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Celtics escape Charlotte with 140-129 win in overtime thriller, Tatum scores 41

The high-flying Hornets offense couldn’t keep pace with the Celtics in a shootout.

Boston Celtics v Charlotte Hornets Photo by Kent Smith/NBAE via Getty Images

Boston and Charlotte adopted the “best defense is more offense” mantra in a Monday night monsoon of points. With both offenses firing on all cylinders, the Celtics escaped with the victory, 140-129 in overtime behind Jayson Tatum’s 41 and Jaylen Brown’s 30 points.

Al Horford (adductor) and Romeo Langford (calf) missed the contest in Charlotte due to injuries. Dennis Schröder stepped up to make his second straight start, joining Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams in the starting lineup.

The Hornets were without former Celtic “Scary” Terry Rozier. Kelly Oubre was inserted in the starting lineup in his absence. Charlotte came into the contest undefeated, one of seven undefeated teams. Sitting 3-0, the Hornets won their first three games in a season for the first time in franchise history.

Boston started the game cold, shooting 1-6 from three and falling behind early. The Hornets shot out to an eight-point lead on the strength of their 3-point shooting and ball movement. Up 17-9, the Hornets held a 6-2 assist advantage over Boston. Charlotte was lethal coming off screens, Kelly Oubre found room twice for three on back-to-back possessions. LaMelo Ball was picking apart the defense to boot, controlling the pace and anticipating where open men would be. He had six points and three assists in the first quarter, including a pair of threes.

Without Horford, Jabari Parker saw action in the first quarter. Parker hit three 3-pointers and posterized Jalen McDaniels in transition for an early 11 points. Parker’s instant offense helped erase the Charlotte lead, tying the game at 33 at the end of the first.

While the offense picked up for Boston as the game continued, the defense still lagged behind. Charlotte continued to shoot the lights out, keeping an intense game of tug-of-war going that rivaled Netflix’s “Squid Game.”

Back-to-back Ball threes halfway through the second quarter gave Charlotte a six-point lead, forcing Ime Udoka to call a timeout. A 9-3 run tied the game back up at 57.

Tatum was carrying the offense in the first half, scoring 21. Schröder picked up slack offensively, putting up 12 points with three 3-pointers to go along with a team-high four assists and four rebounds.

After a tight first half, Boston was able to escape with a two-point lead at halftime, 68-66, led by Tatum, Schröder and Parker. The Hornets shot 13/23, 56.5%, from three in the first half. Boston, after a slow start, shot 11/25 (44%) from three in the first half.

Following the firework-filled first half, the third quarter opened up with a few bottle rockets and roman candles courtesy of Ball. The reigning Rookie of the Year took back the lead with a step back three and a show-stopping dime to force another Boston timeout.

Ball’s foul trouble provided Boston with opportunities to climb back, but every time he was on the court, Charlotte was thriving.

With 5:30 remaining in the third, Tatum took a three-minute breather. In his absence, the Celtics stretched their two-point lead into a six-point lead. However, Charlotte closed the quarter on a 11-2 run, storming back to claim a three-point lead going into the fourth, 97-94.

The Hornets opened up the final quarter with authority, pushing the pace on offense and running the floor as they love to do. The pace punched Boston in the face, and the reeling defense allowed Charlotte to slowly extend their lead.

While Charlotte’s offense kept pace, Boston’s got stuck in the mud. The Hornets extended their lead to 11 after a 12-2 run over two minutes. With six minutes remaining, Boston needed to swing the momentum badly.

Brown dropped in back-to-back buckets and Smart ended a lengthy drought with a three to give Boston a fighting chance with 4:30 remaining. As a unit, Boston went on a 12-3 run over a minute and a half to close a wide gap. A 12-point lead evaporated to three in just two minutes.

After filling up the stat sheet with 37 points, a Tatum lob to Rob Williams gave Boston the lead back, 120-119. The seventh assist of the night for Tatum was massive, silencing the Spectrum Center crowd.

A parking lot three from Ball gave the crowd that energy right back, and reinvigorated the Hornets. With a minute left, it was electric in Charlotte.

Two free throws from Tatum tied it at 122, the young gun Ball took an ill-advised three, Smart missed a three for Boston, and the Hornets had the ball with 15 seconds remaining, tie game.

Marcus Smart forced a costly turnover from former green-teamer Gordon Hayward, which gave Boston a chance to win with eight seconds remaining. The Celtics failed to get a play off, forcing overtime.

After squandering an early OT lead, Boston took the lead back again with a flurry of threes from Brown and Schröder. Miscues from a young Charlotte team gave Boston the chance to extend their lead, which Brown happily accepted.

After the closing 12-0 run in OT, Boston held on for the victory, bringing their record to 2-2 on the season after starting winless. Next up for the Celtics is a 7:30 p.m. tip against the revamped Washington Wizards on Wednesday.