The Hornets got off to a little bit of a sluggish start. LaMelo Ball turned the ball over four times early, though the Hornets did convert from the interior when they got there. Defensively, they were a bit tentative guarding the inside and let the Celtics get a few too many easy layups and offensive rebounds. After one, the Hornets trailed 27-25.
Kelly Oubre, who finished the first quarter strong, brought a lot of energy to the Hornets on both ends in his return to the floor. He scored ten quick points and tallied a couple of deflections on the defensive end. Jalen McDaniels picked up where Oubre slowed down as the quarter went along. The Hornets started to find their rhythm offensively as they built a small lead. They scored ten straight at one point and led by as many as ten. They held the Celtics to just 3-of-14 shooting to close the quarter and led by eight heading into the half.
The teams exchanged baskets for a few minutes to start the second half. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown took seemingly all the shots for the Celtics while the Hornets pushed along with their balanced attack. Back to back possessions were capped off by Terry Rozier 3-pointers directly from Ball offensive rebounds put the Hornets up by 14. He hit another three before Kelly Oubre joined the party. By the end of the third, the Hornets had themselves a 12 point lead.
The Hornets missed four straight shots to start the fourth quarter as the Celtics pulled within six in just over two minutes of play to force a Hornets timeout. They cut it to five a short time later to make it a ballgame before the Hornets started to get some offense. LaMelo Ball cashed in a corner three before Miles Bridges made a couple of impossible layups around Jaylen Brown to keep the Hornets afloat. Oubre jumped in a couple of possessions later to knock down a deep three to put the Hornets back up 10. We got an electric dunk from Bridges in transition, but the Hornets gave the dunk right back celebrating the good times.
The Celtics threatened to make a late push after a defensive breakdown led to a wide open Al Horford three to pull the Celtics within six. Ball and Rozier answered with back to back 3-pointers to seemingly put the game away, but the Hornets couldn’t let it be easy. They gave up an open three to Dennis Schroeder, then Terry Rozier lost the ball out of bounds in the back court. Schroeder hit a second three on the ensuing Celtics possession. Rozier was unfazed and hit a side step three the next time down to seal the win.
LaMelo Ball grabbed his tenth rebound on a Celtics heave to give him a triple double.
The Hornets played a pretty strong game on both ends of the course, even if there were more breakdowns and losses of focuses than you’d want to see. They played well enough though, and now they’re five games clear of the .500 mark.
They have a good chance to improve upon that on Friday against the Thunder.