The game may have been too close for Boston's comfort, but the Celtics were able to put away New Orleans 104-97 Wednesday night at the TD Ameritrade Garden.
Everyone walked out of the Boston Garden a winner: the Celtics didn't suffer the shame of losing to the injury-ridden Pelicans, and they kept their half-game lead over Miami for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference. The Pelicans, meanwhile, continue to do the best we could hope for with the players available: show a little heart but not at the expense of their lottery odds.
For a moment there, it looked like New Orleans was going to mess this up for everybody. A Luke Babbitt jumper tied the game at 93 with 2:38 remaining. Fortunately (I mean this is what we want right?) Boston closed the game on an 11-4 run. Celtics 104, Pelicans 97. Mission reluctantly accomplished.
Tonight New Orleans rolled out their 40th different starting lineup. I didn't get a math degree from LSU, but 40 different lineups in 78 games sounds...problematic to say the least. Tonight's starting five of Dante Cunningham, James Ennis, Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca and Toney Douglas combined for a total plus/minus of -60.
Toney Douglas led all Pelican players with 19 points and added seven rebounds. His -5 plus/minus number was also the best among all starters so congrats, I guess. Having the the best plus/minus be a -5 is like graduating as the top of your class but with like a 1.5 GPA. I mean yeah, you can brag about it but come on now.
The Pelicans' newfound theme of "guys you've never heard of are inexplicably playing well together" continued Wednesday night. Tim Frazier did not start but logged a team-high 34 minutes. In that time, Frazier scored 18 points (on 7-14 shooting no less), handed out six assists and collected five rebounds. But Frazier twisted his ankle toward the end of the game and knowing this team's luck with injury, I'm fulling expecting him to have it amputated like that time they had to cut off Hershel's leg in The Walking Dead.
Frazier wasn't the only bench player to shine in Wednesday's defeat. Babbitt scored 16 points and knocked down a pair of three-point shots, and Jordan Hamilton scored 14. Really the bench as a whole outplayed the Pelican starters: the aforementioned trio plus Kendrick Perkins scored 51 of the 97 points and grabbed 23 of the 49 rebounds. Hell, New Orleans was +25 with their bench players on the floor and Perkins, of all people, had the highest number of the night (+14).
Not that we want them to, but for these New Orleans Pelicans to win games they'll have to do what they did tonight: ugly up games. The Pelicans turned it over 22 times and committed 28 fouls, yes. But they also held Boston to shoot 41 percent from the floor and 29 percent from three. Yes Boston was coming off a road trip to the West coast, but they last played three nights ago so jetlag shouldn't be an excuse.
Ultimately the scoreboard does in fact matter and Boston came out on top tonight. And they can thank their star point guard, Isaiah Thomas for that. Thomas scored a game high 32 points in 33 minutes and handed out eight assists to his Boston teammates. With his efforts, Thomas extended his streak of scoring 20 or more points to 17 consecutive games.
Up next, the Pelicans return home to New Orleans to play the Lakers on Friday. Some old guy is playing his last game in the Crescent City that night or something.