The Boston Celtics kept pace at the top of the Eastern Conference, handily defeating the Indiana Pacers to improve to 28-7 this season thanks to big nights from star duo Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
Meanwhile, their conference foes, the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks, both lost games in upset defeats.
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Keep reading for our NBA Wrap!
CELTICS STAR DUO SHINES AS BOSTON EXTENDS LEAD EAST
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown combined for 69 points and the Boston Celtics once again kept the Indiana Pacers’ high-powered offense in check in a 118-101 NBA victory in Indianapolis on Saturday.
Tatum scored 38 points and Brown added 31 for the league-leading Celtics, who held the Pacers to their lowest points of the season as they ended the team’s six-game winning streak. Indiana.
Boston, which held the Pacers to their lowest point score of the previous season in their 155-104 victory on November 1, was called back defensively, holding the Pacers to 17 points in the first quarter.
But the Celtics suffered a major blow when Kristaps Porzingis went out in the first quarter with an eye laceration and the Pacers recovered.
Aided by 18 Celtics turnovers – including 12 in the first half – the Pacers cut a 16-point deficit and trailed 58-49 at halftime.
The Pacers, who eliminated the Celtics from the NBA tournament in December, cut the deficit to 84-81 heading into Game 4, but the Celtics took over in the final period.
Tatum made a season-high eight three-pointers, half of the Celtics’ 16. He added 13 rebounds and six assists.
Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla praised his superstar, saying he’s so good he “is taken for granted.”
Tatum was proud of his team’s effort on defense, noting the Pacers’ best scoring in the league.
“We know they can accommodate 160,” Tatum said.
“It’s one of the best offenses in the league. They play with rhythm. They share the ball. They can shoot, so you have to be locked in when you come to Indiana.
Bennedict Mathurin led the Pacers with 20 points coming off the bench. Tyrese Haliburton added 17 points and seven assists and made five steals.
The teams will meet again on Monday, when Tatum said he expects it to be even more difficult to contain the league’s most prolific offense.
“It’s going to be tough,” he said. “You know they’re going to make adjustments. We need to see what we can do better. It’s like a road playoff series.
SIXERS AND BUCKS SUFFER UPWARD LOSSES
It was a perfect night for the Celtics, as in addition to their victory, their two biggest rivals in the Eastern Conference both suffered upsets.
Even without star center Joel Embiid (knee swelling), the Sixers were still -5.5 favorites against the Utah Jazz 17-20.
However, it was Utah that controlled the game from the start and ran away with an 11-point victory – only its fifth road victory of the season.
Guard Collin Sexton (22 pts, 10 asts) and forward Lauri Markkanen (33 pts, 13 rebs) led the way for the Jazz, who also benefited from practical contributions from Jordan Clarkson (18 pts) and Walker Kessler (10 pts) on the bench.
Brunson and the Knicks beat the 76ers, Embiid is injured | 00:50
It was the Sixers’ second straight loss, having been beaten by the Knicks by nearly 40 points the night before.
Milwaukee was also heavily favored to take care of business against the Rockets but lost 112-108 despite Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 48 points.
The “Greek Freak” was efficient on the field (16/25) and went to the foul line 21 times, but despite this and despite a lack of personnel, the Rockets won one of the best victories of their impressive season.
Houston sits just outside the top eight in the Western Conference standings.
Milwaukee is now 3.5 games behind Boston in the race for number 1 in the East. 1 seed.
NBA SCORES – JANUARY 7
Celtics 118 @ Pacers 101
Jazz 120 @ 76ers 109
Bucks 108 @ Rockets 112
Knicks 121 @ Wizards 105