Charlotte (8-8): 117-Boston (9-8): 112
Kyrie Irving: 27 PTS 5 REB 11 AST 2 STL
Jayson Tatum: 18 PTS 6 REB 2 AST 1 STL/BLK
Marcus Smart: 14 PTS 2 AST 2 STL
Kemba Walker: 43 PTS 4 REB 5 AST 1 STL
Jeremy Lamb: 18 PTS 6 REB
Willy Hernangomez.: 14 PTS 3 REB 3 BLK
Monday night the Celtics headed to the Spectrum Center out in Charlotte to take on Kemba Walker (remember that name it’s like kind of important) and the Hornets. Right from the jump there was an adjustment by the Celtics and that was the relegation of Gordon Hayward to the bench. Aron Baynes took the slot and the Celtics rolled out their basic starting 5 for much of last season featuring Irving, Brown, Tatum, Horford, and Baynes. I personally liked the move and I’m happy that Brad is actually tinkering with it a little as I believe it’ll help Gordon get back to full strength (Check out my thoughts on a possible Hayward bench role here: https://viewsfromthewall.com/2018/11/14/gordon-hayward-to-the-bench/). Through the first it was basically a back and forth fight as neither team was able to gain much ground early on. Walker led the Hornets with 12 points and his play would be a theme in this one. For the Celtics, Kyrie had 6 first quarter points and the rest of the scoring was pretty spread out. After one, the score sat at 29-24 in favor of Charlotte.
A prompt, and I’d even say rude, 8-0 run from Charlotte started the second quarter as the Celtics fell asleep. Spearheaded by a 3 from Willy Hernangomez and a couple of tough fadeaways from Dwayne Bacon this run put the Celtics in another double digit hole relatively early. They do this every single game it seems like and there really is no telling when it’s going to stop, but it has to. They shouldn’t be getting down to middling teams like this, they’re forced to play from behind and doing that every night isn’t feasible for a team with championship aspirations. Daniel Theis got some early run in the second and he looked solid as he provided a rim running big while finishing at the rim. Smart/Terry Rozier hit him with a couple of dimes downlow for 2 easy dunks early in the quarter to tighten things back up. Starting in the second, the bench became a key factor in keeping the Celtics in the game, as they battled back a couple of times in this one. They scored 45 points on 16-33 shooting and outscored Charlotte’s bench by 12 points. This is the type of production that they need out of the bench and this was one of their better efforts on the season thus far. As the quarter unfolded it was clear the defenses were on the backburner as we headed into halftime with a 56-54 Celtic lead after an Irivng jumper to end the second.
The Celtics let the Hornets stay in this game and the energy in the arena started to pick up in the third. Neither team had an answer for one another and it was raining baskets. Jeremy Lamb contributed 7 points in the frame and injected some life into the crowd after an and-one. Kyrie showed off his flair for the theatric all night long as he continually found his way to the basket and more often that not, a bucket. Some laziness on defense (not closing out on shooters) and poor rotations caused the Celtics to give up a few easy ones and led them into the 4th with a 3-point lead at 87-84.
At the beginning of the 4th , the green looked great, jetting out to an 11-4 run and a 98-88 lead with about 9 minutes left. It looked as if they would be able to pull away and seal a victory. During this stretch Kyrie had another logic defying finish high off glass to get them going.
From there, I got lulled into the trap…again. I believed they would finally successfully close it out and they’d get a relatively low stress win. *Narrator Voice*: They did not close it out and get a relatively low stress win. Honestly, quite the contrary occurred, as Kemba really was out to ruin my visit to the Charlotte (spoiler: he did). He started to go insane from everywhere on the court. Every single shot he took felt like it was going in and boy did they all basically do just that. Tony Parker also contributed two huge mid-range jumpers in the final minutes to keep the Charlotte lead alive. Tatum knocked down a three off of a pick and pop from Horford and put the Celtics down just 3 at 114-111 with 49 seconds left and a chance to tie if they got a stop. Next possession, the whole arena knew who was taking the shot. Kemba came off of a screen from Cody Zeller and executed his signature step-back to perfection and buried a 3 to put the game all but out of reach as he celebrated with his fans and teammates.
- Ugh, when are the blown leads/big runs by opposing teams going to stop. It’s incredible how it happens every single game and there has to be some accountability in that locker room. They need to stop talking about it and be about it if they want to win some games.
- I was surprised Jaylen Brown only logged 19 minutes in this one. He had 10 points on 4-6 shooting and as far as I’m concerned was a positive and could’ve helped the Celtics down the stretch as he was glued to the bench.
- Piggybacking off of Brown’s lack of minutes, I don’t really understand the need to play Hayward 30 minutes. Sure, he does need to get back up to speed but are we really sacrificing wins so he can get some extra playing time? In the fourth I would’ve preferred Jaylen to get those minutes down the stretch as I believe his aggressiveness could’ve helped the offense while it lagged late.
- Another puzzling benching was that of Baynes. He started and only saw 7 minutes of court time as his leash was very short. They went with Theis a good amount (16 mins) but I still wonder why Baynes was left on the bench in the fashion he was.
- While Kemba Walker was an unstoppable force I still wonder why there weren’t adjustments made on him. Late in the fourth, as he was going scorched earth, you’d think the Celtics would maybe double him or try to force the ball out of his hands. They just continued to let him shoot and he got some really good looks off of what I’d consider poor defense. For example, his dagger that he hit late, he had at least 5 feet of space as Horford/Morris hedged poorly on the screen. I get guys have big nights but last night felt as though it could’ve been contained in a better fashion than it was.
- Kyrie Irving should start to get far more praise for what he’s been doing lately. During a period of time where most of the team is still finding their footing Kyrie has been phenomenal. Averaging 27.5 ppg 6.2 apg 4.9 rpg and 2.2 spg on 54.7/45.8/84.2 shooting splits in his last 10 games (ever since he cut his hair for those wondering) he’s held down the fort. I’d even argue he should begin to garner some MVP love at some point. If (I feel like it’s more of “when” rather than “if” but anything can happen) the Celtics get it together I imagine he’ll only get better and as the season rolls on keep an eye on Irving’s MVP/All-NBA prospects.
- I made my way to the arena last night and I have to say although the result wasn’t what I wanted, I enjoyed it. The Spectrum Center is right in the center of town and is state of the art. They also have an awesome fan shop with tons of different shirts in a myriad of different designs. In comparison to the TD Garden it’s a bit nicer but the atmosphere wasn’t even close to Boston, nor were the fans as rabid and out for blood as you’d see at a Celtics game (we’re a fun bunch huh?). Overall, I’d give it a grade of a B+
Player of the Game: Kemba Walker
While I’ve been following Kemba’s torrid pace to start this season I had never thought I’d actually see it in person. It’s safe to say after witnessing the cold blooded murder of the Celtics that man committed last night at the Spectrum Center I get the real hype. His fourth quarter was an absolute spectacle and he single handedly carried Charlotte to a win. 21 fourth quarter points on 7-10 shooting and 4-6 from downtown. It seemed like every time the Celtics came back down on defense he hit another bomb over multiple defenders. Not many players in this league can go off like that and do what Kemba did last night. It’s also even more impressive when you consider he dropped 60 on the Sixers just a couple of days before. THEN, It’s even more impressive when you look and see that he’s leading the league in scoring at 29.6 ppg. It remains to be seen if he can keep this sort of rabid scoring pace up. It also remains to be seen if he’s still dawning that Hornets Purple and Teal or if we will be seeing him in some new threads come the trade deadline. Either way, He has been a pleasure to watch this season and if this is really the end of his time in Charlotte, he’s going out with his finest act yet.
A showdown at TD Garden Wednesday (11/21) versus the lowly New York Knicks (4-13) at 7:30 ET and a chance for the Celtics (again) to get their act together
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