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Tatum scores 34 as Celtics hold off Spurs; Lakers edge Kings

LOS ANGELES (AFP) — Jayson Tatum scored 34 points, including a go-ahead basket with 33.7 seconds remaining on Saturday, Jan. 7, as the Boston Celtics escaped San Antonio with a 121-116 NBA victory over the tenacious Spurs.

Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics shoots a three-point basket against the San Antonio Spurs on January 7, 2023 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. (AFP) 

While the Celtics followed up their dominant victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, the Mavs bounced back with a 127-117 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans with the help of a triple-double from Luka Doncic.

The Celtics improved their league-best record to 28-12 as they finished up a 2-2 road trip — but it looked harder than it needed to be against a rebuilding San Antonio squad.

Jaylen Brown added 29 points, and Malcom Brogdon scored 23 off the bench for the Celtics, who led by 11 midway through the fourth quarter.

The scrappy Spurs — who had 18 points apiece from Zach Collins, Tre Jones and Josh Richardson — tied it up at 116-116 on Richardson’s three-pointer with 37.4 seconds remaining.

Tatum’s step-back basket — off a pass from former Spur Derrick White — restored Boston’s lead, and three Celtics free throws sealed it.

“There’s obviously a lot of stuff tactically we can work on,” said Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, who nevertheless insisted he was happy to see his team work through adversity to get the win.

“We needed a game like this, to where it’s back and forth, things aren’t going our way, they are going our way — you don’t get a lot of those.”

“It’s easier to say that because we won,” he acknowledged. “But I’m happy the game went the way it did because we got to execute some stuff.”

Boston had opened their four-game road-trip with defeats at Denver and Oklahoma City before routing the Mavericks in Dallas on Thursday on the back of Tatum’s second career triple-double.

In Dallas Doncic rebounded from his seven-for-23 shooting performance against Boston with 34 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

The Slovenian star notched his 55th career triple-double and his ninth this season, one behind the league-leading 10 of Denver’s Nikola Jokic.

Center Jonas Valanciunas scored 25 points to lead the Pelicans, who were without injured Zion Williamson and Malcolm Brogdon and resting CJ McCollum.

In Sacramento, LeBron James scored 37 points to lead the Los Angeles Lakers in a dramatic 136-134 victory over the Kings.

Tied at halftime and heading into the fourth quarter, the Lakers pushed their lead to as many as nine midway through the final period.

But they had to fight to the finish for a fifth straight victory.

De’Aaron Fox put the Kings up by two with one minute remaining, but James answered with a three-point play.

It was tied at 134-134 after Fox’s turnaround jump shot with 7.4 seconds remaining, but Dennis Schroder made two free throws to seal it for the Lakers as Fox missed at the buzzer.

Fox scored 17 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter, when James and Thomas Bryant scored 10 apiece for the Lakers. Schroder scored 27 points for Los Angeles and Russell Westbrook added 23.

– Magic down Warriors –

The NBA champion Golden State Warriors, still without injured Stephen Curry and with Klay Thompson sitting out with a sore knee, suffered a rare home defeat, falling 115-101 to the Orlando Magic.

Rookie Paolo Banchero scored 25 points to lead five Magic players in double figures.

Anthony Lamb led Golden State with 26 points off the bench, but the Warriors coughed up 16 turnovers and connected on just 33 of 88 shots from the field — including just 18 of 58 three-point attempts.

Franz Wagner added 24 points for the Magic, who won on Golden State’s home court for the first time since December of 2012.

The Warriors lost back-to-back games at home for the first time this campaign, their fourth defeat at the Chase Center dropping them to 20-20 for the season.

In Chicago, DeMar DeRozan scored 36 points and Zach Lavine added 35 to lead the Bulls to a third straight victory, 126-118 over the Utah Jazz.

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