The Boston Celtics will get their final tune-up ahead of a Christmas Day matchup with the defending champion Toronto Raptors when they host the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday night.
The Celtics will look to run their winning streak to three before traveling to Toronto for Wednesday’s key Atlantic Division tilt. The two teams are neck-and-neck atop the standings, the Celtics beating the Raptors in Boston in their first meeting.
The Hornets, meanwhile, will get a break after Sunday’s game, not playing again until they host the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday.
Charlotte enters the contest on a back-to-back, losing 114-107 at home to the Utah Jazz on Saturday night. Terry Rozier led all scorers with 29 points, and Devonte’ Graham added 22, but the Hornets still fell for the third time in their last four games.
“(The Jazz’s) playmaking, their shooting, I think that was the difference,” head coach James Borrego said. “They’re a heck of a team. I thought our guys battled tonight, didn’t make enough plays or shots down the stretch.”
Rozier impressed for the second straight game after scoring a career-high 35 points against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. The 25-year-old guard, in his first season with Charlotte after four years in Boston to begin his career, was a non-factor when he played the Celtics for the first time Nov. 7, held to three points on 1-of-11 shooting.
In that contest, played in Charlotte, all the focus was on Kemba Walker, making his return to the home of the team he led for eight seasons for the first time since joining the Celtics. Walker’s role has shifted in Boston — he’s still the club’s leading scorer, but he doesn’t have to do it alone like he largely did with the Hornets.
Take, for example, the Celtics’ win over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night. Walker was held to two points on 0-of-6 shooting and committed seven turnovers, but teammates Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum scored 26 points apiece, and Boston still cruised to a 114-93 victory.
Walker did have 11 assists in the game.
“It wasn’t Kemba’s night, but everybody on our team contributed to winning,” coach Brad Stevens said. “I think everyone on the team knows that we’re doing a lot to center ourselves around those three guys while we’re not healthy, but they all gave us a lot.”
Injuries have been a problem for Boston of late, forward Gordon Hayward (sore left foot), guard Marcus Smart (left eye infection) and big men Vincent Poirier (right pinkie fracture) and Robert Williams III (left hip) all missing the last two games. Hayward is questionable Sunday, as he was Friday, but the other three have been ruled out.
As a result of the injuries, 7-foot-5 rookie Tacko Fall made his home debut late in the fourth quarter of the blowout win over the Pistons to the delight of the crowd. The fan favorite had five points and two rebounds in five minutes.
“I still have a long way to go; just have to stay the course and trust the plan they have for me and things will work out,” said Fall.
–Field Level Media