BOSTON – We have seen Boston’s defense play at an elite level many times this season.
But what would it look like if the offense had one of those kind of nights?
We found out on Wednesday as the Celtics delivered a ridiculously efficient offensive performance in their 134-106 beatdown of the Hornets.
- MORE CELTICS: Keep it moving, keep 'em winning
Boston (44-19), winners of four straight, set several season highs offensively including most points scored (134) as well as field goal percentage (.621 against the Hornets; previous high was .595).
Kyrie Irving led all scorers with 34 points on 13-for-18 shooting. Aron Baynes had his third double-double of the season, tallying 12 points on 6-for-7 shooting to go with 10 rebounds and three assists.
The Hornets, whose five-game winning streak came to an end with Wednesday’s loss, were led by Kemba Walker’s 23 points on 9-for-13 shooting and Dwight Howard’s 21 points who connected on 10 of his 15 shots from the field.
You anticipated the Hornets would not play one of their better games, with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (hamstring) and Cody Zeller (knee) both out with injuries suffered in Charlotte’s win over Chicago on Tuesday night.
But what we saw on Wednesday was more than just the Celtics taking advantage of a team that was short a body or two.
We saw the Celtics offense at its absolute best, getting any and every shot it wanted all game.
- MORE CELTICS: Second quarter suddenly a strength
And in doing that, they took that last, all-important step in knocking those great looks down.
Charlotte came into tonight’s game playing great basketball, especially in the first quarter.
Since the all-star break, the Hornets had a league-best point differential in the first quarter of +6.0 while scoring 31.5 points in the quarter which ranked fourth in the NBA.
While they met their scoring average, Boston was even more explosive in the first by connecting on 60 percent (15-for-25) of its shots to lead 37-31 after the first.
Boston’s strong start carried into the second quarter, but the Hornets mounted a comeback to keep the game relatively close for the remainder of the first half.
The catalyst for much of Boston’s scoring in the first half was Irving who led all scorers at the break with 24 points on 10-for-14 shooting. The Celtics bench did their part as well, tallying 23 first-half points with Marcus Morris (nine points) leading the way.
Boston’s bench finished with 61 points, led by Morris’ 15 points.
But the Hornets were within striking distance at the half, led by the 1-2 punch of Walker and Howard who had 21 and 15 points, respectively.
The play of Boston’s bench was particularly impressive when you consider one of the key cogs on the second unit, Daniel Theis, was out with a right hamstring injury.
- MORE CELTICS: Five takeaways: Second quarter a sudden strength
Greg Monroe was the man to get most of Theis’ minutes.
And fortunately for him and the Celtics, Monroe had a matchup that wasn’t just in his favor.
It quickly became a mismatch that Monroe dominated, scoring seven points on 3-for-4 shooting as Charlotte’s Willy Hernangomez had no answer for trying to limit let alone slow Monroe down. He finished with 14 points as one of seven double-figure scorers for Boston.
While Boston certainly felt good about their 67-59 halftime lead, they knew there was plenty of basketball left to be played.
The Celtics came out firing in the third with a 9-2 run capped off by an Irving 3-pointer which gave Boston its biggest lead of the game, 76-61, with 9:37 to play in the third quarter.