Charlotte Hornets

Kyrie Irving unplugged on Celtics' 'young guys,' approach to defending Hornets' Kemba Walker

Kyrie Irving unplugged on Celtics' 'young guys,' approach to defending Hornets' Kemba Walker

Kyrie Irving didn’t say much following Boston’s 124-117 loss at Charlotte. 

But on Saturday, Irving delivered a stinging rebuke of his teammates as well as a not-so-subtle dig at the coaching staff in their approach to defending Charlotte All-Star Kemba Walker. 

“The game was over in the beginning of the fourth quarter,” Irving told reporters. “We took our foot off the gas pedal; it got to a five-point game, momentum shifted from there.”

He was then asked what does the team talk about following a game like this, one in which the Celtics had an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter only to allow the Hornets to close out the game with a 30-5 run. 

“Being more mature down the stretch,” Irving said. 

To see Boston lose a game in this fashion isn’t all that surprising when you consider one of the stronger character traits of this team is their ability to let huge leads go to the point where they eventually result in a loss. 

Remember, this is the same Celtics team that blew a 28-point lead AT HOME to the Los Angeles Clippers which came right after blowing another double-digit lead at home to the other Los Angeles team, the Lakers. 

But that’s in the past, something that has little impact on the present … until you have games like the one we saw Saturday night when it seems the mental toughness that should be developing in losing games just isn’t there. 

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As Irving pointed out, the Celtics were playing the Hornets without some key players in the lineup. 

Al Horford was resting his sore knee while Aron Baynes (foot) and Gordon Hayward (concussion protocol) were out with injuries

Replacing Horford in the starting lineup was rookie Robert Williams III, but he left shortly before the half after taking a hard spill to the floor. He was unable to return after team officials determined he had suffered a lower back contusion. 

“Judge us when we have our full lineup,” Irving said. “But obviously when we come out and play like this with a bunch of young guys down the stretch, figuring things out … things are bound to happen but there’s no excuses.”

The difference-maker in the game was the play of Charlotte’s Kemba Walker who tallied a near triple-double with 36 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.

Marcus Smart would have been the primary defender on him, but Smart was on the bench after committing a series of offensive fouls. 

And while Jayson Tatum’s length does him well when it comes to defense, Walker’s ball-handling and ability to create space off the dribble was too much for Tatum and the Celtics to handle with Walker tallying 18 of his 36 points in the fourth. 

“It’s one-on-one,” Irving said. “Down the stretch, I try to come in and help as much as possible. We should have probably trapped him more like every other team does in the league but we didn’t. He torches us every time we play them so it’s no surprise.”

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Robert Williams III (lower back contusion) out for rest of Celtics game vs. Hornets

Robert Williams III (lower back contusion) out for rest of Celtics game vs. Hornets

Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III has been ruled out for the remainder of tonight's game against Charlotte after a hard spill in the second quarter. 

According to team officials, Williams suffered a lower back contusion. 

It is unclear how long Williams will be out of action with the injury. 

He joins a growing list of Celtics centers with less-than-ideal health at the moment. 

Aron Baynes remains out with a foot injury, and the Celtics opted to rest Al Horford who is suffering from some soreness in his knee. 

With the team's injury-riddled frontcourt, Williams III was making his first NBA start tonight and finished with two points, three rebounds and two blocked shots. 

The injury occurred with 1:37 to play in the second quarter and Boston trailing 60-59 when Williams III landed hard on his lower back after attempting a put-back dunk. He would lay motionless on his floor for several seconds before a time-out was called and he eventually went to the locker room for further examination. 

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How to watch or stream the Boston Celtics vs. Charlotte Hornets game

How to watch or stream the Boston Celtics vs. Charlotte Hornets game

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Hornets in Charlotte. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the MyTeams App. 

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ANALYSIS AND REACTION

BEFORE THE GAME: At 5 p.m., Celtics Pregame Live presented by TD Bank gets you ready for the game with reports from Kyle Draper, Chris Mannix, A. Sherrod Blakely and Chris Forsberg in Burlington, and Mike Gorman, Brian Scalabrine and Danielle Trotta in Charlotte. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the livestream.

AT HALFTIME: Tune in to watch Draper and Mannix break down the first two quarters on Halftime Live presented by Ace Ticket. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the livestream.

AFTER THE GAME: As soon as the game ends, tune to Celtics Postgame Live presented by New England Ford for analysis, commentary and player reaction. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the livestream

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