Keys to the Game: Celtics 90, Hornets 87

Key Moment

The Celtics were down and out Friday night.

Down as in down three All-Stars, and out as in out of their game against Charlotte.

Those pesky Celtics never quit, though, do they?

Boston trailed by as many as 18 points during the second half after losing Kyrie Irving to a head injury during the first half. Irving, for the rest of the night at the very least, joined Al Horford and Gordon Hayward on the list of unavailable players.

No one expected Boston to have enough firepower to stage a comeback, but then again, no one expected Boston to be 10-2 entering this game, did they?

The C’s sliced Charlotte’s lead down to three early on in the fourth quarter after opening the quarter on a 10-1 run. Two plays keyed the spurt and pumped life into the team and its fan base.

First, Guerschon Yabusele, who has been used rarely during the early moments of this season, made a critical “one-more” pass to Daniel Theis for a corner 3 at the 8:48 mark of the final period. Yabusele could have easily fired up a shot from the left wing himself, but he instead drew a Charlotte defender in and dished to Theis, who swished his trey home from right in front of Charlotte’s bench.

“It was the right play,” Stevens said of Yabusele’s pass.

The game’s next bucket also came from beyond the arc, and it came from a different Celtics player. This time, Jaylen Brown connected from long distance.

Boston forced a turnover by Dwayne Bacon when Terry Rozier flew into a passing lane and picked off an attempted dish. Rozier quickly took the ball in the other direction, and as nearly every other player on the court flew full-speed toward Boston’s basket, Rozier dropped a pass off to Brown, who trailed from behind. Brown caught the pass and let the ball fly on a trail-3, and the shot rattled home.

Brown’s 3-pointer pulled the C’s to within 77-74 with 7:55 remaining in the game, and at that point, the Garden began to truly believe.

Boston eventually took its first lead of the game, at 80-79, off of a driving layup by Brown, and it pulled ahead by as many as five during the final minutes. Still, it needed some clutch plays down the stretch to grab the win, and Marcus Morris was there to deliver them.

First, Morris, after taking an ill-advised 3-pointer with 52.7 seconds left immediately fouling a Boston offensive rebound, canned an incredibly difficult jumper in Kemba Walker’s face to give Boston an 88-85 lead with 23.8 seconds left in the game.

Then, with 5.8 seconds left in the contest, Morris forced a miss out of Walker on a jumper that would’ve put the Hornets on top by one with 5.8 seconds left. Morris switched onto Walker on a perimeter pick-and-roll and not only stayed in front of Walker, but made the All-Star point guard take a very difficult, step-back jumper. Morris avoided fouling Walker, and Walker bricked the shot.

Rozier grabbed the rebound and went on to make two free throws to ice the comeback win – a win that was sparked by, of all people, Yabusele and Theis.

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