In order to beat the Charlotte Hornets, there’s usually one thing you have to do well: neutralize Kemba Walker.
The Boston Celtics were unable to do that Monday night and they paid for it, falling to the Hornets 117-112 at Spectrum Center.
It was an even battle wire-to-wire, featuring 18 lead changes and nine ties. The Celtics led by as many as 10 in the fourth quarter, but Walker fueled a Charlotte rally to give the home side the win.
Kyrie Irving led the Celtics with 27 points, while Jayson Tatum (18 points), Marcus Smart (14), Daniel Theis (10), Al Horford (10) and Jaylen Brown (10) also were in double figures. Walker paced Charlotte with a game-high 43 points and was one of three Hornets in double digits.
With the loss, the Celtics fall to 9-8, while the Hornets climb to 8-8.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Aron Baynes
C: Al Horford
HORNETS CLAIM FIRST
In what mostly was a level first 12 minutes and the Hornets ended the opening quarter ahead 29-24.
A late surge by Charlotte gave it the advantage. Tied at 17 with less than three minutes to go, the Hornets used a 12-2 run to go up by 10 with one minute to play. The Celtics responded well in the final minute, however, scoring five unanswered to cut the lead to five.
Walker led all players with 12 points, while Irving topped the C’s with six points.
C’S HEAT UP
After a slow start to the second quarter, the Celtics impressively bounced back, outscoring the Hornets 32-25 as they took a 56-54 lead into the half.
Boston appeared to be fading, as Charlotte opened up the first 89 seconds of the stanza on an 8-0 run. But down by 13, the Celtics kicked things into gear, putting together a 14-0 run over 3:15 to go ahead by one. From there, the two sides started trading blows, as the C’s couldn’t open their lead to more than five the rest of the frame.
Tatum had 10 second-quarter points, while Walker led all players with 18 first-half points.
The third quarter picked up right where the second left off. Both sides kept going back-and-forth, with neither being able to create much separation. Ultimately, the C’s outscored the Hornets 31-30 and led 87-84 heading into the fourth.
It was an even affair for all 12 minutes. Over the course of the third, there were seven lead changes and three ties. The biggest lead of the frame was seven, which was the Celtics’ advantage less than three minutes into the frame.
Three players posted seven-point third quarters, including Irving.
BOSTON CAN’T HOLD ON
In a thrilling fourth quarter, the Hornets outscored the Celtics as 33-25 as they earned the win.
In need of some separation, the Celtics got some early on, beginning the first two minutes of the fourth on a 9-2 run to extend their lead to 10. That lead dwindled, however, with the Hornets regaining the lead with 7:30 to play.
Trailing 114-108 with less than a minute to play, Tatum knocked down a triple to cut the lead to three. But as was the case all night, Walker responded, knocking down a trey of his own to re-up the Hornets’ advantage. The Hornets then hit the free throws they were given to close the door.
The Celtics will return home Wednesday for a tilt against the New York Knicks. Tip-off from TD Garden is set for 7:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports Images
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