BOSTON — Jared Sullinger might not recognize his teammates when he looks around the locker room every day. But the forward knows what his job is when he walks out onto the floor.
Sullinger won a personal battle with New Orleans star Anthony Davis and powered the in-flux Boston Celtics to a 108-100 victory over the Pelicans on Monday night.
On the night they officially traded away their leading scorer, Jeff Green, on the heels of other moves that also saw Rajon Rondo shipped out, Sullinger was a major factor in his team’s third win in the last 12 games.
“I thought today’s a good example of his versatility,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens, noting he needs the bulky Sullinger inside and out, said after Sullinger finished with 27 points and 10 rebounds. “I thought he did a lot of good things tonight. The post scores helped us, the three-point play (with 7:19 left) was huge, and I thought the three at the top of the key was big, too.”
Davis scored 13 points and grabbed three rebounds in the fourth quarter. Sullinger also had 13 points, grabbing five boards, but he scored eight in a row for his team when the Celtics fell behind by six points with 7:33 left.
“You just have to find a way to stop him,” Sullinger said. “You know you’re not going to consistently stop him every single time but just trying to make him earn every shot, and I thought we did a good job tonight making him earn it.”
The Boston win, in the opener of a three-game homestand, came several hours after the two teams were involved in a three-team trade in which Memphis acquired Green and the Pelicans re-acquired forward Quincy Pondexter.
After Sullinger’s 3-pointer tied the game at 90, the Celtics got a free throw from guard Avery Bradley and a banked 3-pointer from forward Jae Crowder to go ahead to stay.
“For sure we’re going to fight,” said Crowder. “I’m not worried what other people are saying right now. We know what we have to do each and every game to give ourselves a chance and we have a good understanding of the unit right now and we’re just going to keep fighting.”
The Pelicans, losing for the third time in four games to fall back below the .500 mark and playing the second half without injured guard Jrue Holiday, cut a five-point deficit down to one but Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart hit a 3-pointer from the left corner — after Davis had blocked a Bradley shot — with 39.7 seconds left.
Sullinger, who then iced the game with four free throws, had 27 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, while Crowder, acquired from Dallas in the Rondo deal, scored a career-high 22 points as six players reached double figures.
Davis, who had all but one of the Pelicans’ field goals over the last 10:22, scored 34 points and added nine rebounds and five assists. Guard Eric Gordon scored 19 points and guard Tyreke Evans came off the bench with 19 points and eight rebounds for the Pelicans, who lost the opener of a five-game road trip.
“Too many turnovers; 18 turnovers (five by Holiday in the first half), 17 (Celtics) offensive rebounds,” said Davis. “You can’t allow yourself to do that on the road.”
Center Omer Asik pulled down 12 rebounds in the loss.
“Yeah, turnovers, offensive rebounds and I’m not doing a good job of getting our guys to play the same way every game and it’s plagued us all year long. I got to figure it out.
“We play selfish, we separate when things don’t go well, especially on the road and it’s something that falls in my lap and I got to figure it out.”
NOTES: Both Celtics coach Brad Stevens and GM Danny Ainge addressed the team’s rash of trades. “Clearly, we’re going to have a lot of flexibility moving forward,” Stevens said. Ainge, asked if he is done dealing, said, “I don’t know that.” He reportedly is talking about sending newly acquired G Austin Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers, whose coach is Rivers’ father, Doc. … F Tayshaun Prince, who may be waived after being acquired by Boston, hadn’t arrived. … G Jameer Nelson, who also doesn’t figure to have a future in Boston, was again inactive, as was Rivers. … F Quincy Pondexter was re-acquired by the Pelicans from the Memphis Grizzlies in the three-way deal. “We just felt like it was a trade that could help our team,” New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. “Quincy’s a guy that we’ve had and can help me. We’re always looking for wing defenders. He can also knock down a shot.”
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