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Despite 38 points from McCollum, Pelicans fall 125-114 to Celtics

Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum combined for 72 points

New Orleans Pelicans v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

For the second time this season, the Celtics showed New Orleans fans why they should be regarded as the best team in the league.

The Pelicans fell 125-114 in Boston and it wasn’t for a lack of effort. They were right there for 2.5 quarters. But then the Celtics’ talent started showing their superiority, with Jaylen Brown leading the charge.

Brown scored 18 of his 41 points in the third quarter to push Boston to a comfortable double-digit lead by the end of the frame.

The Pelicans were not able to make a run in the fourth, falling behind by 19 points with a little less than three minutes remaining.

“They’re a good team,” Willie Green said. “No doubt about it. They’re well-coached, they’re disciplined. They have multiple guys that can get them into sets, that can run the offense, that can attack you. They do a great job of penetrating and kicking the ball out for catch-and-shoot 3s. If they don’t have it, they swing it and just keep doing it over and over again until they get a good look.”

Once again, the Celtics came out firing from 3-point range, with Al Horford sinking three triples in the first quarter. However, New Orleans did go on to out-make Boston from the 3-point line by one in the first half because CJ McCollum couldn’t miss.

The starting point guard sank six of seven 3s and scored 22 points to keep the Pelicans in striking range at halftime.

“He’s a pro,” Green said. “He’s always ready. Even when he started the season a little slow, he got himself going. It’s incredible to see how consistent he is and his efficiency on the floor.”

The Celtics did a better job of denying McCollum the ball in the second half, often doubling him too, but he still finished with 38 points on 15 of 24 shooting.

Naji Marshall chipped in 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists, Trey Murphy had 15 points and Jonas Valanciunas scored 13.

The Pelicans could have used another dominant performance because in addition to Brown’s 41 points, Jayson Tatum tallied 31 points. Both of Boston’s stars also finished with double-digit rebounding performances.

Having Brandon Ingram or Zion Williamson should alleviate those type of concerns in the future, but the absence of Herb Jones was just as important. The offense wasn’t as glaring of a problem as some indicated on social media.

A few more trips to the free throw line or additional 3-point attempts would have helped, but the Pelicans shot the ball well overall, as evidenced by the 51.7 field goal percentage. Additionally, the team committed only nine turnovers.

That type of performance should net a win most nights because the Pelicans pride themselves on playing stout defensively. However, Dyson Daniels, Naji Marshall and everyone else who drew the tough assignments on Brown and Tatum were unable to slow down the Boston star duo.

Up next, the Pelicans will battle the Pistons in Detroit on Friday. Despite their 8-12 road record, they are 5-2 against sub-.500 opponents away from the Smoothie King Center. So, there’s a good chance to quickly get back in the win column.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.