After a long week in Beantown, Gordon Hayward and his teammates buckled down, and the Boston Celtics snapped their three-game skid in dominant fashion on Saturday night.
Gordon scored 19 points on a highly efficient 8-of-11 from the field, grabbed five rebounds and dished out three assists while teammate Jayson Tatum scored a career-high 41 points as Boston tied a season-high in points and the Celtics (26-11) logged their largest margin of victory of the season with a 140-105 drubbing of the New Orleans Pelicans (14-26) at TD Garden.
According to Gordon, the effort started on defense, which led to Boston getting some easy transition buckets, layups, and threes.
“That’s a key for us,” he said. To just run on people and use our strengths which is our athleticism and our speed. I think it started on the defensive end but then I think we did a really good job moving the ball from side to side, like I said, finding easy shots.”
From pregame fun with his daughter until after the final buzzer, G was all smiles on Saturday.
Winning can have that effect.
After taking a day to regroup and think about what went wrong in Thursday night’s prime time loss in Philadelphia, the Celtics came out tremendously strong against New Orleans – putting up a season-high 41 points in the first quarter.
Gordon Hayward wanted the Celtics to play defense and get out in transition. First possession: Steal, Jaylen Brown dime, Jayson Tatum and-1.
— Jay King (@ByJayKing) January 12, 2020
Boston's 41 points in the 1st quarter tonight represent its highest-scoring opening period in any game this season (39, Nov. 9 at SAS)
— Celtics Stats (@celtics_stats) January 12, 2020
The strong opening stanza was thanks in large part to a 15-0 burst by Boston that lasted from the 4:42 mark of the first until the 1:49 mark. When that run started, the Celtics led by just two, but by the end of it, they were in complete control of the contest. Gordon pitched in six of the 15 points Boston scored during that run, first by draining a three and later by driving to the bucket for a foul to set up a less conventional three-point-play.
He also pitched into a play that showcased Boston’s ability to move the ball and resulted in a dunk by Enes Kanter, which put an exclamation point on the 15-0 Cs run.
No. 20 then ended the quarter for the Celtics on a high note with a fadeaway jumper to make it 41-24 after one. Boston kept their foot on the gas in the second pushing their lead above the 20-point mark. After checking out of the game for a few minutes, G-Time came back and showed that also present in his arsenal was the ability to create turnovers on the defensive end and turn them into points on the other end.
New Orleans closed the half strong and had their deficit down to just 15 at the break, but Boston turned it up a notch after the break, with another 40-plus point quarter, scoring 42 points to pull away. By far G-Time’s best score of the night came in the third, when the Cs once again turned defense into offense with a fast break that ended when Gordon threw down a big dunk.
Now THAT'S how you run a fast break! pic.twitter.com/8x1tHkeNza
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 12, 2020
Gordon Hayward just dunked with aggression. Love it #Celtics
— Charbel (@cabdulmassih) January 12, 2020
Gordon Hayward just looks so aggressive
— Josh Lacroix ☘️ (@JSteezy_2EZ) January 12, 2020
The Celtics outscored the Pelicans 42-25 in the third, and No. 20 scored nine of his 19 points in the frame to help put the game out of reach. After the game, Gordon elaborated on how Boston can use their work on defense to create for themselves and feed off of their own defensive pressure.
“Certainly a lot of defense is effort and a lot of it is trying to bring energy and there are going to be mistakes made. So being able to rotate and help somebody else and help the helper,” he said. “When we bring the energy and have a little extra pep we are definitely a lot better.”
Gordon Hayward is a +38 tonight.
— Brian Robb (@BrianTRobb) January 12, 2020
What also made the Celtics better was the dynamite performance of Tatum, who crossed the 40-point plateau for the first time in his young career. Even more impressive was the fact that Tatum did it on just 22 shots, knocking down 16 of those 22 attempts, including 6-of-9 from downtown.
Watch Kemba Walker pretend like he's coming in for Jayson Tatum, who was still at 39 points, before telling him it's really for Gordon Hayward (and then having a good laugh about the deke). pic.twitter.com/asv41NWikT
— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) January 12, 2020
“He played really well, tonight, and was super efficient as well. You love to see that,” Gordon said. “Most of his points were in the flow of the game. It wasn’t like he was forcing anything, which is really good. I’m happy for him. He was able to knock down some big shots and get to 41. Any time you can score 40 in this league, that’s a big number.”
We got back into the win column with a 140-105 victory over the Pelicans behind Jayson Tatum’s new career high of 41 points. pic.twitter.com/bf9aB6kkob
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) January 12, 2020
Tatum and Gordon were two of the five Celtics to finish in double figures on the scoreboard. Enes Kanter came off the bench and quietly had a career night in his own right, recording 22 points and 19 rebounds on 10-of-13 shooting. Kemba Walker ended up with 17 points and Jaylen Brown chipped in 13 points to make the victory all the more dominant.
“Very important obviously after three tough losses just coming here and getting our confidence back,” Kanter said. “We were really focused obviously after the three losses. It was very tough for us and I think we were just watching a lot of clips and just went to the basics. We were just going to go out there and put more effort in. Everybody was focused and we just went out there and had fun.”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens noted that it’s just the nature of the NBA to have ups and downs, ebbs and flows, and how the team bounces back is most important.
“This is just part of the NBA,” Brad Stevens says of the Celtics’ recent struggles. “You’re going to have great weeks, you’re going to have bad weeks. You just have to try to stay the course and do the best you can.”
— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) January 11, 2020
The C’s will be back at it Monday, when they welcome the Chicago Bulls (14-26) to TD Garden Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. ET.