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Hornets fall to the Celtics 98-88 for their fourth loss in a row

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Leading by 9 at halftime, the Hornets played poorly in the second half and let another lead slip away.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Hornets lost their fourth game in a row Friday night, 98-88, to the Boston Celtics. Nicolas Batum led the Hornets with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Boston’s Isaiah Thomas led all scorers with 26.

The game started ugly, with neither team able to knock down open shots. While both teams were unable to get into a rhythm, it remained close, and the Hornets trailed by just one, 23-22 at the end of the first. Batum and Sessions led things early, scoring seven and six points, respectively, in the first quarter.

Poor shooting continued for both teams into the second. Boston missed a ton of open 3-pointers, while Charlotte missed their share of easy buckets, including one underneath the rim by Frank Kaminsky.

Providing a spark late in the half was Jeremy Lamb, who scored 10 points in the first half on 5-8 shooting. Lamb excelled by attacking the hoop, but also managed to knock down a few contested shots from mid-range. It gave Charlotte a small lead, which Batum built on by knocking down two 3-pointers, and the Hornets would enter halftime leading 50-41.

Charlotte maintained a solid lead as the third quarter begin. Defensively, they continued to make it difficult for Boston to create easy shots. Then, it all fell apart.

Leading by double-digits midway through the quarter, Charlotte sacrificed another third quarter lead, allowing Boston to go on a 23-12 run to take a two point lead. The Hornets responded with five straight to re-take the lead, and the two teams went back and forth as the quarter ended, and headed into the fourth tied at 69.

The Hornets entered the fourth desperate for offense, shooting just 31 percent. No player had taken over individually since Lamb’s burst in the second quarter, and they looked like a team missing their star player. Trailing 74-69, Boston was on the verge of pulling away, but Charlotte dug in defensively, and benefited from a quick run by Belinelli, who helped Charlotte re-take the lead 79-77.

However, Jae Crowder responded with a 3-pointer to put Boston back up on top, and Boston took control once again. A 3-pointer by Thomas extended their lead to eight with just under five minutes remaining, putting Charlotte in a tough spot. And with Charlotte shooting just 24 percent in the second half, a come back simply wasn’t happening.

This is four straight losses for Charlotte, and there’s really no way to sugar coat it. They’re bad right now, offering little on the offensive end, and there have only been stretches of play on defense where they look like the top 10 defensive team they’ve been for much of the season. Losing could easily be placed on the absence of Kemba Walker, but that wouldn’t be fair, not when Charlotte held a 12 point third quarter lead but lost by 10. The Hornets did enough to take the lead, but when Boston made just the slightest of push backs, Charlotte rolled over, as they have in a few games of late.

This has been coming. The Hornets haven’t shot the ball well in recent weeks, but have survived by getting to the free throw line and limiting the amount of attempts their opponents get. Tonight, however, that wasn’t the case, as Boston made 19 free throws to Charlotte’s 16.

Batum’s double-double was a highlight, but he received little help aside from small stretches from Jeremy Lamb and Belinelli. Sessions scored 13, but shot 5-16 from the field. Kaminsky is shooting 12-51 over the past few games, and looks to be playing with little confidence.

Now, the Hornets will head to Atlanta for the final game of their five game road trip. Atlanta isn’t playing well either, but very little about tonight suggests the Hornets will win tomorrow, that is unless Walker returns fresh and has a big night. But given the rest of the team’s performance for the most part, that might not be enough.