The Charlotte Hornets made things interesting, but the Boston Celtics would hang on for a hard-fought 121-114 victory at Spectrum Center.
Boston held a 19-point lead early in the third quarter, but Charlotte would rally and squash the deficit in the final frame. But thanks to a strong offensive effort in the closing minutes, the Celtics were able to end their two-game skid.
Isaiah Thomas posted a game-high 32 points and was one of six Celtics to score in double figures. In place of an absent Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk logged a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Nicolas Batum nearly matched Thomas’ performance with 31 points of his own, while Kemba Walker wasn’t far behind with 23 points.
With the win, Boston improves to 51-29, while Charlotte falls to 36-44.
Here’s how it all went down.
PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Jae Crowder
PF: Kelly Olynyk
C: Al Horford
C’S CHANGE PACE
The Celtics entered Saturday with seemingly no momentum, and their play early on was indicative of that. Boston got off to a very sluggish start, which included four turnovers in the opening minutes. The C’s would battle on, though, and held a 32-28 lead after one quarter. Boston was strong from the field in the opening frame, converting on 65 percent of its shots. Thomas paced the Celtics with eight points, while Crowder (7 points) and Jaylen Brown (6 points) were just behind. Boston’s offense was well-balanced early on, as it assisted on 11 of 13 field goals.
BOSTON JUMPS OUT
After closing the first quarter on a high note, the Celtics carried their strong play into the second frame and held a 71-54 lead at the break. Boston was terrific from beyond the arc in the first two quarters, converting on 11 of 21 3-point attempts. The C’s unselfish style of play continued as well, as they dished out 11 assists for the second consecutive quarter. The lead probably could have been larger had it not been for Walker and Batum, as the Hornets guards accounted for 14 and 12 points, respectively. Thomas led all scorers at the break with 19 points.
HORNETS NARROW GAP
Boston had a chance to put the game out of reach, but its 21-point third quarter allowed Charlotte to get back into it. After holding a lead as large as 19 points, the Celtics lackluster frame translated into a slim 92-86 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Batum paced the Hornets offense in the third stanza, as he posted 11 points to help Charlotte cut down the deficit. After a strong first half, Thomas was effectively nonexistent in the third quarter with just four points.
CELTICS HANG ON
The Hornets rode momentum heading into the final frame. After back-and-forth play in the opening minutes, Charlotte would grab the lead with just over eight minutes to go on a Jeremy Lamb layup. The Hornets would expand their advantage to as large as seven points, but the Celtics would chip away and retook the lead with just over four minutes remaining on a pair of Marcus Smart free throws. The teams would trade leads for several minutes, but a Thomas 3-pointer with 1:21 remaining extended Boston’s lead to five. A Bradely 3-pointer on the ensuing possesion finally put the Hornets away.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Thomas’ fourth-quarter heroics are becoming commonplace.
The Celtics return to TD Garden on Monday night for a matchup with the lowly Brooklyn Nets. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports Images