BOSTON—Few NBA coaches seem to embrace remaining “in the moment” as well and as consistently as Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
But the sooner the Celtics can move on from tonight’s beating, the better.
In a game with significant playoff implications for both Boston and Charlotte, it was the Hornets that played with the kind of desperation needed to emerge victorious.
And as the final horn sounded and the Celtics faithful – those that decided to hang around in a game that became a blowout from about the second quarter to the end – Boston will limp into its season finale on Wednesday licking its wounds following a resounding 114-100 beating at the hands of the Hornets.
Charlotte, which led by as many as 28 points, won this game far more decisively than the final score would indicate.
Both teams cleared their benches in the final minute or two and the Celtics made the most of that time with a few baskets to make the final score more respectable.
The Celtics showed some signs of making things interesting in the fourth when they were able to cut Charlotte’s lead to as little as 15 following a 3-pointer by R.J. Hunter about halfway through the fourth. Hunter made the most of his minutes in scoring 11 points off the bench on 4-for-6 shooting.
The game’s intensity had clearly picked up in the fourth to a point where it actually looked like a game where both teams were heavily engaged in doing whatever they could to get the victory.
But down the stretch, the Celtics were unable to make shots when they desperately needed points.
And with each empty offensive trip, Boston found itself inching all that much closer to what was one of the more disappointing performances this season.
Boston (47-34) closes out its regular season against the Miami Heat who like the Celtics and Hornets (47-34), are also battling to improve its playoff seeding.
Monday’s game was very much an exercise in systematic destruction on the part of the Hornets.
They began the game by feeding ex-Celtic Al Jefferson a steady diet of touches in the paint. And he did what Big Al always – get buckets a few feet from the rim.
Jared Sullinger was no match for Jefferson’s assortment of low-post, up-and-under, pivot moves. Jefferson finished with a double-double of 16 points on 8-for-11 shooting, to go with 11 rebounds.
And then there was Harvard’s own Jeremy Lin who was having one of those Linsanity moments in the second quarter when he went on an 11-0 Lin run that was part of a blistering surge by the Hornets. He led all scorers with 25 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists.
The Celtics found themselves looking up at a 63-41 halftime deficit, the kind of hole few teams ever fully come out of.
Boston spent most of the third quarter trailing by 20 or more points with the frustration of the huge deficit beginning to wear on the players.
Isaiah Thomas drove into the lane and was whistled for an offensive foul. He didn’t like the call and rolled the ball towards official Ben Taylor who made the ball.
Taylor hit him with a technical and Celtics head coach Brad Stevens, well aware that his star player was losing his composure, took him out of the game to cool off.
Thomas finished with 17 points and shared team-high scoring honors with Avery Bradley. Boston got a double-double from Kelly Olynyk off the bench as he finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.