NEW ORLEANS – Isaiah Thomas didn’t try to do more than the Boston Celtics needed him to against the New Orleans Pelicans, even though it looked as though the prolific point guard could have had a much bigger night.
“I should have shot more,” he deadpanned when asked about making eight of his first nine shots, including three 3-pointers. “No, it’s just the ball was going in the basket. I was in the right position in the offence. Teammates found me.”
Thomas scored 22 points, Kelly Olynyk added 21 in a reserve role, and Boston beat struggling New Orleans 111-93 on Monday.
Jae Crowder scored 17 for Boston, while Jared Sullinger tied a career high with 20 rebounds to go with 11 points.
“I think the basketball gods just kind of said, ‘Hey, you’re not going to make a lot of shots. Just do something else,'” Sullinger said. “The ball just kind of found my hand on the rebounds.”
Seemingly out of rhythm after early foul trouble, Pelicans forward Anthony Davis was 8-of-21 shooting and finished with 16 points and three blocks. Ryan Anderson scored 18 for the Pelicans, but New Orleans’ starting backcourt struggled. Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon were held scoreless and wound up playing limited minutes. Reserve guard Jrue Holiday had 14 points for the Pelicans.
“They played a lot harder than we did,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “They competed and they played together and moved the basketball and we didn’t. When you don’t against a team like that, you get your (butt) kicked at home.”
“We have to do a much, much better job if we even want to be a competitive team,” he added. “I’m very disappointed.”
Avery Bradley, who started despite missing a morning shootaround with an illness, scored 11 points for the Celtics. They hit 12 3-pointers, with Thomas making all four he attempted and Bradley going 3 of 5.
New Orleans led for much of the first half, but the Celtics went on a 13-2 run to close the second quarter, with Thomas hitting two 3s and a 13-foot jumper during the surge, which put Boston up 53-44 at halftime.
The Celtics widened their lead in the third quarter, hitting four of the first six 3s they attempted in the period. Bradley made one as he was fouled by Gordon for a four-point play that gave Boston a 59-49 lead. Amir Johnson’s short hook made it 75-55 with less than 5 minutes to go in the period.
New Orleans was able to whittle its deficit down to 10 on Dante Cunningham’s driving finger roll with 11:07 left, but Boston responded with a 12-4 run during which Crowder hit a 3 and Olynyk was fouled on a 3, making all three free throws. The Pelicans never threatened again, falling behind by as many as 22.
Thomas’ eyes widened when he was asked to comment on how he and Bradley outscored the Pelicans’ starting guards 33-0.
“That’s very dominant. I didn’t know that,” Thomas said. “We played a pretty good game, I guess.”
Evans, who committed five turnovers, said he struggled because he failed to find the right balance between the type of ball movement his coach wants and using his individual strengths as a ballhandler driving toward the basket.
“Coach told me to swing the ball so my mindset was just trying to get guys involved instead of just seeing what the defence was giving me, playing my game, attacking,” Evans said. “It’s a bad game all around for us. We didn’t match their energy.”
Celtics: Boston completed a 3-2 road trip. Bradley has made 14 of 24 3-pointers during his last four games. Boston outscored New Orleans 48-36 in the paint, going 24 of 38 inside while New Orleans went 18 of 44.
Pelicans: Reserve centre Kendrick Perkins, who hasn’t played since injuring his right pectoral muscle in the third game of the season, said in the locker room he is hoping to return as soon as this Friday. Evans was called for a technical foul late in the second quarter. The Pelicans have held opponents under 100 points only twice this season. New Orleans (5-16) fell to 4-6 at home, where they play once more before heading out for five straight on the road.