Brown, Tatum carry Celtics over Hornets without Irving
BOSTON (AP) — With Kyrie Irving again stuck to the sideline, Terry Rozier and his Celtics teammates enjoyed another run as the featured act.
The talented young cast stole the show again.
Rozier had 17 points and 10 assists, Jaylen Brown added 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Jayson Tatum scored 20 points to help Boston roll over the Charlotte Hornets 126-94 on Wednesday night despite Irving’s absence.
“When we play with him (Irving), it’s more like a show. Sit back and watch him go crazy,” Rozier said after starting in place of Irving, who missed his second straight game with a left hip strain.
“Without him, obviously we don’t know who the scoring’s (going to) really come from. Somebody got to step up.”
Rozier’s 10 assists tied a career high he set a year ago Thursday against the Knicks. Marcus Morris scored 15 points, Al Horford had 14 and Gordon Hayward 12 for the Celtics, who won for the seventh time in eight games.
Boston won 10 of its 11 home games in January to keep within striking distance of Eastern Conference leaders Milwaukee and Toronto.
“Now we need to use whatever we gained from (this stretch) to go into February and play as well as we can over the next fourteen days prior to the All-Star break and hopefully finish the season strong,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
Kemba Walker had 21 points to lead Charlotte, well short of the 43 he scored in a 117-112 home win over Boston on Nov. 19.
Malik Monk scored 16 points, Nicolas Batum added 13 and Marvin Williams 10 in Charlotte’s third loss in five games.
“They just gave more energy than us. I guess they wanted it more,” Walker said. “We came out kind of sluggish in the third quarter, and they just jumped on us.”
Morris knocked down a 3-pointer from the right wing with 6:49 left in the third period to put Boston ahead 76-69 and started a 25-6 quarter-ending run.
The Celtics led 98-75 after three and ran the lead up to 35 during the fourth.
“You score, you get a stop, you score, and then all of a sudden that just kind of snowballs,” Stevens said. “It feels good to be on a run like that.”
Hornets: After playing 19 minutes in Monday’s win against the Knicks, PG Tony Parker sat to rest his sore right ankle. Rookie two-way G Joe Chealey was active for the first time in his NBA career. ... Coach James Borrego said C Cody Zeller, out since Dec. 31 while recovering from right hand surgery, is “about a week away” from returning.
Celtics: Irving, who last week earned his sixth All-Star selection in eight seasons, sat with an injury the team believes he suffered during Saturday’s loss to Golden State. “Hopefully he’ll be available Friday (against the Knicks). If not, Sunday,” Stevens said. Boston improved to 6-2 without Irving this season.
Charlotte used an 11-0 run late in the first half to pull within 63-59 at halftime, but was outscored 63-35 in the second half. Borrego blamed the team’s “poor” offense.
Tatum will play for Team USA in the Rising Stars game for a second straight season during All-Star weekend in Charlotte. The 20-year-old Celtics forward isn’t as certain where he’ll play after that with the NBA’s trade deadline looming on Feb 7.
“I mean, it’s good to be wanted,” Tatum said about his name popping up in trade rumors surrounding New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis, whose agent publicly requested a trade Monday. “I’m not a free agent. I don’t have any control. I can control what I can control. Just go out there and play.”
BEAT L.A. (AGAIN)
With the Patriots set to face the Rams in Super Bowl LIII on Sunday, the Celtics were gifted Pats-themed T-shirts saying “Beat LA” from New England wide receiver Julian Edelman. The rally cry, which originates from the Celtics’ rivalry with the Lakers, was also adopted by Red Sox fans during this year’s World Series against the Dodgers.
Hornets: Begin three-game homestand Friday night versus Grizzlies.
Celtics: Visit New York on Friday night before Super Bowl Sunday showdown with Thunder at home.