The Boston Celtics have hit the skids yet again.
The Celtics entered Charlotte on Sunday favored against a Hornets team playing without Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball and laid an egg, falling 125-104 for their third loss in four games.
Despite playing at nearly full strength (more on that shortly), the C's were no match for an energetic Hornets team. Former Celtic Terry Rozier (21 points, 11 assists) led a determined Charlotte squad that played with confidence and effort despite losing two of three heading into Sunday.
The loss drops Boston down to sixth in the Eastern Conference at 32-29 with 11 games remaining. Here are three takeaways from Sunday's Celtics-Hornets game:
The Celtics aren't afternoon people
The C's had better hope all of their playoff games are at night.
Boston came out flat for Sunday's 1 p.m. ET tip in Charlotte, scoring just 23 points in the first quarter while committing nine turnovers in the first half.
The Hornets, meanwhile, made their first five 3-pointers and played with considerably more energy than the Celtics early.
Brad Stevens' club picked up the effort in the second half, but Boston's sloppy play early resulted in a deficit it could never surmount.
Sluggish afternoon games are nothing new for this Celtics team: The C's are now 2-7 in games starting before 6 p.m. ET.
They had won their last two afternoon contests after losing six in a row to start the season, but old habits crept back Sunday, as the Celtics allowed a sub-.500 team missing two of its top three players to set the tone of the gate.
Boston misses Robert Williams' presence
The Celtics felt the absence of the only player on their injury report Sunday.
With Robert Williams sidelined for the sixth consecutive game, the Celtics lacked an inside presence on both ends of the floor. Starting center Tristan Thompson struggled offensively with just five points on 2-of-4 shooting, while Boston's defense allowed Charlotte to get the rim at will.
The Hornets outscored the Celtics 46-36 in the paint and cruised in for several uncontested finishes.
Boston's lack of communication on defense played a big role in those easy buckets. But Hornets center P.J. Washington also had his way on offense, racking up 22 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.
Williams and his 1.8 blocks per game have been a safety blanket for the C's in the past, and without the 23-year-old big man in the lineup, Rozier and the Hornets took full advantage.
The Celtics need more from their newcomers
Evan Fournier is still recovering from a brutal bout with COVID and Jabari Parker has been here for less than two weeks. We get that expectations should be tempered. But if the Celtics want to avoid results like Sunday's, they need their two new additions to step up soon.
Fournier went scoreless on 0-for-3 shooting in 20 minutes of action, while Parker tallied four points in just over 11 minutes. That's simply not going to cut it -- especially if Boston's bench continues to struggle.
The Celtics' second unit mustered just 23 total points Sunday, as Grant Williams (nine points on 3-of-4 shooting) was the high man off the bench.
Maybe Fournier and Parker should be given a little more leeway as they get acclimated, and the latter had a solid first two games with the C's. But the two veterans were brought in to improve what's currently the worst bench unit in the NBA, and they certainly didn't succeed Sunday.