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.