Irving’s 26 points lead Celtics past Pelicans, 124-107

Pelicans forward Nikola Mirotic attempts to block Celtics center Al Horford.
Pelicans forward Nikola Mirotic attempts to block Celtics center Al Horford. –Max Becherer/The Advocate via AP

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis had just trimmed New Orleans’ deficit to a seemingly surmountable seven points when Boston’s Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum combined to quickly squash any notion of a comeback.

Irving closed out a 26-point, 10-assist performance with a 3-pointer and a tough baseline fade over Davis, and the Celtics pulled away late for a 124-107 victory over the Pelicans on Monday night.

Tatum, who scored 20, threw down a right-handed dunk while being fouled by Davis with 2:26 left, at which point Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry began subbing out starters and fans started filing out, resigned to just New Orleans’ second loss in 10 home games this season.

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“It’s closing time at that point,” Irving said. “We knew that we had the game in control just based upon our defensive schemes that we had out there.

“At winning time like that, I have the confidence in my teammates and confidence in my coaching staff to make the right plays and seek out the mismatches that we want,” Irving added.

Davis finished with 27 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks, Nikola Mirotic hit six 3s as part of his 25 points, and Julius Randle added 15 points from the bench, but that wasn’t enough to end what is now a four-game losing streak for New Orleans.

Al Horford scored 20 points, and Marcus Morris had 19 points and 11 rebounds for Boston, which punished the Pelicans for their 22 turnovers, converting them into 32 points.

“That’s how we’re used to playing. That’s the team we know,” Boston guard Marcus Smart said. “We had different guys diving on the floor and doing multiple things on the defensive end.”

Irving had five steals, while Tatum and Horford each had three.

“We knew most of their plays and contested and used our length to our advantage,” Irving said. “When we’re playing at that type of level, then we’re tough to beat, because offensively it’ll take care of itself. … It felt good tonight to win like that because that’s who we are.”

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The Celtics put up 39 3s, hitting 19, a statistic that Gentry thought was as telling as his team’s turnovers.

“It started with turnovers, but we gave up too many uncontested 3s,” Gentry said. “This team is a great 3-point shooting team anyway, so their bigs can shoot them, their perimeter guys can shoot them, and every time we got it within a workable distance, it was either a turnover or they made a 3.”

Tip-ins

Celtics: Rozier scored 14 points. He also was assessed a technical foul in the second quarter after he tossed the ball aimlessly during a stoppage. … Boston outscored New Orleans 42-34 in the paint. … The Celtics put up 39 3s, hitting 19.

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Pelicans: Holiday scored 13 points but also finished with eight turnovers. … Coach Alvin Gentry foreshadowed a change in the rotation before the game and forward Solomon Hill saw action for the first time since Nov. 1. He’d been relegated to the end of the bench for 12 games without playing time before his 20 minutes against Boston. He had four rebounds, two points and an assist. … New Orleans was 27 of 29 on three throws, but went 12 of 32 from 3.

Setting the tone

New Orleans trailed nearly the entire game, falling behind early because of eight first-quarter turnovers that led to 11 Celtics points. Holiday, playing point guard instead of shooting guard while Elfrid Payton sits out with a broken finger, turned ball over five times in the opening period.

The Celtics opened up their largest lead with an 11-0 run that began with three straight three-point possessions: Irving’s floater in the lane as he was fouled, Irving’s 3-pointer and Tatum’s driving layup while being fouled.

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Rozier’s layup capped the burst and made it 80-60 midway through the third quarter.

Soon after, Randle’s free throws and Darius Miller’s 3 ignited an 11-2 Pelicans run to close the period, trimming Boston’s lead to 10 heading to the fourth.

Davis scored five straight points on a short fade as he was fouled and a pair of free throws to cut it to 93-87 with nearly nine minutes to play.

But Boston never let it get closer than that.

Up next

Celtics host Cleveland on Friday night.

Pelicans host Washington on Wednesday night.

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