Brown, Tatum carry Celtics past Cavs for 5th straight win
BOSTON (AP) The Boston Celtics have quite a young pair of stars developing in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
Brown matched his career high with 34 points, Tatum had 24 of his 30 points in the opening half and the Celtics cruised to their fifth straight victory, 129-117 over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.
“They both have been able to do a lot and have consistently grown and gotten better,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “But I don’t think we saw anything today that we haven’t seen out of both those guys in the last couple weeks, the last couple months. They’ve been playing well, and they obviously are playing confidently and feel good.”
Brown posted the first consecutive 30-point games of his career. He had 30 in a Christmas Day win at Toronto. He also scored 34 points in a playoff loss at Milwaukee on April 22, 2018.
“I think that the both of us together, it’s hard to scheme and stop us both,” Brown said. “We just come out and try to be aggressive. Days like today they couldn’t stop either of us.”
Enes Kanter added 14 points and Kemba Walker had 13 for Boston, which improved to 13-1 at home.
Kevin Love equaled his season high with 30 points and had seven rebounds for the Cavaliers, who had won their last three games and four of six. Collin Sexton added 21 points.
“Every time I watch Boston, I’m very envious of what they have out there, and remind myself they were much like us five years ago,” Cleveland coach John Beilein said. “They just have so many, four guys out there that are explosive, can score at any time.”
The Celtics only trailed in the opening minutes and led 62-47 at halftime.
Boston closed the first quarter by scoring the final seven points, taking a 33-22 lead into the break after Tatum’s 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds left.
The Celtics then had a 10-0 spree midway through the second, turning a 12-point lead to 48-26 on Tatum’s step-back 3 from the right wing.
“Yeah, you see progression from both of those guys, and they’re going to continue to get better because they’re so young and hungry to get better,” Love said of Boston’s emerging pair.
After intermission, Boston maintained a double-digit lead for the entire third quarter, building it to 84-62 on Kanter’s layup midway in before Love helped the Cavs slice it to 92-81 after three.
Cleveland finally got its deficit into single digits early in the fourth, but Boston put it away when Brown nailed consecutive 3s from the left wing 25 seconds apart that made it 108-90 with just over seven minutes to play.
Cavaliers: Guard Dante Exum, acquired with two second round-picks from Utah for guard Jordan Clarkson, made his debut with Cleveland. He wore No. 1 and scored nine points in 15 minutes. “Obviously trying to learn a new system in two days is tough,” he said. … Sexton has scored at least 20 points in five of the last seven games. … Cleveland came in averaging 111.9 points per game in its last seven.
Celtics: Marcus Smart missed his eighth straight game with an eye infection. Stevens said before the game that Smart hasn’t been ruled out for Saturday yet. … Gordon Hayward tied his career high with 39 points in Cleveland on Nov. 5. On Friday, he had seven points and eight assists in his second game back after missing three with a sore left foot.
Tatum went 9 of 13 from the floor and connected on 4 of 6 from 3-point range in the opening half.
The Celtics improved to 3-0 against the Cavaliers this season. The teams’ final regular-season meeting is March 4 in Cleveland.
Cavaliers: At the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night in their second of a three-game trip.
Celtics: Host the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night.
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