
The Celtics, who again were without Jaylen Brown, defeated the Hornets on Saturday night, as well, and now are riding a seven-game winning streak as they return home. The win improved Boston’s NBA-best record to 33-12.
Check out the full box score here.
ONE BIG TAKEAWAY
Jayson Tatum decided enough was enough.
The Hornets, to their credit, scratched and clawed in the second half after the Celtics played a terrific first 24 minutes, particularly on the defensive end. But Tatum, as he’s done so often for Boston, stepped up in crunch time, sinking several key buckets as the C’s staved off the Hornets’ comeback bid.
Tatum scored 51 (!) points in the win, including 18 in the fourth quarter. He placed an exclamation point on the epic performance by knocking down a 3-pointer with 38 seconds remaining that sent fans into a frenzy.
The Celtics have found different ways to win games all season, whether it’s dominating from wire to wire, mounting impressive comebacks or holding off opponents down the stretch. But Tatum usually is at the heart of Boston’s effort, and Monday was no different in that regard for the MVP candidate.
STARS OF THE GAME
— Tatum drew “MVP” chants from the crowd in Charlotte mere minutes into Monday’s game, and the Celtics superstar made good on the acclaim by dropping 51 points. He went 15-for-23 from the field, including 7-for-12 from beyond the arc, and added nine rebounds and five assists.
Tatum went a perfect 14-for-14 from the free-throw line, as well, which speaks to his efficiency amid a dominant performance against the Hornets.
Tatum is the fourth player in NBA history to score 50+ points on MLK Day, joining Damian Lillard (61, 2020), Kemba Walker (52, 2016) and Gilbert Arenas (51, 2007). He’s also now the Celtics’ franchise record holder with five 50-point regular-season games, passing Larry Bird.
— Derrick White was in the starting lineup for Boston despite suffering a neck injury Saturday night that forced him from that contest. And he made it count, totaling 19 points, eight assists and three rebounds.
— Malcolm Brogdon was his usual solid self off the bench, chipping in 16 points in 27 minutes.
Those who backed the Celtics as 8.5-point favorites needed to sweat this one out. But ultimately, Boston covered, with Tatum’s 3-pointer in the closing minute offering some breathing room.
The total was set at 230 for this afternoon affair, so the Over ended up cashing.
The Celtics return home Thursday night for an NBA Finals rematch with the Golden State Warriors. Tipoff from TD Garden is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.
After that, Boston will head north then south, first playing the Raptors in Toronto on Saturday before traveling to Florida for back-to-back games against the Orlando Magic and Miami Heat next week.