Celtics fight off short-handed Pelicans late in 104-97 win
BOSTON >> Isaiah Thomas scored 32 points to help the Boston Celtics fend off the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans 104-97 on Wednesday night.
Jae Crowder added 14 points, Avery Bradley finished with 13 points and six rebounds, and the Celtics beat the Pelicans for the fourth straight time.
The fourth quarter featured eight ties before Boston was able to get a key defensive stop in the final minute. The Celtics were then able to close it out at the free-throw line.
Toney Douglas led the Pelicans with 19 points, and Tim Frazier added 18 points and six assists. Six New Orleans players finished in double-figures.
New Orleans played without its five top scorers due to injuries, and had only eight active players.
Boston was playing on three days' rest, but struggled to get separation — despite 23 turnovers by the Pelicans.
No player in New Orleans' starting lineup came in averaging more than 7.6 points. Still the Pelicans were aggressive and knocked down nine 3-pointers, including several to help start runs that got them back in to the game.
The Celtics scored eight straight points the start of the third quarter to increase their lead to 16.
But New Orleans didn't flinch and traded long runs with the Celtics before using an 11-0 spurt to get within three points entering the fourth.
It stayed tight, with the final tie coming at 93 on a jumper by Luke Babbitt with 2:38 minutes remaining.
A minute later, Boston finally broke the stalemate, getting back-to-back baskets by Bradley and Crowder to take a 97-93 lead.
The series that led to Crowder's basket was costly, though, with Marcus Smart getting hit in the face at some point and having to run to the locker room holding a towel over his left eye. He was diagnosed with a slight laceration above the eye and did not return.
Trailing 99-95, New Orleans' Babbitt had a look at a layup, but it was blocked from behind by Amir Johnson.
Pelicans: Nine players were out, including Anthony Davis (left knee), Ryan Anderson (hernia), Tyreke Evans (right knee), Eric Gordon (fractured right ring finger), Jrue Holiday (right orbital wall fracture) and Quincy Pondexter (left knee).
Celtics: Thomas has scored 20 or more points in 17 consecutive games. ...Boston committed just two turnovers in the first.
Pelicans: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
Celtics: Host Milwaukee on Friday.
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