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Celtics dig deep without Irving and Horford, defeat Hornets 90-87 to extend win-streak to 11 games

The Celtics played an incredibly gritty game in the second half to extend their league-best winning streak to 11 games.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Celtics extended their winning streak to 11 games with a win over the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night by a score of 90-87.

Kyrie Irving had a rough start to the night after getting hit with an elbow to his nose from Aron Baynes. He was guided off the court bleeding into a towel, and did not return as the Celtics monitored Irving for possible concussion symptoms.

However, the Celtics dug deep and put together an impressive defensive display in the second half, holding the Hornets to 30 points in the game’s final two frames. They came back to take the lead in the fourth quarter as Marcus Morris and Jayson Tatum hit big shots down the stretch.

The Celtics understandably struggled on the offensive end without Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, and now Kyrie Irving sidelined with injuries. Boston scored 11 points in the first quarter on 26% shooting, finished the half with 41 points on 32% shooting.

The Celtics had some serious trouble in the first half getting into a rhythm with Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart being forced to run the show. Smart and Brown combined to shoot 6-30 from the floor, as the Celtics found it difficult to get easy points all night. Shane Larkin and Terry Rozier picked up the slack though, combining for 29 points off the bench.

Things got a bit chippy in the second quarter as Marcus Smart and Dwight Howard got into it after Smart was thrown to the ground by his neck. Howard was charged with only a technical foul as Celtics fans fantasized what a Howard-Smart throw down would look like. Frank Kaminsky was a problem for the Celtics posting 14 points in the first half, but was contained in the second half with better suited defenders on him instead of Baynes.

Through all the sloppy play on the offensive end, the Celtics were able to stay in striking distance with good defense and scrappy scoring. Boston cut the Hornets’ lead to three in the fourth quarter with a lineup of Brown, Terry Rozier, Daniel Theis, Shane Larkin, and Guerschon Yabusele with a great display of grit and penetration from Rozier to break down the defense.

Brown and Rozier were then joined by Tatum, Smart, and Marcus Morris to close things out. Tatum hit some big shots in the final minutes to sink the Hornets for good, finishing with 16 points. Morris had a great defensive possession on Kemba Walker up by just one point, leading to free throws by Rozier to end the game.

In a game where it would have been so easy for the Celtics to pack it in without their three best players, Boston’s pack of hungry youngsters played hard and forced the Hornets into difficult offensive possessions every time down the floor down the stretch.

The Celtics will take on the Toronto Raptors in Boston on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. EST.

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