Tatum scores 35 points and Celtics ride 3rd-quarter rally to beat Wizards 133-129 for 40th win

BOSTON (AP) — Jayson Tatum scored 35 points and sparked a third-quarter rally to help the NBA-leading Boston Celtics get their 40th win of the season, 133-129 over the Washington Wizards on Friday night.

Kristaps Porzingis added 34 points and 11 rebounds, and Jrue Holiday finished with 20 points for the Celtics (40-12), who reached 40 victories the fastest in a season since the 2008-09 squad did it in 49 games. It was Tatum’s 20th game this season in which he scored 30 or more points.

“We are working on playing very intentional basketball,” said Jaylen Brown, who had 18 points. “It’s a full journey in a season. It’s going to be highs and lows. It’s going to be games where shots are not going in and through at all. We’ve got to stick together. And that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Deni Avdija had 24 points and 11 rebounds, and Corey Kispert also scored 24 for the Wizards, who have lost five straight. Bilal Coulibaly finished with 21 points.

The Wizards stayed in it for most of the night, going 20 of 47 from the 3-point line. Washington led by as many as eight in the third quarter and closed within 131-127 in the final minute. But Boston was able to close it out at the foul line.

Boston has been prone to lulls at times this season, but coach Joe Mazzulla dismissed the notion his team is falling into bad habits.

“I don’t think they’re bad habits. I do think there have been some moments of slippage throughout games,” Mazzulla said. “What I care about more is our approach to those slippages.”

The response Friday was to play one of the best third quarters of the season.

Trailing by six at the half, Boston opened the third period on a 15-8 run and regained the lead at 79-78 with a 3 by Porzingis. The flurry included a driving one-handed dunk by Tatum over Kyle Kuzma.

They were two of Tatum’s 13 points in the quarter as the Celtics outscored the Wizards 36-16, held Washington to 7-of-22 shooting from the field and forced six turnovers to take a 100-87 lead into the fourth.

“We knew they were going to try to come out in the third quarter and get physical with us and affect us a little bit,” Wizards interim coach Brian Keefe said. “We battled back and that’s part of the growth for us, that resiliency. … We end up winning three of the four quarters. Just a tough third.”

It erased what started out as a promising night for the Wizards.

Washington led 71-64 at halftime, getting 19 points from Poole and 26 fast-break points against the NBA’s top-rated defense. Boston entered the night allowing opponents only 13.6 fast break points per game.

Poole’s burst came just a game after he was held scoreless for the first time since 2021.

The Celtics went 4 for 19 from 3-point range in the half. They shot just 11 of 24 from the field in the second quarter, with seven of their 13 missed field goals coming inside the paint.

UP NEXT

Wizards: Host the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.

Celtics: At the Miami Heat on Sunday.

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