Celtics

Celtics rally in fourth quarter to beat Hornets, extend win streak to 11 games

Celtics rally in fourth quarter to beat Hornets, extend win streak to 11 games

BOSTON – When Gordon Hayward went down with a season-ending ankle injury, the Celtics quickly regrouped.

Losing Al Horford for a game, they still managed to find a way to win in his absence.

But when the final member of Boston’s Big Three, Kyrie Irving, went down less than two minutes into Friday’s game against Charlotte with what’s being monitored as a possible concussion, you had to believe … this is it right?

The streak is good as gone tonight, right?

For most of the game, it seemed that way.

And then came the fourth quarter which is when the Celtics’ defense went into full-blown lockdown mode which generated a fat run that paved the way for an improbable 90-87 win.

Boston (11-2) extended its league-best winning streak which now stands at 11 in a row. The victories have come in an assortment of ways, but Friday’s win was arguably the hardest to secure.

After a Kemba Walker lay-up cut Boston’s lead to 88-87, Boston’s Terry Rozier stepped out of bounds.

On the ensuing Charlotte possession, Walker got a defensive switch in which he was being defended by Marcus Morris.

Morris’ defense was clutch, forcing Walker into a tough shot that had no chance to go in with the loose ball ultimately winding up in the hands of Rozier.

Rozier, who had 15 points off the bench, sank a pair of free throws with 3.6 seconds to play.

After a Hornets timeout, the inbounds pass was deflected with Charlotte unable to get a shot off in time.The comeback began in the fourth quarter.

After trailing by as many as 18 points, the Celtics began the fourth with a 10-1 run to come within 77-74 following a 3-pointer by Jaylen Brown.

He wasn’t done.

Boston scored six of the game’s next eight points, capped off by a Brown driving lay-up that put Boston ahead 80-79 with 5:25 to play. He would finish with a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds.

A jumper by Boston’s Shane Larkin hit the back of the rim, took a ridiculously high bounce before deciding to drop through the nets, gave Boston an 82-79 which was soon followed by missed shots by both teams.  

Larkin finished with a season-high 16 points on 5-for-8 shooting.

Rookie sensation Jayson Tatum, a game-time decision due to a sore right ankle, had a strong game as well with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting.

But as good as the win was for the Celtics, there was a bittersweet taste about it because of Irving’s injury.

He was hit with an inadvertent blow from teammate Aron Baynes that has the Celtics monitoring Irving for a possible concussion which means his return to the Celtics is very much in the air.

Irving would be the second Celtics player this week to enter the league’s concussion protocol program, joining Al Horford who has missed the last two games but appears close to returning possibly as early as Sunday against Toronto.

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Celtics set to play with greater sense of urgency in return to action

Celtics set to play with greater sense of urgency in return to action

WALTHAM, Mass. – The road to getting back atop the Eastern Conference standings for the Boston Celtics following the All-Star break will begin – where else? – on the road.

And that’s a good thing.

Boston, which plays its first two games after the break on the road beginning at Detroit tonight and New York on Saturday, has been among the league’s best all season when it comes to winning on the road.

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Only two teams, Golden State (22-7, .759 winning percentage) and Houston (21-7, .750 winning percentage), have a better road winning percentage than the Celtics (19-8, .703 winning percentage) this season.

“Our schedule is really hard as we hit this last home stretch 23 games,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. “And that’s a good thing with us. We are going to have to have that urgency.”

Boston (40-19) has lost three straight and four of its last five games.

Aware of how quickly a couple of losses can snowball into a full-blown losing skid, Boston players understand the importance of playing with a greater sense of urgency.

“I think we have a sense of urgency about ourselves,” Brown said. “I think we understand the second half of the season and the importance of it, getting ready for playoffs. And how you can see some of the older guys, Kyrie (Irving), Al (Horford), the attention to detail, the stress about the little things is becoming more evident.” 

Said Irving: “We hit a little bit of a stretch where we haven’t been playing our type of basketball. Not necessarily being as consistent as we’d like to be. We just want to get back to being consistent and doing the right things.”

Stevens added, “Hopefully these little hiccups that we have had prior to the break, which more pertains to who we are playing … hopefully benefit us down the road.”

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Al Horford said more than anything, the Celtics have to ratchet up their attention to details in all phases of play.

“The focus is really now more than any point in the season taking it day-to-day,” Horford said. “And I felt like we got better, today was a good practice. This is a good start, so now for us it’s just to keep building that and just take it game-to-game because these are … the rehearsal games, if you want to call them that. That’s what I like to call it with this group. So, getting everything straightened out for when the playoffs come around.”

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CELTICS TALK PODCAST: Anthony Davis opening the door for a trade?

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CELTICS TALK PODCAST: Anthony Davis opening the door for a trade?

Kyle Draper and A. Sherrod Blakely start off this week's episode talking about the return of Marcus Smart following the All-Star break, and how much the team missed him in their recent skid. Will head coach Brad Stevens make a lineup change, and with more practice time under his belt, will Greg Monroe see his minutes increase?

(9:50) Sherrod talks about his article on NBCSportsBoston.com this week on Kyrie Irving needing to have a 'special' finish to his first season with the Celtics.

(14:15) Would the rumored changes to the NBA Playoff format would be good or bad?

(16:45) Kyle and Sherrod (plus producer Jason Levine joining the fray) have a great debate on the latest tidbit of trade rumblings surrounding New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis. Is the door finally open for the Celtics to swoop in?

(30:40) The guys also talk about the latest news with Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs....could he become available this offseason?

(33:10) Finally, Kyle sits down with Brad Stevens to talk about his trip to Red Sox Spring Training during the break, plus the terrible end to his own baseball career.

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN

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