Charlotte Hornets wrapup: Sunday’s home game vs. Boston Celtics

By Richard Walker

Notes and observations from Sunday’s 125-104 Hornets’ home win over the Boston Celtics that improved Charlotte to 30-30 overall:

… Coach James Borrego and players alike felt it was the best overall performance of the season by the Hornets, who finish with the seventh 60-game record of .500 or better in franchise history – and first since 2016. “This has to be our standard,” Borrego said. Added guard Terry Rozier: “I believe that. We had 100 going into the fourth quarter and we played the right way from beginning to end.”

… A season-high 39 assists on 47 made field goals fueled Charlotte’s 21-point victory and helped the team convert 21 of 43 3-pointers overall. “We had to be the more aggressive, physical team for 48 minutes – and today we were,” Borrego said. All five starters hit one or more 3-pointers and Devonte’ Graham (24 points, 9 assists), P.J. Washington (22 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists), Rozier (21 points, 5 rebounds, 11 assists), Cody Martin (13 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists) and Brad Wanamaker (12 points) led a balanced offensive attack.

… Boston led only briefly (2-0) early in the contest. Kemba Walker, who was sent in a sign-and-trade free agent deal from Charlotte to Boston before the 2019-20 season, lost to the Hornets for the first time after four straight victories and finished with 20 points to share Celtics’ scoring honors with Jaylen Brown. Former Duke standout Jayson Tatum had 19 points and 11 rebounds for Boston.

… Graham had been mired in a 29 of 88 overall and 23 of 69 3-point shooting slump the previous six games before hitting seven of 14 overall and six of 11 3-pointers in Sunday afternoon’s game that was broadcast nationally by ESPN. “He just settles us,” Borrego said of Graham. “He has a confidence about him and a poise about him.”

… A season-high crowd of 4,493 attended the game in a year in which fans weren’t even allowed at Spectrum Center until March 11 and restrictions on capacity are still in place. Many of them cheered Walker, who leads the franchise in virtually every significant statistical category. “That’s just our guy,” Graham said of Walker, with whom he shared a postgame moment. “Just a great guy. You can hear the fans cheering him. He did so much for the city.”

… Good starts and leads after the first three quarters remain keys to Hornets’ success this season. Through 60 games, Charlotte is 21-11 if it leads after the first quarter, 21-3 if it leads at halftime and 24-1 if it leads after three quarters. If the Hornets trail after the first quarter, they are 8-19 and that falls off to 9-24 if they trail at halftime and 4-28 if they trail after three quarters.

… Speculation will run rampant in the coming days of a return from rookie guard LaMelo Ball, who has been out with a broken wrist. After his cast was removed on March 19 and his wrist declared healed, reports indicated he could return in “seven to 10 days.” Tuesday’s next game with Milwaukee would be the eighth day. “We’re hopeful,” Borrego said. “He is progressing. That’s all I can say.”

What’s next: The Hornets host the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday at 7 p.m. Charlotte has won the first two meetings this season against the Bucks and seeks to sweep the series against Milwaukee for the first time since the 2013-14 season when it won all four games.