Charlotte Hornets

On his second visit as a Celtic, Kemba Walker still gets lots of love from Hornets faithful

On his second visit as a Celtic, Kemba Walker still gets lots of love from Hornets faithful

BOSTON -- With a commanding 18-point lead with a little more than two minutes to play, Kemba Walker went to the bench for one last time this decade. 

As he walked past his teammates, high-fiving them along the way, he was serenaded by the Charlotte Hornets fans still at the game, appreciative of what he meant to them in his eight seasons as a Hornet. 

“People are going to react like that forever,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters after Boston's 109-92 New Year's Eve win. “Whether it’s here or Storrs, [Connecticut]…He’s a special guy and an awfully good player. He’s been really good for us.”

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

And that is what makes Walker’s ovation so special with the Hornets faithful showing their respect for what he meant to the team in his time in Charlotte.

But that’s in the past now. 

Walker is with a new team, has a new mission and is showcasing that he’s more than just a high-scoring guard in the NBA but also one who can score a ton while racking up wins in the process. 

He was among the Celtics who stood out in the victory over the Hornets (13-23) as Boston (23-8) got back on the winning track after losing at home to Toronto on Saturday. 

And so, the Celtics move on to the next decade of play, one that will be led in part by Walker, who closed out 2019 with a strong, 24-point, seven-assist  game in Charlotte - a fitting end to the decade as Walker and the Celtics look ahead to bigger and better things in the future. 

GORDON HAYWARD

This was the kind of game that reinforces why Hayward is such an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to Boston’s success this year. 

He scored 21 points on an efficient 9-for-14 shooting, hauled down 10 boards for his third double-double this season. He also managed to dish out six assists.

As the Celtics continue to shuffle bodies in and out of the rotation due to injuries, a healthy Hayward provides the kind of comfort that will allow Boston to continue to surge up the standings even at less than full strength. 

JAYSON TATUM

There is an undeniable growth in Tatum’s game, and it’s not just him scoring more points, either. 

He’s doing a much better job of probing defenses for the best shot for himself or others, doing it with a level of patience that we have not seen from him at the level of consistency we’ve seen in recent weeks. 

It bodes well for his goals of ascending to being one of the best two-way players in the NBA. 

He’s not there yet. 

But the ease at which he scored a team-high 24 points on 10-for-18 shooting against Charlotte is impressive. 

ENES KANTER

Earlier this season, Kanter was focused on his younger teammates doing well and gaining some confidence. Well, let’s just say Kanter is being a bit more greedy these days. 

Kanter had a double-double of 13 points and 14 rebounds to go with a career-high six blocked shots on Tuesday. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it's the first time a C's reserve has produced those numbers (13 or more points, 14 or more rebounds, six or more blocks) in a game.  

Kanter’s play comes at a time when the Celtics are extremely thin at center. He was going to play a major role on this team regardless of who else was available. But to his credit, Kanter has found that nice balance between mentoring the young bigs on the Celtics while still making a major impact with his play. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Hawks, which tips off Friday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Tommy have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

NBA Highlights: Celtics defeat Hornets behind balanced scoring attack

NBA Highlights: Celtics defeat Hornets behind balanced scoring attack

FINAL SCORE: Celtics 109, Hornets 92

IN BRIEF: The Celtics only led by five points early in the fourth quarter, but pull away late for a 17-point road win in Charlotte. Jayson Tatum leads the way with 24 points, while Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward chip in with 22 and 21 points, respectively.

BOX SCORE

CELTICS RECORD: 23-8

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

HIGHLIGHTS

THEIS SCORES C'S FIRST POINTS OF THE GAME ON AN ALLEY-OOP

HORNETS GIVE JAYSON TATUM A LATE CHRISTMAS GIFT

KEMBA WALKER SHOWS HORNETS FANS WHAT THEY'RE MISSING

GORDON HAYWARD WITH THE STRONG DRIVE THROUGH THE LANE

JAYSON TATUM GOES BASELINE, FINISHES STRONG

KEMBA GOES HIGH OFF THE GLASS FOR TWO

OJELEYE KNOCKS DOWN THE 3 OFF A SWEET HAYWARD PASS

JAYSON TATUM FINISHING OFF 2019 IN STYLE WITH THE STEP-BACK 3

UP NEXT:
vs. Hawks, Friday, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Boston (Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.)
@ Bulls, Saturday, 8 p.m., NBC Sports Boston (Pregame Live at 7:30 p.m.)

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Hawks, which tips off Friday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Tommy have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Celtics vs. Hornets Instant Overreactions: Jayson Tatum closes best month of his career

Celtics vs. Hornets Instant Overreactions: Jayson Tatum closes best month of his career

The Boston Celtics ended 2019 in fashion with a 109-92 road win over the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday afternoon.

The C's improved to 3-0 versus the Hornets on the season, and they will enter 2020 in second place in the Eastern Conference standings.

Let's look at four instant overreaction from the Celtics' victory and assess their merit.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

1. Jayson Tatum is playing the best basketball of his NBA career
Verdict
: Not an overreaction

December of 2019 was the best month of Jayson Tatum's career from an offensive production standpoint, so it was fitting he scored a team-high 24 points on 10-for-18 shooting (4-for-7 from 3-point range) to lead the Celtics to another victory.

Tatum averaged 22.2 points per game in December, which is his highest scoring output for any one month in his career. The third-year forward also had three 30-point performances, including a career-high 39 against the Hornets on Dec. 22. Tatum is doing it all for the C's this season. He ranks second on the team in points per game, second in rebounding, second in steals, third in blocks and third in 3-point percentage. He has built a strong case to be an Eastern Conference All-Star next month.

2. Enes Kanter has decreased Boston's need to make a trade for a center
Verdict
: Overreaction

Enes Kanter has been a tremendous rebounder in his career, and his excellence in that area of the game has been quite valuable to the Celtics this season. He pulled down a team-high 14 rebounds Tuesday, in addition to scoring 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting and tallying a career-high six blocks. Kanter now has scored 10-plus points in four consecutive games. 

The thought all season has been the Celtics should add another center to their roster, and while Kanter has filled his role well, Boston should still try to find a frontcourt player in the trade or buyout markets. C's president of basketball operations Danny Ainge would be wise to pursue a center -- preferably one with 3-point range -- before the playoffs to improve his team's depth. An injury to Kanter or starting center Daniel Theis would be a huge blow to Boston's frontcourt, especially with second-year big man Robert Williams struggling to stay healthy.

3. Gordon Hayward was Boston's best player vs. Charlotte
Verdict
: Not an overreaction

A healthy Gordon Hayward is a substantial upgrade for the Celtics in so many areas. He's arguably the team's best all-round player, and he showed off that versatile skill set Tuesday by scoring 21 points with 10 rebounds, six assists and only two turnovers. Hayward also was among Boston's most efficient scorers -- shooting 9-for-14 from the field, including a 3-for-6 mark on 3-point attempts. 

Injuries have plagued most of Hayward's career in Boston, and this season has been no exception. If he can stay healthy, the C's will have a legitimate chance to win the Eastern Conference. His scoring and playmaking ability are so valuable.

4. P.J. Washington is one of the best steals of the 2019 draft
Verdict
: Slight overreaction

The Hornets drafted terribly this decade. They traded Shai Gilgerous-Alexander on draft night in 2018, and wasted lottery picks on Malik Monk (2017), Frank Kaminsky (2015), Noah Vonleh (2014), Cody Zeller (2013) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2012).

The selection of P.J. Washington out of Kentucky with the No. 12 pick in the 2019 draft appears to be a rare draft success for Charlotte. Washington scored 15 points with five rebounds, three assists, three steals and a block in 36 minutes versus the Celtics. He ranks ninth in scoring among rookies with 12.6 points per game, and his 41.3 percent mark from 3-point range is the third-best among first-year players. Consistency usually is a concern with rookies, but Washington has been very good in that regard with double-digit scoring totals in nine of the 10 games he played in December.

The Hornets don't have many young players with star potential despite drafting so often in the lottery, but Washington does have the talent to be a productive starting-caliber player for a long time.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Hawks, which tips off Friday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Tommy have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.