Brad Stevens might be a wizard. Or a superhero. Or maybe both.
The Boston Celtics head coach already has proven he is one of the top coaches in the NBA during his tenure with the C’s. But what Stevens was able to pull off Friday night at TD Garden was nothing short of mystical.
Already without Al Horford (concussion) and Gordon Hayward (broken leg/dislocated ankle), the Celtics lost star point guard Kyrie Irving two minutes into the game against the Charlotte Hornets when he took an elbow to the face from teammate Aron Baynes.
Irving left the game and did not return as he was treated for possible concussion symptoms.
But while Irving left TD Garden at halftime, the show had to go on for Stevens and the Celtics.
Boston’s offense predictably struggled without Irving, as the Celtics had a difficult time finding easy shots. The Celtics went 5-for-19 from the field in the first quarter and only scored 11 points.
Boston fell down by 15 points, but Stevens gave his shorthanded squad the confidence to come back.
The C’s continued to battle, and the comeback started on the defensive end.
After giving up 56 points in the first half, Boston clamped down on the Hornets, allowing 31 points in the final two quarters.
And as is usually the case, defense leads to offense.
Once the Celtics started locking up Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb and Co., the shots began to fall.
Stevens deployed a lineup that most Celtics fans never dreamed they see when the season began, and, of course, it worked to perfection.
Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Celtics’ highly touted youngsters, led the comeback alongside Shane Larkin, Terry Rozier and a combination of Marcus Morris, Daniel Theis and Marcus Smart.
Stevens called on Larkin to pressure Walker to begin the fourth quarter, and his bulldog mentality helped spark Boston’s huge fourth-quarter rally.
Every Celtic that saw the floor in the final stanza contributed offensively in ways that even Stevens might not have expected.
Rozier hit a pull-up jumper. Then Theis splashed a corner 3-pointer off a nice pass from Guershon Yabusele (yes, he played).
A few minutes later Larkin hit a step-back jumper to cut the lead to one and ignite the crowd at TD Garden.
After the C’s took the lead, Stevens showed faith in 19-year-old Tatum, perhaps the C’s most talented offensive player on the floor, to complete the comeback.
The Duke product splashed a 21-foot pull-up jumper then Smart found him after a slick cut for an easy two to push the lead to five.
Stevens pulled every right string, including going to a diamond defense during Charlotte’s final inbounds play.
Trailing by three with 3.6 seconds remaining, the Hornets looked to get the ball to Walker. But where most teams would play man-to-man defense, Stevens elected to go with the diamond, which caused inbounder Frank Kaminsky to throw a wayward pass that was deflected and sealed the Celtics’ comeback.
Boston was without it’s three best players, but the Celtics still had their most important asset in Stevens and that’s the reason the team continues to thrive no matter who takes the court.
Here are more notes from Celtics-Hornets:
— The Celtics have the second-longest winning streak in NBA history following an 0-2 start or worse. The 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks are the only team to win 12 straight.
— Boston is holding teams to an average of 45 points in the second half and are allowing 94 points per game overall.
— Stevens did not have an update on Irving after the game.
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