BOSTON – Jayson Tatum didn’t want to smile. But sometimes the moment calls for it.
The Celtics were trailing 124-123 in the final minute of overtime in their back-and-forth slugfest with the Clippers and Tatum found himself defended by Landry Shamet and Montrezl Harrell. Tatum hesitated, sidestepped Shamet, then spun around Harrell for a layup. As the crowd cheered around him, Tatum led out a loud yell, flexing his arms.
The play didn’t win the game and gave Tatum just two of the 39 points he scored in Boston’s thrilling 141-133 double-overtime win on Thursday night. But it’s the latest sign that the first-time All-Star is getting more comfortable as a go-to player.
“I did get a little excited,” Tatum said. “I try to be as calm as I can and try to keep a poker face and move on to the next play. But basketball is a game of emotions and the crowd was into it.”
Marcus Smart added 31 points and Gordon Hayward finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Kemba Walker had 19 points and nine rebounds. Tatum and Smart combined for 16 of the Celtics’ 27 points in the overtime periods.
Boston has won seven straight at home and eight of its last nine overall.
The Clippers played most of the game without Paul George, who left in the second quarter with a left hamstring strain. Lou Williams led Los Angeles with 35 points. Kawhi Leonard had 28 points and 11 rebounds, and Harrell finished with 24 points and 13 boards.
George played 15 minutes, scoring four points on 2-of-7 shooting before heading to the locker room.
The first meeting between the teams on Nov. 20 was also decided in overtime. The Clippers held on for a 107-104 win.
The Celtics took a 134-130 lead in the second OT on a driving layup by Smart and another by Tatum.
Harrell got a dunk on Los Angeles’ next trip up the floor. But Hayward responded with a 3 to increase Boston’s lead to 137-132.
Tatum was called for an offensive foul, but Hayward blocked a runner by Williams off his body to force the turnover with 55 seconds left.
Hayward hit four free throws in the final minute to help close it out.
The All-Star break comes at a perfect time for both teams as they try to get healthy.
Clippers guard Patrick Beverley missed his fourth straight game with a sore right groin. The Celtics played without Jaylen Brown, who has a left calf contusion.
Smart started in place of Brown and scored Boston’s first 10 points, digging them out of an early 7-0 deficit. Smart and Tatum combined for 24 of the Celtics’ 30 first-quarter points. It helped offset a 15-point opening period by Leonard.
Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers said he likes his team’s position heading into the break.
“We’re good,” Rivers said. “We’ve had a first half of the season where basically we’ve had more starting lineups than anybody in the league. Our record’s pretty solid. We gotta get healthy. That’s the key for us. We gotta get healthy.”
Thunder 123, Pelicans 118
In New Orleans, Danilo Gallinari scored 29 points and Chris Paul had 14 points and 12 assists as Oklahoma City defeated the hosts.
Zion Williamson scored 32 points for the Pelicans, his second straight game scoring more than 30, but Gallinari’s clutch shooting — he had 11 points in the fourth quarter — kept the hosts at bay.
New Orleans, which trailed by as many as 13 points in the third quarter, rallied behind Williamson’s dominant inside play to take several slim leads inside the final six minutes.
But after Lonzo Ball’s corner 3 gave the Pelicans a 111-110 lead, Gallinari hit a fall-away jumper in the paint and followed up by rattling in a 3. He added free throws and a left-wing pull-up shot in the final minutes, the last making it 121-115 with a half-minute left.
Dennis Schroder scored 22 points for Oklahoma City and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander added 17 points. Thunder center Steven Adams capped his 11-point, 11-rebound, three-block night with a clutch jumper in the paint that made it 119-114.
JJ Redick scored 24 points for the Pelicans.