SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored 34 points, including the tiebreaking jumper with 33 seconds left, Jaylen Brown added 29 and the Boston Celtics beat the San Antonio Spurs 121-116 on Saturday.
Boston maintained the NBA’s best record by winning for the sixth time in eight games.
Tatum was serenaded with “MVP! MVP!” chants late in the first half while attempting a free throw. The All-Star rewarded the Celtics fans in attendance with his highest-scoring game since dropping 38 points against Houston on Dec. 27.
San Antonio had eight players score in double figures, including 18 points each from Josh Richardson, Zach Collins and Tre Jones.
San Antonio never led but remained close throughout despite being without injured starters Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell and Jakob Poeltl.
Richardson and fellow former Celtics player Romeo Langford forged a tie with 37 seconds remaining. Following a layup by Langford with 1:12 left, Richardson drained a 3-pointer that tied the game at 116.
Tatum followed with a step-back 13-footer to put Boston ahead and made the first of two free throws before intentionally missing the second to preserve the victory.
Tatum and Brown combined to make 25 of 52 shots.
Boston was forced to call a timeout four minutes into the third quarter after San Antonio opened the second half on a 13-3 run to close within 71-70. Jones had seven points in the run, including a three-point play after Derrick White was called for goaltending following a foul by Marcus Smart.
Tatum responded by draining an open 3-pointer. San Antonio would again pull within a point at 79-78, but Brown responded with a three-point play.
The Celtics raced to a 13-2 lead as the Spurs missed their first seven shots of the game before Langford drove to the rim for a layup. San Antonio rallied to tie it at 30 on Richardson’s 3-pointer with 53 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Celtics: Boston had dropped two straight in San Antonio, last winning Nov. 9, 2019, at the AT&T Center. … White was honored prior to being announced in the starting lineup. White spent his first 4 1/2 seasons with the Spurs after being drafted 29th in 2017 out of Colorado. San Antonio traded White to Boston on Feb. 10 for Richardson, Langford and a first-round pick they used to select Blake Wesley 25th in 2022.
Spurs: Vassell will undergo arthroscopic left knee surgery Jan. 11 in New York. Coach Gregg Popovich said Vassell will likely not return until after the All-Star Game, which is Feb. 19 in Salt Lake City. … Johnson sat out after suffering a strained left hamstring during the first half of Friday’s victory against Detroit. … Poeltl missed the game with bursitis in his Achilles heel.
Celtics: Host Chicago on Monday.
Spurs: At Memphis on Monday.
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