Wednesday, February 8 2023
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It was billed as a match-up of conference-leading clubs, yet by halftime it was evident that once the day’s action was over it would be a meeting of 1 versus 2 in more ways than one.

The visiting Boston Celtics jumped out to a 31-21 lead after the first quarter and then they poured it on the second quarter, extending the advantage to 69-42 at the half. The 27-point difference was both the largest lead and deficit both teams had going into intermission this season. The Phoenix Suns were ice cold from the field in the first half, converting only one of 16 3s. Starting the third quarter, the only real question felt like where the final margin of victory would land.

Boston used a balance attack, and got 25 points from both Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who sat for a good chunk of the fourth quarter given the lopsided score. Wednesday’s game was the 21st time this season that Tatum has scored at least 25 points. He’s fourth in the NBA in scoring with 30.5 points per game.

At one point in the second half, the Celtics grew their lead to 45 points before securing the 125-98 victory. This was Phoenix’s largest regular-season home loss with Chris Paul, who played 20 minutes after being sidelined for a month with a sore right heel. Devin Booker’s plus/minus of -40 is tied for the worst in a game this season. The Suns’ only larger home loss with Paul in the lineup was their 33-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of last season’s Western Conference semifinals.

And in losing the game, the New Orleans Pelicans (16-8), who earlier in the night topped the visiting Detroit Pistons, 104-98, moved into sole possession of first place in the West. This is the latest the Pelicans have been the top team in their conference since April 2008, back when the franchise that played in New Orleans was known as the Hornets. Zion Williamson led all scorers with 29 points on an 11-for-16 shooting night, in which every attempt came within three feet of the cup.

Expect the leader in the West to bounce around as both the Suns and Memphis Grizzlies (16-9) trail the Pelicans by only half a game. Boston, by comparison, has a commanding two-game lead on the second place Milwaukee Bucks. The Celtics’ road trip continues Saturday night in San Francisco, where they’ll put the league’s only undefeated mark against the Western Conference (7-0) on the line in their first meeting with the Golden State Warriors since losing last season’s NBA Finals.



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