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Hornets hold off late rally to sting Celtics

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The Celtics late push wasn't enough to overcome a slow start against Kemba Walker and the Hornets.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Cody Zeller got the better of the battle of brothers with a season-high 20 points and the battle between their respective teams wasn't much closer. Despite a 4th quarter Celtics run that got the TD Garden crowd stirring, the Charlotte Hornets were able to hold off Boston's rally to pick up the win.

Charlotte burst out to an early lead behind an 11-0 run in the first quarter and remained in control the entire game. Boston hit only 7-of-23 shots from the field in the opening quarter to dig themselves into an early hole that proved to be too deep to climb out of.

Boston had issues all night containing Kemba Walker with their depleted backcourt, as the Hornets point guard made a habit of splitting the defense to drive to the hoop at will. Walker hit all of his game-high 7 free throws to highlight a trend that frustrated the Celtics. Each team had 23 attempts from the charity stripe in this game. The difference is that Charlotte hit 22 of them (95.7%), while Boston hit only 16 (69.6%).

Jared Sullinger led Boston with 22 points and 8 rebounds, continuing his recent strong play as he bounces back from a mid-December slump. Sullinger also matched his career high with 4 blocks and added a pair of steals.

An encouraging highlight for the Celtics was the coming out party for rookie James Young. He's seen limited time on the court this season while being shuttled between Boston and Portland's D-League team, but injuries to Marcus Thornton and Jameer Nelson gave Young a chance to get some quality minutes. He made the most of his chance, scoring a career-high 13 points in only 18 minutes - including 8 points in the 4th quarter to help spark the Celtics rally. The rookie could have a bright future with his sweet shooting stroke and games like this will help get him more time on the court as the season moves along.

Meanwhile, Jeff Green continued to struggle. After scoring Boston's first 6 points to start the first quarter, Green became a non-factor the rest of the way. He finished with only 7 points on 3-of-13 shooting. If his lack of scoring wasn't bad enough, he recorded only one rebound and failed to tally an assist, while putting up a team worst -18 in +/- in 26 minutes. Trade rumors may be getting into his head, but if he doesn't turn things around soon then Young may start to steal some of his minutes.