Boston Celtics 116 – Charlotte Hornets 104


Boston Celtics 116 Charlotte Hornets 94

A spirited comeback attempt by the Charlotte Hornets fell short, as the Celtics withstood the charge of the home team in the fourth quarter. Bismack Biyombo‘s defense, Mo Williams‘ shooting, and Kemba Walker‘s aggressiveness just were not quite enough to lift the Hornets into the win column.

Walker led the team with 28 points and 12 assists. Mo Williams contributed 19 points off the bench, and Gerald Henderson chipped in 17 points and one questionably timed flagrant foul on Celtics forward Gerald Wallace.

Wallace was in the post, backing down, and Henderson seemed to take umbrage over a rather aggressive drop step by Wallace, lashing out with his right arm in a punch/push hybrid move. It was far from UFC fight night, but it was enough to earn the flagrant, with the Hornets down big at the time.

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The announcing team speculated that Henderson was trying to fire up his team, but it looked more like frustration and poor sportsmanship. For his part, Wallace did not seem perturbed at all by the incident, although he did miss both free throws.

Charlotte was undermanned again, an unfortunate reality for most of the season, with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Cody Zeller both sidelined with ankle and shoulder injuries, respectably. That meant more responsibility for Biyombo and Marvin Williams, with even little used Jeff Taylor making an appearance.

While Biyombo provided rim protection and suffocating interior defense, the Celtics shot lights out from the three point line again. The Celtics went small in the fourth, and the Hornets had trouble matching up and keeping up with the Boston speedsters.

Still, a Walker three pointer put the Hornets down just nine points, 104-95 with just under three minutes to go. While Marvin Williams had a chance to cut the lead to six with just under two minutes, but he missed everything on the shot and Boston came back to score on the other end. That put the Celtics up 10.

A Celtics offensive foul followed up by a quick layup by Walker cut the lead to six at the 40 second mark, but by then it was too late. A pair of free throws took the lead back up to eight. The Hornets kept battling, but it was ultimately not enough.

A very costly clear-path foul ended all hope, putting Boston back up by eight with just 24 seconds left. So, it was nice to see the Hornets not give up, but it would have been better to see a complete effort all 48 minutes.

Now, the big picture. The loss puts the Hornets one and a half games behind Brooklyn and Boston for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff spot. The good news is that Charlotte still has a better conference record than most of the other contenders for the eighth seed, so in a multiple team tie-breaker, the Hornets would probably come out on top.

However, their tie-breaker with the Celtics is now in question after this loss. The season series is tied 2-2, so most likely the Hornets would still win, but it would depend on how the teams play down the stretch.

One and a half games is still a small enough number that Charlotte can make up the ground, but the margin for error keeps growing slimmer with each loss. If Charlotte goes 7-2 over the last nine games, Boston would need to go 5-3 or worse.

On paper, the Celtics have a tough schedule, but with the season winding down its hard to know who will be resting and who will still be gunning for a higher seed. Boston plays Cleveland twice, Milwaukee twice, and Toronto twice. Plus Indiana and Detroit.

With a little luck, the Cavaliers will be looking for a higher seed and we will see King James on the court eviscerating his old rival. That would be a boon for the Hornets, if they can take advantage. Charlotte, though, has lost seven of its last nine and the team needs to take a good long look in the mirror if they expect to playing in mid-April.

So the season is not over yet, but this team needs to put it together on the court for all 48 minutes for the rest of the year. Every game is critical, and with each loss the playoffs slips just a little farther away.

Next: Hornets Must Heat Up To Make Playoffs