NBA regular season

Celtics win close game in Eastern showdown with Nets

Celtics win close game in Eastern showdown with Nets

TIGHT. Celtics forward Jayson Tatum looks to drive past Nets guard Seth Curry.

Wendell Cruz/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

The league-leading Celtics pick up their fifth straight win as the Nets start life without Kevin Durant, who is out at least two weeks

Jayson Tatum collected 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists as the Boston Celtics pulled away down the stretch for a 109-98 victory over the Brooklyn Nets in New York Thursday night, January 12 (Friday, January 13, Manila time).

The league-best Celtics won their fifth straight and their ninth in 11 games while playing without Jaylen Brown.

Brown sat out with a strained right adductor and coach Joe Mazzulla said he could miss a week or two.

Without Brown, the Celtics still had enough despite Tatum missing 15 of 22 shots.

Marcus Smart returned from a brief absence due to a knee injury and contributed 16 points and 10 assists. Reserve Malcolm Brogdon added 16 points while Derrick White added 15 as the Celtics shot 47.7% and began surging ahead while Tatum rested early in the fourth.

The Nets played their first game without Kevin Durant, who is out at least two weeks with a sprained right knee, and they struggled to find consistent offense without their star. Last season Durant missed 21 games with a sprained left knee and the Nets lost 16 of those contests.

Kyrie Irving led Brooklyn with 24 points and reserve TJ Warren added 20. Joe Harris started for Durant and contributed 18 but the Nets shot 6-of-19 in the fourth and 45.2% for the game as they lost for the second time in their past 16 games.

Harris scored 10 points as the Nets shot 54.2% and held a 31-29 lead through the opening quarter. Brooklyn took a 52-45 lead on a basket by Warren, but the Celtics ended the half with a 15-5 run over the final 3:09 for a 60-57 lead by halftime.

A competitive third quarter ended with the Celtics holding an 84-82 lead on Payton Pritchard’s layup with 4.2 seconds left.

Consecutive hoops by Pritchard and a basket by Brogdon opened a 92-84 lead with 9:44 remaining. Smart’s 12-footer gave Boston its first double-digit lead at 94-84 with 7:36 left.

Tatum converted a three-point play for a 104-91 edge with 2:43 remaining.

Irving’s layup cut it to 104-96 with 1:37 remaining but White drained a three-pointer on the next possession to ice it. –

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