Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker missed a 19-foot jump shot with about five seconds left, and Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier made two free throws with 3.6 seconds left to secure a 90-87 victory at TD Garden.
The Hornets failed to successfully in-bound the ball on their last, desperate possession. Walker threw up a one-handed prayer from three-quarters court as time expired.
The Hornets had led by as much as 18 points.
This was the Celtics’ 11th consecutive victory, raising their record to 11-2. The Hornets lost their fourth straight, all on the same road trip, falling to 5-7. The Hornets don’t play again until a Wednesday home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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Marcus Smart hit a pull-up jump shot over Walker with 23 seconds left to give the Celtics a three-point lead. Walker responded with a drive to the rim with 17 seconds left to cut the deficit to one. The Hornets trapped Rozier along the sideline and he was ruled to have stepped out of bounds, turning over possession with 14.8 seconds left.
The Celtics took their first lead of the second half on a Jaylen Brown layup with about 5 1/2 minutes left. That gave Boston an 80-79 edge.
Hornets center Dwight Howard committed his fifth foul with about 4 1/2 minutes left, shortly after a turnover.
The Celtics entered the game without Gordon Hayward, out for the season with a broken ankle, and center Al Horford, who is in concussion protocol. Boston point guard Kyrie Irving left the game after two minutes, and did not return. He was being evaluated for a concussion as well.
Howard drew a technical foul in the first half for slapping at Boston’s Marcus Smart during a stoppage of play. Howard stepped out of bounds along the baseline in the third quarter and was charged with a delay-of-game warning for not giving the referee the ball promptly after that turnover.
Three who mattered
Jayson Tatum: He just doesn’t play like a rookie; poised, mature and offensively creative with the ball.
Walker: A bad shooting night, but he found teammates throughout this one for buckets.
Dwayne Bacon: He kept swishing that mid-range jump shot. He’ll be hard to sit when Nic Batum is back.
▪ Forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist started, after missing the past three games with an excused personal absence. Coach Steve Clifford said there was no minutes restriction on Kidd-Gilchrist, but the coaches asked him to signal to come out whenever he felt fatigued.
▪ The Celtics upgraded center Al Horford (concussion protocol) to questionable Friday afternoon, but coach Brad Stevens announced pregame that Horford wouldn’t play. That moved Aron Baynes into the starting lineup. Baynes and Kidd-Gilchrist had a nose-to-nose in the preseason when Baynes hit him with a moving screen.
▪ The Celtics made only one of their first nine shots. And that one basket by Boston resulted from a goal-tend by Howard.
▪ The Celtics’ 11 first-quarter points were their fewest in any quarter this season.
▪ Walker had his 29th career double-double in points and assists.
▪ Hornets forward Treveon Graham sat out this game with a thigh contusion.
▪ Howard missed seven of his nine first-half free throws.
▪ Hornets point guards Walker, Michael Carter-Williams and Malik Monk (Monk a combo guard) shot a combined 2-of-13 in the first half.
C+ OFFENSE: Too many key turnovers, not enough made free throws.
B DEFENSE: A significant improvement over the previous three games, particularly in the first half.
B- COACHING: Steve Clifford got their attention about haphazard defense. However, they squandered a great opportunity.
Rick Bonnell: 704-358-5129, @rick_bonnell
Celtics 90, Hornets 87
CHARLOTTE (87)—Kidd-Gilchrist 4-6 0-0 8, Williams 3-5 0-0 7, Howard 2-8 2-9 6, Walker 5-19 10-11 20, Lamb 4-10 0-0 9, Kaminsky 5-11 1-2 14, Zeller 2-4 3-7 7, Carter-Williams 0-2 0-0 0, Monk 1-8 3-4 6, Bacon 5-7 0-0 10. Totals 31-80 19-33 87.
BOSTON (90)—Tatum 6-12 3-4 16, Morris 5-10 2-2 14, Baynes 2-5 0-0 4, Irving 0-1 0-0 0, Brown 3-14 3-4 10, Nader 0-0 0-0 0, Ojeleye 0-1 0-0 0, Yabusele 0-1 0-0 0, Theis 3-4 0-0 7, Larkin 5-8 4-4 16, Rozier 3-12 7-8 15, Smart 3-16 2-3 8. Totals 30-84 21-25 90.
3-Point Goals—Charlotte 6-22 (Kaminsky 3-6, Lamb 1-2, Williams 1-3, Monk 1-5, Walker 0-6), Boston 9-31 (Larkin 2-3, Morris 2-3, Rozier 2-5, Theis 1-2, Tatum 1-4, Brown 1-5, Yabusele 0-1, Ojeleye 0-1, Smart 0-7). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Charlotte 47 (Howard 11), Boston 49 (Brown 13). Assists—Charlotte 20 (Walker 11), Boston 15 (Smart 7). Total Fouls—Charlotte 21, Boston 26. Technicals—Howard, Boston coach Celtics (Defensive three second). A—18,624 (18,624).