BOSTON – Questions about Boston’s second unit have lingered all season.
But in the first half of Monday’s game against Charlotte, the Celtics got a major boost from the second unit which paved the way for Boston’s 59-53 lead at the half.
They outscored their Charlotte brethren 21-10 which was instrumental in them fending off an always-tough Charlotte team despite the Hornets (20-20) coming in having lost four in a row – all on the road.
Boston opened with a 10-2 run, the kind of spurt that you knew would likely be followed at some point by a comparable run by the Hornets.
On cue, Charlotte began to chip away at Boston’s lead and eventually went ahead following a pair of Kemba Walker free throws with 3:39 to play.
The teams went back and forth until Boston’s Jaylen Brown, who delivered a moving pre-game speech in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, took over the game with less than a minute to play in the first.
Trailing 30-29, Brown scored the quarter’s final five points to lift Boston to a 34-30 lead going into the second quarter.
In the second quarter, it was Kelly Olynyk – another Celtics reserve - taking over with a slew of baskets and hustle plays including saving a ball from going out of bounds in front of the Charlotte bench and tossing it up court with the Celtics ultimately getting a lay-up from Brown.
With 7:24 to play in the half, Charlotte called a time-out with the Celtics leading 45-40.
The Hornets responded with an 8-3 spurt to tie the game at 48 following a dunk by Spencer Hawes which led to Brad Stevens looking for answers during a Celtics time-out with 5:18 to play in the half.
Boston’s starters eventually returned to the floor in the second quarter and seemingly picked up where their backups left off.
Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from the first half of Monday’s game.
There was a definite sense of urgency on Walker’s part to do what he could to lead the Hornets out of their four-game funk. He did his part in the first half, scoring 18 points on 6-for-11 shooting from the field.
This was one of the better first halves offensively we’ve seen from Al Horford this season. He led the Celtics with 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the field.
With what looked like an increased emphasis to get the ball to Horford, Thomas played the role of the other scorer and didn’t disappoint. He had 13 points in the first half along with three assists.
For the second time in as many games, Olynyk was assertive both on the perimeter and around the basket. And the results by and large, were positive. At the half, he had nine points off the bench to go with five rebounds and three assists.
He provided a major lift at the end of the first quarter, which is when he scored five of his seven first-half points.
He gave Boston problems both inside the paint as well as on the perimeter as he tallied 12 points which included a pair of 3-pointers.
His job is to roll to the rim, defend and rebound. He seemed to struggle in all three phases in the first half. He had three points and three rebounds, but when he was on the floor the Hornets had a plus/minus of -7.