By Patrick Whalen
The Celtics came into Wednesdays game looking to finish off this great homestand with a win to finish 4-1 over the stretch. Standing in their way were the Hornets and Kemeba Walker. The Celtics have already squared off against the Hornets twice already with a 5 point loss in November and a 16 point win in December. The Celtics would be without their star point guard again as Kyrie Irving missed his second game in a row with a left hip issue. The Celtics would also be without Robert Williams as he was sent down to the G League recently. The Hornets would also be without some key pieces as both Tony Parker and Cody Zeller were out with injuries. The Celtics would look to shut down Kemba Walker and Jermey Lamb while getting off to a fast start to try and ensure a win.
Off to a fast start the Celtics got as they put up 35 points in the first quarter and led by 7 at the end of the first. Jayson Tatum led the way in the first quarter scoring 13 of the Celtics 35 points. Tatum would cool down for the rest of the night as he finished with 20 points on 9-15 shooting with 5 rebounds. His 20 points also included what could have been the loudest of the night with his one handed ally oop slam and a double poster early in the first.
But despite his hot start Tatum actually wasn’t the Celtics leading scorer on the night. It was actually the other Jay, Jaylen Brown to be exact. Jaylen led the way scoring for the rest of the night as he went for a double double in 30 minutes off the bench. Brown finished with 24 points on 10-18 shooting with 10 rebounds. Jaylen would also not be out done by Tatum without a fight as he also had a highlight reel dunk himslef.
The Hornets did fight back in the second quarter and cut the lead down to 1 but thanks to a buzzer beater from Terry Rozier the Celtics led 63-59 at the half. Rozier had a classic fill in game for Kyrie as he also had a double double. Rozier had 17 points with 10 assists and 5 rebounds while getting 27 minutes and his second consecutive start. Rozier would rise the moment from that buzzer beater as he scored 10 of his 17 points in the third quarter where the Celtics outscored the Hornets 35-16 to take a 23 point lead into the fourth quarter.
But not only were the young guys balling but the veterans pick up some of the slack as well. Al Horford continued his good play with 14 points on 7-9 shooting with 7 rebounds and 5 assists on the night. Marcus Morris had 15 points on 6-11 shooting with 7 rebounds as he has seemed to have found his hooting touch again. Even Gordon Hayward got in the mix with 12 points on 5-10 shooting with 5 rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench. Thanks to the all around scoring effort and the fantastic second half defense that allowed just 35 points to the Hornets during the entire half the Celtics ended up blowing out the Hornets by a score of 126-94.
The Celtics were cooking on the offensive end as they were shooting 56% from the floor as a team while the Hornets shot just 44%. The Celtics were also able to limit Kemba Walker’s damage as he had just 21 points on 9-20 shooting. The young secong year man out of Kentucky, Malik Monk, was second in scoring with 16 points off the bench but shot just 6-14 including 3-10 from downtown. The Celtics also dominated the glass out rebounding the Hornets by a staggering 53-31 margin.
Overall it was a great team win for the Celtics to get them to 32-19 on the season. The Celtics now sit 5.5 games back of the Bucks for the top seed in the east and they are now just 4 games back of the Raptors for the division lead. Up next for the Celtics they’ll head to MSG on Friday to take on the Knicks. The on Sunday they will return to the Garden to take on the OKC Thunder and then head back out on the road again to Cleveland to take on the Cavs. These next few games will test the Celtics especially with how porr they’ve been on the road this season, just 11-13. Hopefully after this long home stretch the Celtics can take their winning ways from home, 21-6 at home this season and 10-1 in 2019, and start translating it to some road wins. Thankfully their next two road games are against the two worst teams in the NBA. Looking ahead to the Knicks the Celtics must look to shut down the rookie Kevin Knox and Noah Vonleh. The Celtics may also have to prepare to deal with newly acquired Dennis Smith Jr who was part of the trade for Kristaps Porzingis. Also depending on if he even plays the Celtics will have to potentailly deal with Enes Kanter. But despite all of that even if Kyrie is out for his third stright game the Celtics should still be able to beat the Knick easily. Hopefully the can straing these next few easy road games together to get some goo road mojo going for the rest of the year.
Sources: Basketball-Reference.com ESPN.com