Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise – the Charlotte Hornets were fully invested in winning this game against Jaylen Brown, Derrick White, and the second/third unit of the Boston Celtics. Still, they were unsuccessful despite players like Marcus Smart, Malcolm Brogdon, Jayson Tatum and Al Horford all sitting out tonight due to rest as the Celtics picked up the 112-103 win behind Derrick White’s ultra-aggressive 18 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
The first quarter had all the makings of the kind of game that makes you think, “oh, this is going to be a long night.” The Celtics turned the ball over 9 times in just the first quarter, and they looked extremely sloppy on both ends. Grant Williams, in particular, had a rough go, and Jaylen Brown was basically just doing some light shooting practice out there.
Boston went down by as much as 16 as LaMelo Ball’s hot shooting had Charlotte’s offense humming. Well, let me issue a correction. Ball was setting up the Hornets, but they couldn’t buy a basket for a long, long stretch in the first half. The Hornets dominated the offensive glass, but they just couldn’t get their shots to fall. That’s a huge reason why the Celtics only went down by 16. It could have gotten ugly. Instead, the Celtics fought back to make it a close game at halftime, and they turned their deficit fully around in the third quarter to take a double-digit lead.
Tonight marked the debut of No. 91 – Blake Griffin. Griffin (7 points, 9 rebounds) struggled to hit shots from the field, but that’s pretty much the only black mark on the night relative to what’s reasonable to expect from him now. Griffin’s defensive mistakes were minimal, and his passing and spacing helped tremendously. He started in the third quarter over Noah Vonleh (who had himself a solid game as well – 14 points, 13 rebounds), and he was part of the lineup that propelled Boston into taking control of the contest.
Jaylen Brown played this game to “keep his rhythm,” which is honestly fair considering how good he’s looked through the first three preseason games. Although his shooting cooled off slightly, he still poured in five 3-pointers on efficient shooting from behind the arc. Brown finished with a game-high 19 points to go with 5 rebounds.
Derrick White had one of his most comfortable performances of his time in green. On both hands, he was incredibly active, and he kept the pace up, which has been a notable point of emphasis for the team. While Sam Hauser (9 points) did cool off a bit, he still poured in three 3-pointers while his spacing opened up Boston’s offense.
Off the bench, Payton Pritchard continued his offensive showcase with an array of inside and outside shots. Justin Jackson rebounded from a miserable performance Wednesday night against the Raptors tonight as he caught fire with several 3-pointers in the third quarter. He finished with 16 points.
For the Charlotte Hornets, Kelly Oubre put up 18 points while Terry Rozier added 14 points. LaMelo Ball’s full stat line: 23 points, 10 assists, 4 rebounds and 4 turnovers. He also fouled out of the game early in the fourth.