The Boston Celtics got back to winning ways with a 119-116 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in their top-of-the-table NBA Eastern Conference clash on Wednesday as the Dallas Mavericks thwarted an incredible LeBron James-inspired comeback to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 104-101.
The Celtics kissed goodbye to a six-game winning streak on Monday after crashing to an upset defeat against the lowly ranked Charlotte Hornets.
But Boston ensured there was no chance of a repeat against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the visiting Bucks in Wednesday’s showdown at the TD Garden, taking control of the contest in the first quarter to clinch a wire-to-wire win.
The Celtics were in charge after jumping out to an early 10-0 lead, and although the Bucks rallied in the fourth quarter to get within single digits, Boston regrouped and closed out victory.
Boston’s Jaylen Brown scored 26 points with support from Jayson Tatum, who finished with 23 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
Kristaps Porzingis added 21 points on a night when no fewer than seven Boston players posted double-digit points totals as the Celtics preserved their unbeaten home record to improve to 12-3.
“Just a team effort. We bounced back and regrouped from the last game,” Tatum told ESPN after the win.
“Sometimes you need to lose a game to regroup and regain focus. I love the way we started the game. They made a run late, they’re a good team — but I liked the way way we responded in the fourth quarter.”
In other games on Wednesday, the Lakers fell just short of completing a remarkable comeback from a 20-point deficit against Dallas in Los Angeles.
The Lakers appeared to be dead and buried trailing 91-71 at the start of the fourth quarter.
But James spearheaded a superb rally with 16 fourth-quarter points which helped the Lakers sneak into a 101-99 lead with just over a minute remaining.
Yet James’s former Cleveland team-mate Kyrie Irving rescued the Mavs with a clutch three-pointer to put Dallas back ahead 102-101, and then added two late free throws to seal victory.
Irving finished with 28 points while Luka Doncic added 30 for Dallas. James, who missed a last-gasp three-point effort that would have forced overtime, finished with 26 points.
Paul ejected in Suns loss
In Phoenix, Golden State’s Chris Paul was ejected against his former club as the Suns won a roller-coaster battle with the Warriors 123-115.
After trailing by five in the first quarter, the Suns cut loose in the second, outscoring Golden State 37-16 to lay the foundations for victory. Paul was tossed in the closing moments of the first half after a tirade at game official Scott Foster.
Phoenix star Kevin Durant scored 32 points against his former club to set up the win, with Devin Booker adding 25.
Klay Thompson led the Golden State scoring with 23 points, including six three-pointers.
In Florida, meanwhile, the in-form Orlando Magic took down the reigning NBA champion Denver Nuggets 124-119.
Franz Wagner (27) and Paolo Banchero (23) combined for 50 points as Orlando overcame a nine-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to outscore Denver 42-31 in the final frame to seal victory.
Nikola Jokic led the Denver scoring with a 30-point triple double that included 13 rebounds and 12 assists.
In Minneapolis, the Minnesota Timberwolves maintained their recent run of good form with a 112-99 defeat of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Anthony Edwards led Minnesota with 31 points while Karl-Anthony Towns added 23 points with 11 rebounds and three assists.
In Atlanta, Trae Young poured in 43 points for the Hawks in a 147-145 overtime thriller against the Brooklyn Nets.
Mikal Bridges finished with a career-high 45 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Brooklyn, but Young rattled in 14 points in overtime to seal Atlanta’s win.
In San Antonio, the Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard scored 26 points in a triumphant 109-102 return to his former club.
French star Victor Wembanyama led San Antonio’s scorers with 22 points.
The game featured an unusual incident in the second quarter, with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich grabbing a courtside microphone to appeal to Spurs fans to stop booing former player Leonard.
“Excuse me for a second — please stop all the booing, let these guys play, and show a little class,” Popovich barked at the crowd as Leonard lined up a free throw.
“It’s not who we are — knock off the booing.”
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