Boston Celtics ride big second half to put away Charlotte Hornets, 118-104

Boston Celtics ride big second half to put away Charlotte Hornets, 118-104


This late in the season, with the top seed in the Eastern Conference locked up, the best thing the Boston Celtics can do is stay healthy and maintain good habits. They’re working on the former — Jaylen Brown is recovering from a hand sprain — but they did well with the latter on Monday night in Charlotte. They withstood a plucky first half from the Hornets and dominated in the second to score the 118-104 win.

Jayson Tatum led the way for Boston in the absence of his All-NBA teammate. He scored 25 points, tacking on 10 rebounds, four assists and three stocks for good measure. Kristaps Porzingis had a hard-nosed 20 points, battling in the paint and forcing his way to the charity stripe (7-of-8 on freebies). Tying the team lead in scoring was Sam Hauser, who knocked down seven threes en route to 25 points of his own. For the Hornets, the wing duo of Miles Bridges (26 points) and Brandon Miller (19) paced the offense, while old friend Grant Williams tacked on 21 against his former team.

It was a fast start for Charlotte this evening, as early surges from Bridges and Miller kick-started a 10-2 run for the Hornets to open play. It set the tone for an offense-forward game early — a notable shift from Boston’s defensive dominance over New Orleans two nights prior. Bridges (10) and Miller (11) each recorded double-figure scoring in the opening frame, and both teams shot well from the field en route to a 32-30 advantage for Charlotte entering the second quarter.

With Jaylen Brown sidelined with a hand sprain and Jrue Holiday struggling with ineffectiveness (1-of-6 first half shooting), Derrick White stepped into increased offensive responsibility this evening. Having averaged 15 points per game on 12 shot attempts for the month of March, White put up 10 shots in the first half alone, and finished with 19 points for the game on a hefty-for-his-standards workload on that end of the floor.

The teams maintained their scoring pace into the second quarter, as the Hornets continued to play efficient offense and the Celtics countered with a barrage of three-pointers. The disparity in shooting in the first half was cavernous — the Celtics hit 10 of their 27 three-point attempts, while the Hornets responded with just 4-of-14. But Charlotte managed to hang tough despite the imbalance thanks to timely offensive rebounding and an advantage in ball control. Boston closed the first half with their largest lead of the game, but it was a narrow one. They took a 59-53 lead into the halftime break.

The Celtics began to diligently and methodically extend their lead as play resumed. They embarked on a 14-4 run in the early minutes of the third quarter, widening their game-high advantage into the double-digits. Leading the way was Tatum, who set the tone with an assertive dunk in traffic. A rainbow three from Vasilije Micic and some opportunistic play in transition from the Charlotte offense prevented the Celtics from completely blowing the game open, but they nonetheless entered the fourth quarter enjoying a 16-point advantage, 95-79.

Hauser opened up the final quarter with his fourth triple of the night, and followed it up moments later with his fifth, in response to a three from Bridges. Ahead by 19 points, the Celtics threatened to overwhelm Charlotte, but to their credit, the young Hornets refused to fold. Boston’s lead didn’t extend any further, but it didn’t diminish either — Charlotte never threatened again, and Boston walked away with a 14-point win.

Next up, the Celtics will face down one of the few remaining high-profile games on their schedule, as they host the playoff-bound Oklahoma City Thunder this Wednesday at 7:30 PM on NBC Sports Boston.


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