LOS ANGELES: Jayson Tatum scored 31 points as the Boston Celtics put the depleted Brooklyn Nets firmly in their place with a brutal 139-96 mauling on Wednesday.
The heavyweight clash between the two Eastern Conference rivals ended with the Nets reeling on the ropes as the Celtics laid down a marker with an emphatic wire-to-wire victory at the TD Garden.
Boston dominated from the outset, running up a remarkable 46 points in the first quarter alone, with Tatum contributing 18 points.
By halftime, the Celtics had raced into a 34-point lead against a Brooklyn side still missing the injured Kevin Durant.
Tatum’s 31-point haul included seven three-pointers from 12-of-19 shooting while Jaylen Brown provided scoring support with 26 points.
Six Boston players finished in double figures after a lopsided rout.
Kyrie Irving led the Brooklyn Nets scoring with 20 points.
“A couple of days off did us good, we felt refreshed,” Boston star Tatum said afterwards. “We have depth and a next-man-up mentality.”
Tatum reserved special praise for Robert Williams III, who finished with 16 points and nine rebounds.
“On any given night, Rob might be the most important guy to our long-term success,” Tatum said.
“To get to where we want to get to, we need Rob on the floor and we need him healthy.”
Elsewhere, the Philadelphia 76ers bounced back from their upset loss to the Orlando Magic on Monday with a comprehensive 105-94 defeat of the Florida club.
The Sixers had been on a roll heading into Monday’s game with seven straight wins, but somehow squandered a 21-point advantage to crash 119-109.
A scheduling quirk meant the Sixers did not have to wait long to avenge that loss, and Philadelphia duly seized the opportunity on Wednesday.
A reinvigorated Sixers side turned the tables with a convincing victory thanks to 28 points from Joel Embiid and 26 points from James Harden.
Harden narrowly missed out on a triple double, finishing with nine rebounds and 10 assists, with a points tally that included six three-pointers.
Markelle Fultz topped the Magic scoring with 18 points.
In Memphis, the prolific Damian Lillard poured in 42 points for a second straight game as the Portland Trail Blazers downed the Grizzlies 122-112.
Lillard, who also had 10 assists and eight rebounds, is now tied with Shaquille O’Neal in 19th place on the rankings of players with the most 40-point games in NBA history.
Lillard, who also scored 42 points in a win over Atlanta on Monday, now has 49 40-point games.
The Blazers talisman chipped in with nine points in the final quarter while Anfernee Simons dropped in 14 as Portland outscored Memphis 38-22 in the fourth to claim victory.
Ja Morant finished with 32 points for Memphis, who at one stage led by 12 points before Portland clawed their way back into the contest.
“We were down, and they’re a great team, but we’re a team that’s dealt with a lot this season and we feel like we felt the bottom,” Lillard said.
“And the one thing we do have is our togetherness. We’ve learned to fight our way out of things and I think we’ve learned to fight out of a tough place.
“We were put in a position with our back against the wall tonight and we responded the way real connected teams do.”
Lillard led Portland’s scoring while Simons finished with 26 points and Jerami Grant 18.
Portland improved to 25-26 with the win, putting them just outside the play-in positions in 11th place in the Western Conference.
In Minneapolis, meanwhile, the Minnesota Timberwolves avenged their biggest defeat of the season with a 119-114 overtime victory against the Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors had thumped the Timberwolves 137-114 in November but found the going harder on Wednesday.
Although Stephen Curry bagged 29 points for Golden State, Minnesota ground out victory thanks to big contributions from D’Angelo Russell (29 points), Anthony Edwards (27) and Naz Reid (24).