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 surged to a 16-point lead 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 period.
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.
“They were more ‘up’ to play us, and we came out on our heels,” Tatum said. “I’m just glad that we played with more physicality, played tougher. We started hitting some shots, too.”
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.
Embiid lifts 76ers
The Philadelphia 76ers escaped with a 118-117 victory over the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City, where Sixers big man Joel Embiid made the game-winning step-back jump shot off a pass from James Harden with 4.9 seconds remaining.
Harden scored 31 points and handed out 11 assists and Embiid scored 30 for the Sixers, who were in control after scoring 41 points in the first quarter for a 17-point lead.
The Jazz had whittled that to three points going into the fourth period, finally taking the lead for the first time on Walker Kessler’s tip-in of a Jordan Clarkson miss that made it 115-114 with 33 seconds left.
Harden and Clarkson — who led Utah with 38 points — traded baskets that left the Jazz up 117-116 before Embiid struck, and the 76ers’ strong defense denied Utah on the final possession.
In Miami, Gabe Vincent scored 27 points and snaffled five steals as the 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.
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.
Miami are now within striking distance of the automatic playoff places in seventh place.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, struggled to build offensive pressure against Miami in the absence of two-time MVP Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
In Minneapolis, the depleted Minnesota Timberwolves rallied from a 14-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 110-102.
The Timberwolves, already missing Karl-Anthony Towns and Jordan McLaughlin, saw star center Rudy Gobert depart at halftime with groin soreness.
Jaden McDaniel was hindered after picking up his fifth foul early in the third quarter.
But the Timberwolves, led by 26 points from Anthony Edwards and with Naz Reid chipping in 17 off the bench, notched their sixth win in seven games.
The Portland Trail Blazers, with 36 points and 10 assists from Damian Lillard, rolled to a 136-119 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
Spencer Dinwiddie led the Mavs with 25 points as Luka Doncic scored a season-low 15 points.
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