Boston (19-13): 119– Charlotte (16-16): 103
Kyrie Irving: 25 PTS 4 REB 5 AST 1 BLK
Jayson Tatum: 17 PTS 4 REB 1 AST
Al Horford: 10 PTS 6 REB 5 AST
Kemba Walker: 21 PTS 3 REB 4 AST 2 STL 1 BLK
Willy Hernangomez: 19 PTS 10 REB 2 AST 2 BLK
Jeremy Lamb: 14 PTS 3 REB 5 AST 1 STL
Following that debacle on Friday night versus Milwaukee, the Celtics welcomed the returns of Marcus Morris and Al Horford. Kyrie Irving wasn’t messing around from the opening tip as he caught fire in the first going 6-7 from the floor and scoring 17 points. The Hornets came out in a 2-3 zone and Kyrie was able to effectively find the soft spots in the corners and at the high post. A lot of the issues with their offense recently was too many outside shots, and too few paint touches. They basically would just swing it around the perimeter and then someone would either drive or they’d just shoot it. Last night they made an effort to drive the ball inside and then kick it out to open shooters. The offense looked so much better and I also attribute that to the return of Horford and Morris.
Not only was Al effective on offense, but his efforts on the defensive end were key to the win as well. During their 3 game skid opponents averaged 114.6 points per game while allowing shooting splits of 47% from the floor and 38% from three. Last night however, they only allowed 103 points and the Hornets shot 43% from the floor and an abysmal 25% from deep. With Horford back in the lineup the rotations looked a lot better and he just stabilizes everything on defense from the post. He’s one of the best in terms of help defense and assisting his teammates in making sure they are in the right spots. Opponents defended by Horford went a combined 2-7 from the field. He also contributed to the Celtic advantage in rebounds (56-49) as he hauled in 6 in only 19 minutes of play.
In the second quarter the Celtics exploded as they scored 39 points and pulled away from the Hornets. While Marcus Morris Sr. led the way with 10 points in the quarter the real story of the night involved Gordon Hayward. The Celtics ran the same exact play they ran when Gordon broke his ankle, except this time, he threw it down and TD Garden went bonkers.
The bench was beside itself as they went crazy as Gordon finished the dunk. It was such a great moment and it felt like he was facing and conquering his demons. He’s been so timid this season in terms of going to the basket and getting another shot at that play had to do wonders for his confidence.
It was an efficient effort from all angles and they Celtics got to rest most of their key guys in the fourth quarter. Hopefully they can start out on another winning streak with Horford and Morris back and last night’s win was a step in the right direction.
Player of the Game: Kyrie Irving
He had another one of his “Kyrie can’t miss, let’s just give him the ball” nights and he sunk the Hornets early. As I mentioned earlier he really did a nice job of finding the soft spots and taking what the defense was giving him. Once he started getting the open looks to fall, his confidence was on cloud 9 as he hit one of his patented above the break threes and then a fadeaway from the left corner with basically no airspace at all. He was 9-12 from the field and was second on the team in +/- at a +25 as he led the Celtics to their 19th victory of the season.
One of the most anticipated matchups of the season as the Philadelphia 76ers visit TD Garden Christmas Day starting at 5:30 PM ET.