BOSTON – Friday night was one of those rare nights for the Boston Celtics when they had an entirely healthy roster to work with.
And as we’ve seen this season, under those circumstances is when the Celtics look and play like the team so many believe is among the best in the Eastern Conference.
They certainly looked the part on Friday night as they closed out the game with a 19-9 run for a 96-88 win.
- Highlights: Boston Celtics 96, Charlotte Hornets 88
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And the nine points Charlotte scored in the run came in the closing seconds when the game’s outcome was a foregone conclusion.
Isaiah Thomas, who had missed the previous four games with a right groin injury, picked up where he left off by scoring a game-high 26 points and five assists. Al Horford also had a strong game for the Celtics, (14-12), scoring 18 points to go with eight rebounds, five assists and five blocked shots.
Charlotte’s Nicholas Batum had a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds.
With the score tied going into the fourth, the Celtics took control early in the quarter with the first five points to lead 74-69.
But the Hornets got back into the game quickly with an 8-3 spurt capped off by a Nicholas Batum dunk.
Moments later they had the lead back following a driving lay-up by Marco Belinelli which was all Brad Stevens needed to see before calling a time-out with 6:32 to play.
One of the Stevens’ strengths since he has been the Celtics head coach has been his ATO (after time-outs) play calling.
And this was yet another success story as Jae Crowder drained a 3-pointer that put Boston back on top 80-79.
Soon after, Isaiah Thomas was fouled hard by Belinelli on a drive to the basket with 5:33 to play. The play was reviewed and was changed to a flagrant-1 penalty.
Thomas made both free throws and on the ensuing possession that the Celtics maintained, Crowder was fouled going to the basket.
He made both free throws which gave Boston an 84-79 lead with 5:24 to play.
From there, Boston’s control continued to grow and a much-needed victory was secured.
The finish was indeed a departure from how the game had played out before the fourth quarter Celtics run.
Boston fell behind by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, but seemed to swing the game’s momentum in their favor after a big play by Avery Bradley.
It wasn’t a a 3-pointer, lay-up or defensive steal.
It was saving a loose ball from going out-of-bounds followed by him knocking down a 3-pointer that was part of an 18-4 Celtics run that put them ahead 64-62 for their first lead in the second half.
The third quarter ended with the scored tied at 69.