The Boston Globe

Celtics finish trip on right foot

They hit 19 threes to stroll past the Hornets

- By Gary Washburn GLOBE STAFF Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

Celtics 118 Hornets 104

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Celtics’ primary goals in the final game of this 11-day, six-game road trip was to build off Saturday’s impressive win at New Orleans and stay healthy.

There isn’t much regular-season motivation for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but behind 19 3-pointers, including seven from Sam Hauser, Boston entertaine­d the mostly Celtics crowd and coasted to a 118-104 win over the lotterybou­nd Hornets at Spectrum Center.

The Celtics improved to 27-0 when they make at least 18 3-pointers, and they picked apart a Charlotte defense that was protecting the paint because it started 6foot-6-inch Grant Williams at center.

Hauser finished with 25 points in 24 minutes and five second-half 3-pointers that helped the Celtics build a double-digit lead. Jayson Tatum, who always enjoys games near his Duke University roots, also scored 25 and added 10 rebounds. Kristaps Porzingis tallied 20 along with 7 rebounds and 5 assists.

After two frustratin­g losses in Atlanta, the Celtics responded with consecutiv­e wins by double digits and are one victory away from their first 60-win season in 15 years. Boston finished this road trip 4-2, and now have six of its final seven games at TD Garden.

“We’re in a unique position — best record in the league, got home-court advantage, all those things, first place,” Tatum said. “I think for most of this road trip, we’ve been playing against teams that are fighting for a playoff position, play-in spots, except for the team tonight.

“I just understand that it’s not always going to go the way we expect it to, and how are we going to respond if we lose the first game in round one, right? How are we going to respond? Just going through, each game brought something different, and it was good for us to go through that.”

For Williams, it was the second time facing his former team, and first since being traded to his native Charlotte in Febru ary. Because the Hornets were missing Mark Williams and Nick Richards with injuries, he started at center against the 7-3 Porzingis. Besides picking up two early fouls, he showed many of the skills he displayed during his four seasons in Boston, finishing with 23 points and seven rebounds.

The talkative Williams chatted during the game with Tatum and Derrick White, and even got into a bumping match in the post with Porzingis before picking up a blocking foul.

“I was happy to be able to compete and I think I played well enough,” Willams said. “I just wanted to go out there and really be physical and do the things I normally do. I would love to play them every single night because if you play against the best of the best, it makes your team tougher.

“I’m excited that these guys got the opportunit­y to play against them because guys are getting the opportunit­y to see what it’s like. I think that’s needed for this team as we move forward through the next couple seasons.”

Said Tatum: “It was good [seeing Grant]. My brother for life. Always good to compete against him, just having fun out there. I don’t talk trash at all, but if it’s somebody I’m close with like Grant, I like to have fun out there.”

Hauser scored 19 of his points in the second half, beginning the fourth quarter with a pair of threes to extend the lead to 101-82 with 9:28 left. Hauser made a career-high 10 threes last month in Washington before leaving the game with an ankle injury. On Monday, his teammates made a concerted effort to swing the ball as he was constantly left open in the corners.

In 18 games since the All-Star break, Hauser has made 56 of 111 3-point attempts (50.4 percent), as he continues to emerge as a major element in the Celtics’ 3point focused offense.

“I mean his confidence, but I think just layers of our offense is what unleashes him,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “The guys understand that he’s a weapon in different ways, and so when we get to the second and third layer of our offense, especially when teams are guarding us a certain way, it really unleashes guys like Sam.

“Just his confidence, and then his teammates continuing to trust him and find him within the layers of our offense.”

The Celtics’ 53 3-point attempts tied a season-high for a regulation game, as they chose to spread out the Charlotte defense with the extra pass until it finally cracked.

“Our goal is not necessaril­y to shoot threes but to get the best shot,” Mazzulla said. “We got wide-open looks from the corner, and if those are the shots that they’re giving us, then those are shots we have to take.

“They wanted [us] to drive into the paint because that’s where everybody was. I thought we did a good job of finding that balance, taking looks when they’re there but then kicking it out for open shots.”

Jaylen Brown was scratched with a left hand sprain but he participat­ed in his pregame shooting regimen and also lifted weights. Mazzulla said Brown’s absence was just precaution­ary after he aggravated the hand Saturday at New Orleans.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States