Following the Celtics’ worst offensive performance of the season on Saturday night against the Utah Jazz, Brad Stevens decided it was time to make some changes to the starting lineup. Aron Baynes got the start in place of Gordon Hayward on Monday in Charlotte.
Although the offensive production wasn’t stellar early on, it was clear that spacing and aggressiveness was much better, while their rotations on the defensive end were sharp and swift. Boston did trail by 5 after one thanks to some hot shooting from the Hornets. Charlotte started 6 for their first 10 from three.
Quick side note #1: Gordon Hayward looked really unsettled in his first ten minutes, which included two double dribbles and little to no explosion when cutting to the hoop.
The Celtics were able to grab the lead as the second quarter went on thanks to great play from Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart. Both guards were phenomenal defending the perimeter and helped spur an 18-5 Boston run. Rozier’s play from the beginning of the second quarter until the 4 minute mark was his best stretch of the young season. He looked very comfortable on the offensive end, spaced the floor well, and was very active on the defensive end. The guard finished the second quarter with 8 points on 3/4 shooting (2/3 3FG), 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 assists.
It was a relatively sloppy first half (16 total turnovers) with solid runs from both sides, but the Celtics led 56-54 at the half. Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum combined for 19 of Boston’s 45 first-half field goals as the Celtics shot 56% over the first 24 minutes. Those two did a good job of controlling the tempo, which led to a much needed aggressive half on the offensive end. Irving had 8 assists at the break.
Quick side note #2: After getting the start, Aron Baynes played only 5 first-half minutes.
The ball movement and spacing would continue in the second half for Brad Stevens’ squad, as the Celtics had 26 assists on 38 made field goals through three. Boston led 87-84 heading into the fourth on 55% shooting with Irving’s 19 points and aggressive play leading the way, but that wouldn’t last much longer.
The Celtics led 98-88 with 9:37 remaining in the fourth, but an 18-4 Hornets run led by Kemba Walker would put the up 106-102 with 4:30 left. Walker stayed hot for the entirety of the quarter, but it was Tony Parker who would hit a huge pair of jumpers with just under minutes remaining to put Charlotte up by 6. Tatum would hit a three to cut the deficit in half with 48.7 seconds left, but it was Walker who responded with a another three that would put the nail in the coffin. Al Horford had a good closeout on the play, but it didn’t matter thanks to Walker’s scorching hot night. He had 21 points in the fourth quarter and 43 on the night. This comes just two days after he put up 60 points against the Philadelphia 76ers in an overtime loss.
Monday night was as aggressive as the Celtics have been in quite a while, especially in transition, but much of that flow seemed to stop midway through the fourth quarter. Boston has now won just 1 of their last 9 games in regulation and drops to 4-6 on the road.
The Celtics look to bounce back on Wednesday night vs the Knicks at TD Garden.