The Charlotte Hornets overcame a 45-point display from Jayson Tatum to end Boston’s six-game winning streak in an overtime NBA thriller on Monday.
The Celtics arrived in Charlotte as the hottest team in the league after surging to the top of the Eastern Conference with an 11-2 record.
Joe Mazzulla’s side looked to be cruising towards a seventh straight victory after opening up an 18-point lead midway through the second quarter before taking an 11-point lead into halftime.
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But a resurgent Charlotte side hit back in the final two quarters, outscoring Boston 54-43 in the second half to send a pulsating clash into overtime.
Miles Bridges then drained a 25-foot three-pointer to put Charlotte 119-116 up with seven seconds remaining.
Tatum earned three free-throws with five seconds left, but after sinking the first two, he missed the third which would have tied the game, before Gordon Hayward made two free throws for Charlotte to seal victory.
“We just played physical,” Bridges said after the Hornets win. “We know they’re the best team in the league so we knew we’d have to play physical to give us a chance.
“It feels like this could be the start of something for us,” added Bridges after what was only Charlotte’s fourth win of the season.
Bridges finished with 14 points while point guard LaMelo Ball led the Charlotte scoring with 36, including five three-pointers from 11 attempts. Hayward added 20 points while Mark Williams had 18.
Tatum’s 45-point haul included seven three-pointers and came from 15-of-28 shooting from the field, with 13 rebounds and six assists. It was his eighth game with 40+ points and 10+ rebounds, now the second-most Celtics franchise history behind LAary Bird.
Kristaps Porzingis added 17 for the Celtics, who remain top of the Eastern Conference at 11-3.
GIANNIS EXPLODES AGAIN
Elsewhere, Giannis Antetokounmpo delivered another monster performance, scoring 42 points as the Milwaukee Bucks blew out the Washington Wizards on the road, winning 142-129.
Antetokounmpo shot 20 of 23 from the field and finished with 13 rebounds and eight assists in a virtuoso individual display which came after a 40-point performance in Saturday’s win over Dallas.
His 87 percent shooting made him the first NBA player since Dominique Wilkins in 1990 for Atlanta to shoot at least 86 percent on at least 20 attempts, per Basketball Reference.
Antetokounmpo has averaged 29.9 points per game in November. Damian Lillard added 22 points for Milwaukee, while Khris Middleton finished with 18. Six Milwaukee players posted double-digit points totals.
Bucks coach Dr Adrian Griffin said: “(Giannis) literally is unstoppable. You couple him with other special talent that we have. It really frees him up to do what he does best.
“You’re gonna have to send multiple bodies at him, and that’s going to leaves some really good shooters open. He was in his rhythm tonight. He’s unstoppable. You can’t stop him.”
JOKIC, MALONE EJECTED
In other games on Monday, the Denver Nuggets overcame the ejection of two-time Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic and head coach Michael Malone to dig out a 107-103 road win over the Detroit Pistons.
Jokic was tossed in the first half after giving up two technical fouls for disputing calls on separate incidents.
Malone was ejected after arguing a call late in the first quarter. With Jokic playing no part in the second half, it was left to Reggie Jackson to help shepherd the NBA champions to victory.
Jackson led the Nuggets scoring with 21 points while Kentavious Caldwell-Pope added 20 points.
WEMBY’S SPURS LOSE AGAIN
In Texas meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs slumped to a ninth straight loss in a 124-99 defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The defeat leaves San Antonio bottom of the Western Conference. French No. 1 draft pick Victor Wembanyama was restricted to nine points, with Keldon Johnson leading San Antonio’s scoring with 22.
Paul George’s 28-point display helped the Clippers bag their second straight win.
PELS FLYING HIGH
Elsewhere, the Pelicans continue to prove they’re a real team on the rise with a 129-93 win over the Sacramento Kings.
Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram are beginning to gel and combined for 57 points, while Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points, 13 boards and seven rebounds. Herb Jones added 18 points.
The Pelicans trailed at the first break but ran riot in the second and third quarters to cruise to victory.
Harrison Barnes led the Kings with just 14 points while Domantas Sabonis had 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.