BOSTON — The fourth quarter rolled around and the Boston Celtics’ core players spent most of their time in an unfamiliar spot - on the bench.
The Celtics made quick work of the injury-riddled New Orleans Pelicans, building a double-digit lead in the first quarter that only grew stronger as the night progressed before finally ending with a 140-105 blowout win.
For Boston (26-11), the victory snapped a season-long losing streak of three games.
So it only made sense for the Celtics to be uber-motivated to get back on the winning side of things, an effort aided by the short-handed Pelicans who came into the game having won seven of their previous nine games.
JAYSON TATUM SHINES
Tatum lit up the Pelicans all game, scoring 22 of his career-high 41 points in the first half as the Celtics took control of the game.
Celtics fans had to love how Tatum gave the game a little bit of everything at both ends of the floor. There were the usual 3-pointers and drives, complimented with finishes at the rim. But there were also baskets that came off rebounds that led to fast-break points or assists for Tatum, in addition to forcing turnovers that were converted into easy scores.
It was as complete a game as we’ve seen from Tatum, the kind of game that reminds us all why he has been talked about so prominently this year as a potential first-time All-Star. In addition to his scoring, Tatum had six rebounds, four assists and three steals.
DEFENSE TO OFFENSE
The Celtics set season-highs in a number of areas offensively, which speaks to how well they shot the ball. But many of those shots came in transition following turnovers or good defense.
That, more than anything else, is what triggered Boston’s strong play against the Pelicans.
Effort has become a topic of discussion about the Celtics of late. Brad Stevens and players alike have been candid about the team not playing with the kind of consistent effort needed to be successful. They got that, and then some, on Saturday in one of the most dominant wins of the season.
KANTER CLEANS UP ON THE BOARDS
The New Orleans Pelicans have struggled defending the paint most of this season. And Enes Kanter, the savvy veteran that he is, took advantage all night. He finished with a potent double-double of 22 points and 19 rebounds, doing so in just 23 minutes of court time.
Kanter was that efficient, that dominant, that impactful in a game that swayed in Boston’s favor early.
Of course, the Pelicans were undermanned on many fronts. But for Kanter and the Celtics, that didn’t matter. We’ve seen them play injury-riddled teams and struggle. That was not the case on Saturday night, a night in which the Celtics played as well as we’ve seen them against any team this season.
Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Bulls-Celtics, which tips off Monday at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Scal have the call at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.