Game Preview: Hornets at Celtics
The injury-plagued Charlotte Hornets are still getting used to Al Jefferson's absence, but they got back on track against one of the weaker teams in the NBA their last time out.
Although they appear to have another favorable matchup Monday night against the lowly Boston Celtics, the Hornets haven't had much success at TD Garden.
Charlotte (11-24) took this season's first meeting 96-87 on Dec. 10 behind Jefferson's 23 points and 14 rebounds, its fourth win in seven meetings with the Celtics. Only one of those victories has come in Boston, where the Hornets have been limited to an average of 90.3 points in going 4-14 in their last 18.
Monday's matchup will have a different look with Jefferson out due to a strained left groin suffered last week. He's averaging team highs of 18.0 points and 8.2 boards.
Jefferson spent the first three seasons of his career with Boston and is averaging 19.9 points against them for his highest mark against any team.
Lance Stephenson also remains sidelined, but the last-place Hornets defeated Orlando 98-90 on the road Saturday. Charlotte is among the league's lowest-scoring teams with 95.1 points per game and had averaged 86.6 in losing its previous five.
Kemba Walker scored a game-high 30 points while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist added 17 and 12 rebounds for his second consecutive double-double. The Hornets never looked back after closing the second quarter with a 22-0 run.
"The stretch where we played well, we got a lot of effort points, fast breaks, and guys keeping the ball alive for second chances," coach Steve Clifford said. "That gave us a cushion to play with on the road."
Charlotte limited the Magic to 37.9 percent shooting after holding Cleveland to the same mark the night before.
"Our communication on defense was great and we just made some great plays," Walker said. "Guys were in the right spots, helping each other and this how it has to be night in and night out."
The Celtics (11-20) are coming off Saturday's 109-104 overtime loss at Chicago, their sixth defeat in eight games since trading All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo to Dallas on Dec. 18.
Evan Turner scored 24 of his season-high 29 points after the break and Jared Sullinger added 16 and 16 rebounds, but Boston was outrebounded 24-10 on the offensive glass. The Celtics went 9 of 11 from the foul line while the Bulls were 29 of 40.
"We have to be a little more aggressive, attack the rim more," center Tyler Zeller said.
Jeff Green leads the Celtics with 18.2 points per game, but he's averaged 11.7 and 33.3 percent shooting in the last three.
Boston should like its chances of bouncing back at home, where it's averaged 106.1 points during a 6-3 stretch.
Backup guard Jameer Nelson sat out Saturday with a sprained ankle, leaving his status unclear.
Walker has been limited to 11.3 points and 29.1 percent shooting in four career visits to Boston. However, he's averaged 24.4 points in his last five games overall. The Hornets are 9-6 when Walker scores at least 18.