Despite furious third-quarter comeback efforts by the Hornets, the Celtics were able to hold on in Charlotte for a 102-91 victory.
Boston started the game well, shooting 50% from the field in the first quarter while holding Charlotte to just 26%. They seemed unfazed and perhaps motivated by their Christmas day loss as they outrebounded Dwight Howard and the Hornets and hit four of their seven three-point attempts. Marcus Smart, who started in place of the injured Jaylen Brown, left the game around midway through the quarter and was replaced by Guerschon Yabusele. Smart was checked out by team trainers who quickly cleared him to return to play, and he was on the floor to start the second quarter.
The Celtics continued their stellar play in the second period, jumping out to an 20-point lead with just under five minutes left in the half. They finished the half up sixteen and having knocked down 11 threes on the Hornets, who are among the NBA's best at defending the deep shot. Boston did, however, give up ten offensive rebounds in the first half, allowing Charlotte to attempt ten more field goals.
Boston started the second half quite poorly, allowing their lead to be cut to two just under halfway through the third quarter before Aron Baynes hit a mid-range jumper and stopped Charlotte's run. Kyrie Irving followed suit, burying a pull-up three to put Boston up seven. The Hornets again cut the deficit to two points around nine minutes into the quarter, but a Terry Rozier triple effectively ended another Charlotte run. The Hornets once again came within two with two minutes left in the quarter and continued to outplay the Celtics, closing the gap to one by the end of the quarter.
Boston began the final quarter with a three, courtesy of Terry Rozier, and finished off the Hornets with some clutch play from Irving and Jayson Tatum, culminating in an Al Horford dagger from deep en route to a 102-91 victory.
Marcus Morris (knee), Jaylen Brown (knee), and Semi Ojeleye (back) all sat out with injuries.
Five Celtics scored in double figures: Irving (21 pts), Horford (20 pts), Tatum (18 pts), Rozier (15 pts), and Larkin (11 pts)
The Celtics now head back to Boston for the second game of a back-to-back. They will face off with the Houston Rockets, one of the NBA's top teams. The game will be nationally televised on TNT.