IN A NUTSHELL
This game was as close to a true must-win as the Boston Celtics have had this season thus far, because four straight losses gets to be A Thing, and not just in the alarmist Boston sports media landscape. Playing a defensive-minded Charlotte Hornets team also served as a dress rehearsal for the true test against Philadelphia coming on Christmas Day.
After a closely fought duel in the first frame between Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker, Boston began pouring on the punishment from both ends of the floor in the second and didn’t look back. The final winning score, 119-103, wasn’t remotely reflective of the beatdown they unleashed against the Hornets in a much-needed, well-executed team win.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Kyrie started off on a breakneck kick, with seven of Boston’s nine unanswered points in the opening minutes en route to 17 in the quarter (and 25 for the game). But the primary reason for the Celtics’ success was—BRACE YOURSELF FOR THIS SHOCKING REVELATION—returning to lineup arrangements that fueled the 8-game win streak.
There now exists too much evidence to downplay the potency of the Irving/Smart/Tatum/Morris/Horford starting five, as well as the success Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward have off the bench. (I’ve given the latter a hard time in some moments, but he’s accepted the benching without an iota of public complaint and continues to show assorted signs of resurgence, like a strong two-handed dunk in that second quarter.) Other points:
The Celtics forced Kemba Walker to work mostly alone, with Jeremy Lamb offering the only other meaningful offensive contributions. (Part of that is Charlotte’s clunky roster, but Kemba aside, they played massively out of whack by any standard.)
That 2nd quarter was the Cs’ highest-scoring frame of the season, with 39 points. At times, the lead eclipsed 30 points.
Team rebounding looked more like what it should be, a mercy after two brutal humiliations and the creator of many second-chance field goals in this game.
Horford looks like his old self and proved once again how, in many ways, he is the stabilizing spine of this Celtics team.
But Marcus Morris is currently one of this team’s most consistent two-way players, and deserves plenty of credit for bringing his own brand of muscle to the starting lineup.
Jayson Tatum continues his low-key murder streak with another 17-point performance.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Just small points:
Hayward’s shooting is still incredibly inconsistent.
Brown got in unfortunate early foul trouble that limited his playability and shot poorly, in the precise inverse of his Milwaukee performance.
Also, his attempt at a lob to the Timelord…did not go well. (Couldn’t find video, or this’d be in the section below.)
WHAT THE HELL
Williams’ face, in particular, after the Hayward slam is hysterical:
GREEN FIRE HIGHLIGHTS
The aforementioned Hayward jam:
Uncle Al and Kyrie working their magic:
For posterity, just felt like I couldn’t not include this beautiful image: