Irving gets hit in face, Celtics hold off Hornets 90-87
BOSTON (AP) — Another game, another injury, another win for the Boston Celtics.
Jayson Tatum had 16 points, Shane Larkin added 16 off the bench and the Celtics overcame an injury to Kyrie Irving and a 12-point, fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Charlotte Hornets 90-87 on Friday night.
Terry Rozier finished with 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists, playing an increased role after Irving left the game in the first quarter after taking an elbow to the face. Jaylen Brown added 10 points and 13 rebounds.
The Celtics extended their win streak to 11 games. Charlotte has lost four straight.
“We just got a lot of fighters, a lot of resilient guys,” Larkin said of a team that’s now seen Gordon Hayward, Al Horford and now Irving beset by injuries.
He said his teammates’ misfortunes have underlined the necessity of staying ready.
“I’m always locked it. That’s my job. I don’t know when my opportunity’s gonna be there,” Larkin said. “Tonight I hit some shots early, coach kept rocking with me, so I tried to throw my best.”
Celtics center Aron Baynes’ elbow inadvertently struck Irving when Baynes was landing after a rebound attempt. Irving fell to the floor and was bleeding from the nose as he was escorted back to the locker room. Irving was ruled out for the rest of the game while he was monitored for possible concussion symptoms.
Larkin said Irving spoke to the team at halftime and texted them all congratulations on the win.
Kemba Walker led the Hornets with 20 points and 11 assists.
Celtics trailed by 12 after three quarters, but opened the fourth on a 16-3 run and took the lead with 4:05 to play on a basket by Brown.
The lead grew to five before Walker’s three-point play got the Hornets back within 86-85. Marcus Morris connected on a jumper, but Walker responded with a driving layup to get it back to a point.
Boston called timeout, but Rozier accidently stepped out of bounds on the ensuing inbounds play. Walker dribbled the clock down, but his jumper bounced off the back of the rim and was rebounded by Rozier. He was fouled and sank two free throws with 3.6 seconds left.
Charlotte struggled throughout the final period, going 4 of 20 from the field and committing six turnovers.
“We’re giving up huge leads. We’re not maintaining our game,” Walker said. “We’ve got to be better as a whole.”
With Irving out, Charlotte took advantage against Boston’s reserves early, stretching its lead to as many as 18 in the second quarter and taking a 16-point lead into halftime.
Irving’s injury is the latest stroke of bad luck for a Boston starter. Horford missed his second straight game with a concussion. And, of course, Hayward is out for the season after a gruesome leg injury on opening night.
The Celtics opened just 1 of 11 from the floor, and that first made field goal never made it through the hoop. Brown was credited with a basket when Howard was called for goaltending with 8:58 left in the first quarter, cutting Charlotte’s lead to 9-2.
Boston’s first field goal to actually fall through the basket came from Morris more than halfway through the quarter.
Hornets: Charlotte’s 57 points in the first half were the second most the Celtics have allowed in the first half this season, one fewer than Milwaukee scored in the opening half of a 108-100 win on Oct. 18. ... Nicolas Batum (sprained left elbow) and Treveon Graham (right quad contusion) both sat out.
Celtics: Shot just 33 percent (14 of 43) in the first half. ... Coach Brad Stevens said Horford is “doing way better” but wouldn’t speculate about his availability.