NEW YORK (AFP) – Boston’s Jayson Tatum scored 41 points to power the NBA-best Celtics over Milwaukee, 139-118, on Sunday in a Christmas showdown of the league’s two top teams.
Warriors 123, Grizzlies 109
76ers 119, Knicks 112
Mavericks 124, Lakers 115
Celtics 139, Bucks 118
Nuggets 128, Suns 125 (OT)
Jaylen Brown added 29 points for the Celtics, who improved to 24-10 and stretched their Eastern Conference lead over the Bucks, who fell to 22-11 but still own the NBA’s second-best record.
“They are one of the best teams in the league and it’s always special to play on Christmas,” Tatum said. “We just wanted to give our fans a present today and come out of here with a victory.”
Tatum connected on 14-of-22 shots from the floor and added seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.
He scored 20 points in the third quarter of 7-of-10 shooting as the Celtics boosted their 62-61 halftime lead to 100-86 entering the fourth quarter.
“We wanted to come out in the second half, especially at the start of that third quarter, with some pace and some energy,” Tatum said.
His effort was bolstered by points from all 11 other players who took the court for Boston, notably Brown, whose 11-of-19 shooting effort included 5-of-9 from 3-point range.
“He was aggressive. He came up big when we needed him most, especially at the beginning of the fourth,” Tatum said. “We always believe in him.”
Tatum delivered the most spectacular hoop of the game with a slam dunk over Milwaukee star big man Giannis Antetokounmpo, who finished with 27 points and nine rebounds but no blocked shots.
“You’ve got to attack the rim,” Tatum said. “If you go in there and lay it up, he’s going to send it to the parking lot.”
Reigning NBA champion Golden State, missing top scorer Stephen Curry for at least two more weeks with a shoulder injury, defeated Western Conference co-leader Memphis, 123-109.
Jordan Poole scored 32 points to lead Golden State before getting his second technical foul and being ejected with 9:20 remaining and the Warriors leading 106-89.
Golden State, which incurred six technical fouls in all, improved to 13-2 at home and 16-18 overall.
Ja Morant had 36 points, seven rebounds and eight assists to lead the Grizzlies, who fell to 20-12. He shot 15-of-29 from the floor but only 2-of-10 from 3-point range.
Klay Thompson added 24 points for the Warriors while Draymond Green had season highs of 13 rebounds and 13 assists with only three points.
Denver (20-11) will have sole possession of the West lead with a home victory later over Phoenix.