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Celtics drop preseason opener to Hornets 104-97

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Irving, Hayward and Theis were all back on the floor healthy!

NBA: Preseason-Boston Celtics at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first…

Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis all played and none of them got hurt. No one else got hurt either. The prime objective for a preseason game was accomplished.

As for the Celtics, they started off hot, scoring 37 points in the opening quarter and 60 by the time the halftime buzzer sounded. The Hornets made a big run in the third quarter to take the lead, and Charlotte pulled away late for the 104-97 victory.

Irving looked back to his old self. He was quick and explosive early on. Ultimately Irving finished with nine points on 4-of-10 shooting in 22 minutes. The stat sheet also says he had two blocks, but that might be a case of “preseason for everyone”.

Hayward actually logged the most minutes for Boston, with 22:31 of playing time. He looked good on defense, as he moved his feet well and contested several shots. His offensive game looked a little rusty, but he did hit a pull-up three-pointer off the bounce in the third quarter. Hayward also got himself to the free throw line seven times.

Theis opened the second half, with Al Horford finished for the night. Theis was his usual active self, but seemed off on the offensive end. He missed a handful of jumpers badly and also seemed a step slow setting screens. He’s behind Irving and Hayward in terms of recovery, so this is to be expected. Theis also struggled with the NBA’s point of emphasis on “freedom of movement”, as he piled up three fouls in just 10 minutes.

Beyond the three players returning from injury, Jaylen Brown was solid for Boston with 14 points in 22 minutes. Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier turned in good efforts off the bench with 12 and 11 points respectively.

Rookie big man Robert Williams came in and gave Boston some good energy off the bench. He hit 3-of-4 from the free throw line, but his best attribute was being active around the basket on both ends. He’s a development project for the Celtics and won’t be asked to contribute key minutes, as long as the other bigs stay healthy.

Second-year player Semi Ojeleye struggled mightily on the offensive end, as he shot 0-for-8 from the floor and missed all seven of his three-point attempts. On a deep Boston team, Ojeleye has to prove he can make shots to stay on the floor.

Overall, the Celtics got up 47 three-pointers, including 27 attempts in the first half. There seemed to be an emphasis on pushing pace, as Boston got 55 field goal attempts in the first half. With a lot of mouths to feed, getting a significant number of shots off is a way to keep everyone happy.

Jeremy Lamb led the Hornets with 15 points, while Cody Zeller and Kemba Walker added 13 and 12 points respectively. Rookie Miles Bridges had two loud tip-dunks and hit two three-pointers for 10 points for Charlotte.

The Celtics will play next on Sunday at 6:00 PM EST, as they host the Hornets in Boston.