Tatum, Celtics glide to 115-101 win over Hornets

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) leads a fast break during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Charlotte Hornets, Wednesday, March 9, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley)

CHARLOTTE — Just one night after Kyrie Irving torched the Charlotte Hornets with a 50-point showing and a Nets win, Jayson Tatum followed that same blueprint Wednesday as his 44-point night guided the Celtics to a 115-101 road victory.

The Hornets (32-35) have now dropped seven of their past 10 matchups while the Celtics (40-27) have won eight of their past 10.

Charlotte used a 13-2 run in the third quarter to build a slight lead over Boston, who held a 52-48 edge at halftime — it didn’t take long before a pair of 3-pointers from Tatum recharged a Celtics team that went on to outscore the Hornets by a 54-37 margin.

Hornets coach James Borrego gave credit to a stingy Boston defense that held Charlotte to 25% (8 of 32) 3-point shooting: “This is probably the best defense in the NBA right now. They’re active, they’re long, they’re switching. Guys are trying to make the right reads. Obviously, we’re not executing that extremely well. We just got to be better in our decision making and a lot of that comes down to your spacing.”

Tatum led all players with his 44 points while Jaylen Brown provided 15 points and five rebounds; Marcus Smart had 12 points and nine assists. It was the second 40-plus performance in a row for Tatum, who posted 54 points in a prior victory over Brooklyn (33-33). 

Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington each posted 17 points for Charlotte while LaMelo Ball added 15 points and eight rebounds. Terry Rozier had a defense-heavy effort with five steals as he was limited to just 14 points after a string of resilient shooting nights. 

Mason Plumlee notched seven points to go with six assists and 15 rebounds. 

“There’s a lot of things we didn’t do well tonight,” Washington said. “Rebounding, getting back in transition, turning the ball over…I think we just need to have a better sense of urgency coming in each and every night. And we have to know that we have to take every game seriously. Nobody’s going to give us games so we have to come out and guard people and start from there.”

The Hornets will travel to New Orleans (27-39) on Friday and Oklahoma City (20-46) on Monday before coming back to the Spectrum Center for a Wednesday night game versus Atlanta (31-34). Charlotte and Atlanta are currently neck-and-neck in the Eastern Conference standings at the No. 9 and No. 10 spots — neither team has been able to rise out of the middle of the pack. 

It hasn’t helped the Hornets that they have only won six of their past 21 games.

“Winning pretty much cures everything, you know?” Ball said. “Like I said, we’re a brotherhood so we definitely have to stick together and just try to get some wins — onto the next one.”

While Charlotte’s next two opponents have a combined winning percentage of just 35.6%, the Hornets have proven to be one of the league’s most unpredictable squads.