The Charlotte Hornets’ core shined in this Sunday afternoon ESPN matchup with the Boston Celtics, as Miles Bridges, Devonte’ Graham, Terry Rozier and PJ Washington all scored 20-plus points in a 125-104 win at The Hive.
The Hornets brought energy out of the gates; Miles Bridges and Cody Martin had really aggressive contests at the rim on the first two Celtics possessions, and the ball movement and cutting on offense was pinpoint from the start. Bridges, Devonte’ Graham and Terry Rozier carried the shot-making load early, helping Charlotte to a 12-5 lead at the first timeout.
The Hornets started the game 9/10 from the field and 5/5 from 3P, giving themselves a 23-12 cushion halfway through the opening frame. It was apparent for the majority of the first half that Charlotte was the more awake, energetic and focused team as Boston struggled to create offense and committed a few ugly turnovers.
Graham, Rozier and Brad Wanamaker did a great job setting the pace and putting pressure on the Boston defense in the 1Q, after which the Hornets led 33-23. Rozier had five points and six assists in the quarter.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens remarked that Boston needed to match Charlotte’s pace and effort level in order to compete during a sideline interview, and eventually the Celtics did start to do that as the 2Q wound to a close. Boston’s defense was awful to begin the quarter, though, and Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier both headed to the locker room within minutes of each other. Thankfully, Walker returned within minutes and Fournier came back soon after.
Jalen McDaniels and Washington were creating the offense for a good stretch of the 2Q, and McDaniels showed his usual active hands and off-ball defensive awareness. Rozier rewarded him for it with a sick lob in the middle of the quarter:
Jalen McDaniels gets the poke and runs in transition for the oop. Would love to see him play with LaMelo. pic.twitter.com/6n5wN6pm5u— Richie Randall (@RichieRandall) April 25, 2021
Rozier was dropping dimes the whole 1H finishing with 11 points (3-5 3P) and a career-high eight 1H assists. The Celtics scored a bit more to cut the deficit to 63-52 at the break, with Washington putting up a game-high 14 points to go with five boards. Martin had 11 points and two blocks.
At the start of the half, the ESPN broadcast noted that the Hornets totaled 48 assists and only eight turnovers in the last eight quarters of action, which is an absolutely insane stat. Washington rained threes on the Celtics to start the 3Q, and here’s another insane stat that puts into perspective how well he’s been shooting lately:
.@PJWashington is shooting 57.1 percent from 3-point range (20 for 35) in 5 games since returning from a sprained ankle. He's 4 for 5 this afternoon. He's firing away with confidence.— Rod Boone (@rodboone) April 25, 2021
A coach’s challenge from Stevens about halfway through the quarter slowed the game down a bit and helped Boston recollect themselves, and I would like to use this time to express my displeasure with NBA reviews; they take entirely too long and half of the time the call stands anyways. Figure something out, Adam Silver.
At the six-minute mark of the 3Q, Graham and Rozier had already combined for 18 assists. A run from the Celtics brought them back within nine with 5:10 to go, but the Hornets did a great job all night of not letting them get confident in their shot attempts.
Bismack Biyombo had a woeful stretch for a few minutes in the 3Q, but to his credit those were the only bad minutes he’s put in recently. His energy and attentiveness on defense has kept the Hornets afloat on that end during this tough slide.
Bridges canned a wild double-clutch pull-up triple from about 32 feet to end the 3Q and put Charlotte up 100-88 heading into the fourth. Rozier had 18 points to go along with a career-high matching 11 assists after three quarters.
It was clear the Hornets were trying to bury the Celtics as soon as they possibly could once the 4Q started. That 30-point blowout loss at Boston’s hands a few weeks ago must’ve made the Hornets players feel some type of way.
Boston didn’t make a field goal until Charlotte native Grant Williams buried a 3-pointer around the nine-minute mark and the game was mostly out of reach for the Celtics in the final quarter, which was a pleasant change from the recent games the Hornets have played in the afternoon and/or on national television.
Mic’d up Bridges was fantastic to listen to on the broadcast and gave an awesome post-game interview to Israel Gutierrez, and Graham and Rozier were making plays for all 48 minutes. The rookies and Caleb Martin got some run at the end of the game, and the Hornets held off the Celtics every step of the way, winning by a final score of 125-104.
Rozier put up 21 points, a career-high tying 11 assists and five boards on 5-9 shooting from deep. Graham went 6-11 3P for a game-leading 24 points and nine dimes, with Washington adding 22 and 12 rebounds. Bridges put up 20 points to go with some hellacious defense. The Hornets had 39 assists on 47 made field goals and made 21 total 3-pointers.
In contrast to the TNT broadcast, the ESPN broadcast was actually fun to watch. Richard Jefferson knew what he was talking about when discussing the team’s style of play/player development successes, and most importantly, they didn’t call coach Borrego “Jim.” The bar is on the floor.
Takeaways; not a world-beater take but Miles has never played with this much freedom and confidence in his career; Terry’s playmaking ability has grown leaps and bounds in the last month; it really sucks to see Kemba get hurt so often and not get to win as many games as anticipated when he went to Boston; excellent game from CoMart; don’t look now but Grant Riller has been good at the end of the last two games he’s played in; great bounce-back game against an actual good team, it’d been a minute since they’d beaten a decent team.