The NBA-best Boston Celtics will look to close a seven-game homestand with their fourth consecutive win when they host the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night.
Boston’s offense has come to life in the last two games, with a season-high 139 points in a Christmas victory over the Milwaukee Bucks before shooting past the Houston Rockets 126-102 on Tuesday.
“It’s always a little easier when you’ve got (Jayson Tatum) and (Jaylen Brown),” Celtics assistant coach Damon Stoudamire said. “That’s not a bad start. But this group has been together a while. So you can organize them and then they know how to play. That’s the biggest thing.”
Brown (39 points) and Tatum (38) combined for at least 70 points for a second straight game and the ninth time in their careers, leading the Celtics’ charge to victory in the second half. Boston had a 92-81 lead after three quarters before outscoring Houston 34-21 in the fourth.
Life is easier for everyone with Tatum and Brown, who are the only Celtics teammates ever to score 70 combined points in back-to-back games.
“You’ve just got to sit back and enjoy the show, and whenever they need you to step in you fill that role,” Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. “But they didn’t need it tonight.”
The Celtics won behind Stoudamire, who acted as Boston’s head coach against Houston since interim head coach Joe Mazzulla missed the game due to eye irritation.
Robert Williams III had a strong game off the bench, posting a season-high 11 points and 15 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.
Williams has not been in the starting lineup in the five games he has played since returning from offseason knee surgery. Mazzulla recently said the big man could remain in a bench role.
“We’ve fluctuated the starting lineup a little bit throughout the year, which I think has given us some flexibility,” Mazzulla said. “But we’ve found some consistency in what we have now, and I think it’s just a matter of if it makes sense, we’ll do it, and if it doesn’t, we won’t.”
The Clippers had Wednesday off after sweeping a back-to-back at Detroit and Toronto. They overcame a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Pistons in overtime 142-131 before completing the set with a 124-113 win at Toronto on Tuesday.
Thursday will mark the fourth of five straight games on the road for Los Angeles.
Paul George and Ivica Zubac each had 23 points to lead the Clippers in Toronto. Zubac also pulled in 16 rebounds, 10 on the offensive boards. Zubac has nine games of at least 15 rebounds this season.
“He’s been amazing for us all year,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said of Zubac. “He was a monster on the glass.”
All five Clippers starters finished in double-digits, including Kawhi Leonard who had 15 points, a season-high eight assists and seven rebounds against his former team after missing Monday’s game for maintenance.
“This was one of our most complete wins of the season,” Lue said.
Entering Wednesday, the Clippers ranked third in the NBA in opponents’ field goal percentage (45.4) and points per game (108.6). Something will have to give, as Boston’s offense still ranks at the top in scoring average (118.9).
Boston will be looking to even the two-game season series after losing to the Clippers 113-93 Dec. 12 in L.A. George had a game-high 26 points in the Clippers’ third straight win in the series.
The Celtics have been held under 100 points in only one other game this season.
–Field Level Media