NBA: Celtics eye season sweep over Magic; James returns as Lakers rally past Knicks in OT

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) dunks in the second half against the Detroit Pistons on Feb 4, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

(REUTERS, AFP) - The Boston Celtics continue to build momentum entering Sunday's (Feb 6) NBA Eastern Conference match-up against the hosts Orlando Magic.

The Celtics own a season-high four-game winning streak and have won eight straight over Orlando. Two of those have come this season - including the Magic's lone overtime game.

Sunday marks the last of three games the teams will play this season.

The Celtics (29-25) are in the midst of a three-game road trip that began with a wire-to-wire 102-93 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Magic will be playing the second game of a back-to-back after Saturday's 135-115 home drubbing at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Memphis star Ja Morant scored 33 points and the Grizzlies led by as many as 31 points. He scored 22 points in the first half and sat out the fourth quarter with the Grizzlies (37-18) well on their way to a fifth National Basketball Association victory in six games.

Jaren Jackson Jr scored 21 points and Steven Adams contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for Memphis, who connected on 50.5 per cent of their shots from the field and out-scored the Magic 68-34 in the paint.

Morant handed out seven assists, and his many highlights of the night included a third-quarter behind-the-back pass to Ziaire Williams, who found De'Anthony Melton for a dunk that put the Grizzlies up by 31.

Cole Anthony scored 17 of his 22 points in the first half for the Magic, who at 12-42 own the worst record in the league but who have beaten four of the top eight seeds in the Western Conference.

Wendell Carter had a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds for the hosts, whose two-game home winning streak was halted.

In another game, LeBron James scored 29 points in his return from a knee injury and the Los Angeles Lakers rallied from a 21-point first-half deficit before beating the visiting New York Knicks 122-115 in overtime.

Malik Monk also had 29 points and Anthony Davis added 28 as the Lakers won for just the second time in their last six games. James added 13 rebounds and 10 assists after missing five games with left knee swelling. Los Angeles (26-28) went 1-4 in those games.

Meanwhile, Bobby Portis scored a season-high 30 points and matched a career best with six three-pointers as the champions Milwaukee trounced host Portland 137-108.

Giannis Antetokounmpo added 29 points, nine rebounds and six assists as the Bucks won for the sixth time in their past eight games. Khris Middleton added 14 points, seven assists and five steals, as Milwaukee (33-21) opened a four-game road trip with an easy victory.

Elsewhere, Deandre Ayton had 20 points and 16 rebounds to lead a balanced attack as visiting Phoenix routed Washington 95-80.

Chris Paul scored 14 points, Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges added 12 apiece, and Devin Booker had 11 for Phoenix, who bounced back after having their 11-game winning streak snapped by the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday.

Phoenix led by as many as 36 points on Saturday and improved to a league-best 42-10.

And Jimmy Butler poured in 27 points and Miami used a tremendous third quarter to flatten hosts Charlotte 104-86.

Boston have won 11 of 15 games since dropping three games below .500 with a loss to the New York Knicks on Jan 6.

Jayson Tatum, now a three-time All-Star after being named an Eastern Conference reserve, said the Celtics have remained confident.

"Frustrated might have been a better word," said Tatum, who scored a game-high 24 points in 28 minutes against the Pistons.

"But doubting ourselves? There was never any doubt in that locker room. Frustration, which was warranted how we were playing and the results, and just frustrated because we knew how much better we could have been and still can be. We've got a lot of confident guys in that locker room."

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