What you need to know: Guerschon Yabusele game-winner.
What you want to know is the rest of this recap:
The Boston Celtics took revenge for their preseason debut loss against the Charlotte Hornets with a 115-112 win in the tail-end of their preseason home-and-home series. Although Al Horford sat out with a sprained right wrist injury (not believed to be serious), the rest of the Funk Five picked up the slack in his absence to pull ahead in the team’s debut in the (tremendously well-lit) TD Garden.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it. Boston’s defense was terrible in the first quarter. Although Aron Baynes (8 points) did a solid job filling in for Al Horford on both ends, the rest of the team basically rolled out a red carpet to the rim. Charlotte started Willy Hernangomez (14 points), and this move allowed them to keep Baynes away from the basket.
The bright spot in that opening frame came when Terry Rozier (and his bright Puma sneakers) and put up 8 points in a hurry. He finished with 13 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Outside of that, however, it was no surprise to see the Hornets jump out to a 32-24 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Then the Bench With Attitude (BWA) checked in.
Jayson Tatum (16 points) started the game 0-5, taking more than a fair share of long 2-point jumpshots in prime Kobe Bryant fashion. Marcus Smart (making his preseason debut) entered the game, energized the team, and something deep within Tatum triggered. He went on to put up 13 points starting with this alley-oop:
Tatum throws down the fast-break oop! pic.twitter.com/7F1vhseVhu— Boston Celtics (@celtics) September 30, 2018
And his flurry also included this sweet pass from Rozier:
Boston’s defense went from horrid to swarming, the offense opened up with Tatum as the primary option and it was all just a real cool time. That stretch of basketball from the BWA (plus Tatum) made good on Marcus Morris’ promise to strike fear into the hearts of opposing reserve units. The Celtics put up 21 points in just five and a half minutes, and over the entire quarter, they put up 40. This is the second straight game Boston has eclipsed the 60-point mark before halftime.
Gordon Hayward opened up the 3rd quarter with a beautiful pick-and-roll sequence plus the foul for his first points after a scoreless first half that also featured 5 fouls. He followed that up with a tremendous chase-down block a few plays later to give fans just a glimpse of the Hayward we’re all waiting for.
Gordon Hayward chase-down block pic.twitter.com/GjqjePvnz7— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) September 30, 2018
The offense flowed well throughout the 3rd quarter with an invigorated Kyrie Irving taking over. Irving (20 points on 7/14 shooting) put just a fraction of his dribble package on display, and it was enough to amaze every trip down. The Celtics (Morris in particular) rode that wave and an increased defensive focus to carry the lead into the 4th quarter. The highlight of said wave came when Robert Williams III checked in and took advantage of Irving’s gravity for a quick, short hook for his first basket.
After scoring just 97 points in the preseason opener, the Celtics opened the 4th quarter with 89 points. Get used to scores like that with a team full of offensive weapons from the 1st to the 15th man.
Brad Stevens emptied the bench in the 4th, and the scoreboard reflected that. The Hornets started to pull away as soon as Stevens pulled out main rotation players, but Guerschon Yabusele (8 points) and Semi Ojeleye led a charge brought Boston right back in it. In typical Celtics fashion, knowing that I’m writing the recap, the game went down to the wire. A crucial moment came with 38.5 seconds left when P.J. Dozier put back a Brad Wanamaker fadeaway to put the Celtics up 111-110.
Miles Bridges (23 points) came back with a runner off the glass with 33.2 seconds remaining. The Celtics went to Yabusele for a quick paint bucket, and on the other end, Robert Williams blocked Malik Monk (13 points) which led to another Yabusele bucket in transition. From there, Boston got the one stop needed to seal the deal.
If you’re looking for something to take away from this game, it’s that the Celtics will be quite good as long as their top-10 guys aren’t restricted in minutes because preseason. Celtics play the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday, October 2nd for their next preseason contest.