Celtics seek to end slump when Pelicans visit

The Boston Celtics look to snap out of their worst funk of the season when they host the surging New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday night.

The Celtics had a losing streak reach three games for the first time when they fell 109-98 to the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday. Boston has dropped each of its last two games by double-digit margins, including a 15-point loss to the San Antonio Spurs its last time at home.

The Pelicans, meanwhile, are in the midst of their most successful run of the season, having won eight of their last 11 games since a 13-game losing streak. New Orleans extended its run with a 123-111 victory over the Knicks in New York on Friday.

The meeting is the first of two between the Celtics and Pelicans this season; Boston will travel to New Orleans for a rematch Jan. 26. The Celtics have won seven of the last 10 meetings between the clubs.

Boston has been in a funk of late, falling behind early in a handful of recent contests and coming up short on chances to rally. The opposite was the case Thursday, though, when the Celtics held a 55-48 lead at halftime and 80-77 edge through three before getting outscored 32-18 in the fourth quarter.

«They outplayed us in the second half, they clearly just wanted it more,» said guard Kemba Walker, who led the Celtics with 26 points despite spraining his left thumb midgame. «We had a good start, but we didn’t maintain our play until things just started going against us. We have to learn to close games out better and be more consistent.»

The last time the Celtics had a losing streak reach four games was March 18-24, 2019. During last season, rumors of negativity in the locker room were more prevalent during such skids; this season, the team is trying to stay positive in the face of adversity.

«You can’t be negative and walk around with our heads down because it’s only going to continue to be a domino effect,» said guard Marcus Smart. «We’ve gotta change the narrative ourselves.»

The Pelicans have certainly changed the narrative on their season with their recent run of success. Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram — the key returns in the Anthony Davis trade — have been on fire of late, and No. 1 pick Zion Williamson is dazzling during pregame warmups as he nears his NBA regular-season debut after preseason knee surgery.

«He’s making progress,» said Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry of the 19-year-old phenom. «He’s practicing. He’s playing five-on-five. We’re trying to gauge exactly when it would be a good situation to put him out there. Even when we do, it’ll be very limited minutes to start.»

Against the Knicks, Ingram scored 28 points and Ball chipped in 11 assists. Either Ingram or Ball have led the team in scoring in the last eight contests.

«It was a good team win,» Gentry said after the game Friday. «We had guys come in and contribute, and when we needed to close the game, I thought Brandon did a great job.»

New Orleans is 5-2 this season in the second night of a back-to-back.

–Field Level Media