The Boston Celtics juggernaut continues to steamroll its way through the NBA, extending their winning streak to 11 games on Friday despite a rash of injuries that now includes all-star Kyrie Irving.
With Gordon Hayward out for the season and Al Horford sitting out a second straight game with a concussion, Irving suffered a possible concussion less than two minutes into the game after taking an elbow from teammate Aron Baynes.
No matter – despite the revolving door on the infirmary – the Celtics just keep on winning without their Big Three, rallying from an 18-point deficit then hanging on for a 90-87 victory on Friday night over the Charlotte Hornets.
“We’re just going to do what we do no matter who we got,” Celtics Terry Rozier said. “No matter who we’re going to play with, we’re going to play hard.”
Boston scored a season-low 11 points in the first quarter and was down 18 early in the third before sending the Hornets to their fourth straight loss. With unheralded guard Shane Larkin leading the way, the Celtics went on a 14-2 fourth-quarter surge to take control of the game and held the Hornets to 11 points in the fourth quarter. But Boston still had to survive a scramble at the end to survive.
Larkin finished with a season-high 16 points, while rookie Jayson Tatum, who is playing with a sore ankle, scored 16 points.
“There’s no funner place to play than in Boston in comeback games,” Larkin said. “We went out there. Crowd got behind us. We pulled out a victory.”
Rozier had 15 points seven rebounds and four assists, Marcus Morris had 14 and seven rebounds and Jaylen Brown scored 10 points and had 13 rebounds. Kemba Walker led all scorers with 20 points despite missing all six of his three-point shot attempts, while Frank Kaminsky scored all 14 of his points in the first half. Walker, who missed a jumper that would have put his team ahead with five seconds left, scored Charlotte’s final eight points.
Hornets forward Dwight Howard had a dismal night, shooting two-for-eight from the floor, two-for-nine from the foul line, while making seven turnovers. “We’re giving up huge leads. We’re not maintaining our game. We’ve got to be better as a whole,” Walker said.
Jackson’s late bombs
Elsewhere, Reggie Jackson made two clutch three pointers down the stretch as the Detroit Pistons won their fourth straight with a 111-104 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. Jackson had 22 points and six assists for the Pistons, who gave away a 19-point lead before regaining control in front of a crowd of 16,600 at Little Caesars Arena.
Andre Drummond had 16 points, 20 rebounds and a career-high seven assists for Detroit, who improved to 9-3 on the season. Avery Bradley tallied 20 points and Tobias Harris finished with 16 points and eight rebounds. Ish Smith came off the bench to finish with 17 points and five assists. Kent Bazemore had 22 points, five rebounds and five assists for the Hawks (2-10).
Detroit led 76-69 heading into the fourth. The Hawks closed the gap to five early in the quarter and once again midway through after Bazemore made a jumper. Bazemore’s three-pointer from the top of the key and another from the wing tied it 94-94 with 3:49 left.
The teams traded scores until Jackson’s three with 52.3 seconds left put the Pistons on top 103-100. Following Bellinelli’s miss, Bradley made a free throw and collected the rebound after missing the second try. Jackson then drained another key three-pointer to clinch the win.