When a team loses its three best players you’d expect them to struggle.
That was true of the Boston Celtics. For three quarters.
The C’s lost star point guard Kyrie Irving during the first quarter of Friday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets at TD Garden when he went down after being hit in the head by an Aron Baynes elbow.
Without Irving, Al Horford (concussion) and Gordon Hayward (broken leg/dislocated ankle), Boston struggled to score during the first half, as the Hornet raced out to a 16-point halftime lead.
But the Celtics didn’t say die.
At times Boston’s lineup looked rather unimpressive, but Jayson Tatum (16 points), Shane Larkin (16 points), Terry Rozier (15 points) and Jaylen Brown (10 points, 13 rebounds) led a furious second-half comeback that saw the C’s grab the lead with five minutes to play and hold off the Hornets to earn a 90-87 win to extend their winning streak to 11 games.
The Celtics improved to 11-2 with the win, while the Hornets fell to 5-7.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Marcus Morris
C: Aron Baynes
The first quarter didn’t start well for the Celtics, as they allowed Charlotte to open with a 9-0 run.
During the Hornets’ 9-0 run, Irving was accidentally hit in the face by Baynes and fell to the floor in a heap. He was taken to the locker room after staying down for a few minutes.
Irving was ruled out of the rest of the game with possible concussion symptoms.
The Celtics’ offense struggled without Irving on the floor, as they trailed the Hornets 26-11 after the first quarter. Frank Kaminsky led the Hornets with six points in the frame.
Boston opened the second frame with a 10-2 run to cut Charlotte’s lead to seven, but the Celtics continued to have issues creating good offensive opportunities with Irving and Horford out of the game.
The C’s cut the lead to six, but the Hornets responded with a 10-0 run to push it to 16. Kaminsky had eight of the 10 points during the run, as he led all scorers with 14 points at the break.
Charlotte shot 49 percent from the field in the half and took a 57-41 lead into the locker room.
Tatum led all Celtics with five points.
COMEBACK IS ON
Boston began to pick up its game in the third quarter and it started on the defensive end of the floor.
The C’s cut the Hornets’ lead to 12 after three, as they held Charlotte to 19 points in the stanza.
Charlotte’s lead continued to shrink to begin the fourth. Brown knocked down two free throws, then Rozier buried a jumper to cut the deficit to eight.
Two possessions later, Daniel Theis drilled a 3-pointer to cut it to six, and Brown followed with a trey of his own to make it a one-possession game.
With the Hornets leading by three, Larkin drilled a step-back jumper to cut it to one, and Brown followed with a transition layup to give Boston the lead.
Kemba Walker cut the C’s advantage to three with two minutes left, but Tatum blew by Cody Zeller and finished to extend it to five.
After Morris opted to not play clock management and instead missed a wide-open 3-pointer, Walker completed an and-1 at the other end to trim the deficit to one with 45 seconds left.
Morris atoned for his horrible shot, though, as he splashed a step-back jumper with 23 seconds to play to grow the lead to three.
Charlotte had multiple opportunities to tie the game in the final 23 seconds, but Walker’s jump shot with five seconds left went long. After Rozier hit two free throws, the Hornets had a chance to tie, but Tatum knocked away the inbounds pass and the C’s survived.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
The Celtics will take the floor again Sunday when they face the Toronto Raptors. Tip-off from TD Garden is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET.
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