BOSTON (AP) — The reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year showed he can do it on offense, too.
Celtics point guard Marcus Smart had a career-high 15 assists on Monday night, adding 22 points to help Boston beat the Charlotte Hornets 140-105 and give the defending Eastern Conference champions their 13th win in 14 games.
“He’s always brought it defensively,” Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla said. “I have full trust in him diagnosing where the matchup is, where the advantage is, and what can we do to exploit that. And he’s doing a great job anticipating that once he gets the ball.”
Smart said he was seeing the court so well, it was like he had X-ray vision.
“You kind of zone out, and it’s just you out there throwing practice passes. Finding guys in the right spot at the right time,” he said. “Once you’re locked into that, guys … start making plays to get them the ball, and make it even easier for you.”
Jayson Tatum scored 35 to help the Celtics jump to a 27-point, first-quarter lead. Malcolm Brogdon had 21 points, Derrick White scored 15 and Blake Griffin scored a season-high nine points for Boston.
Tatum, Smart and Brogdon all sat out the fourth quarter. It was the ninth straight win at home for the Celtics, who have the best record in the NBA.
“This is a treat. For any NBA player, it’s a treat playing on an NBA team like this,” said Brogdon, who won two playoff series in his first six years in the league. “For me and Blake, we’ve been in situations where a team is not winning, where the team is really struggling and there’s chaos. So definitely I try to encourage the guys to be appreciative of what they have here.”
Jalen McDaniels scored 24 points and Kelly Oubre Jr. had 22 for the Hornets, who lost for the 12th time in 15 games.
The Celtics put this one away in the first quarter.
It was 19-12 when Boston scored 24 of the next 28 points, hitting six straight 3-pointers to pull ahead. Tatum had 16 points in the quarter, Smart had 10 points and eight assists and Brogdon scored 10. Boston shot 73% from the field, making 10 of 15 from 3-point range.
Charlotte missed all six 3-point attempts in the quarter.
Jaylen Brown missed the game with neck stiffness. He scored 36 points in Sunday’s game against the Wizards, which Tatum missed with a sprained left ankle.
Al Horford (lower back stiffness) also missed the game, the second of a back-to-back.
Hornets: Charlotte was without ex-Celtics Gordon Hayward and Terry Rozier.
Celtics: Led by as many as 27 less than 10 minutes into the game. It tied for their second-biggest lead of the season. … Griffin made his third start of the season.
Hornets: Host Washington on Friday.
Celtics: Host the Heat on Wednesday night in the first of two games against Miami in Boston in three days.
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/nba and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports