3/9 Game Preview: Celtics at Hornets


As Jayson Tatum gains confidence, his production is rising, too.

It might be difficult for the Boston Celtics standout to climb much higher after his recent success.

"You feel just a little bit better about yourself getting to your spots," Tatum said.

As Tatum has been spot-on, the Celtics carry a three-game winning streak into their Wednesday road game against the Charlotte Hornets.

Tatum is coming off a 54-point explosion in Boston's 126-120 home victory against the Brooklyn Nets on Sunday.

The Hornets played Brooklyn on Tuesday night, falling into a huge first-half hole before losing 132-121 in Charlotte. Kyrie Irving pumped in a season-high 50 for the Nets.

"We've got another good team coming in here," Hornets coach James Borrego said.

After failing to slow down Irving, Charlotte faces another elite player just 24 hours later. The Hornets will need to do a better job of limiting a big offensive outburst.

Tatum is the reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week after averaging 41.3 points on 52.5 percent shooting in three victories.

Tatum is averaging 26.5 points and 8.2 rebounds on the season. He has reached the 30-point mark in 21 of 62 games.

Over the past two regular seasons, Tatum has racked up 50 or more points four times, tied with Stephen Curry for the most in the NBA during that span.

"He's reading the game the right way," Celtics guard Marcus Smart said. "He's letting the game come to him, and he's picking his spots and he's doing what he does. So for us and for Jayson, his growth is very, very important, and he's been showing not just himself, but also us and everybody in the world."

Tatum, 24, is the third-youngest player on the Celtics roster.

Clearly Tatum will be atop the Hornets' scouting report. On Sunday vs. the Nets, he accounted for eight of Boston's 17 baskets from 3-point range.

Charlotte yielded 18 3-pointers on Tuesday, unable to slow Brooklyn's offense.

"They have a couple of elite players and they went to them and they made shots," Borrego said.

Borrego said he liked how the Hornets kept competing, trimming a 26-point halftime deficit to 15 points by late in the third quarter. Charlotte's Miles Bridges and Terry Rozier both finished with 30 points.

"We just have to get off to a better start (Wednesday)," said Borrego, whose team trailed by 14 points after the first quarter against the Nets.

The Hornets lost 140-129 in overtime to the Celtics on Oct. 25 in Charlotte, with Tatum scoring 41. The Hornets won 111-102 at Boston on Jan. 19 behind 28 points from Rozier before returning for a 113-107 loss Feb. 2, when Boston's Josh Richardson put up a team-high 23 points.

Tatum had 12 and 19 points in his two home matchups with the Hornets.

For the Celtics, the trip to Charlotte marks the only March road game until they begin a four-game road stretch at Golden State on March 16.

The Hornets are 2-9 in their past 11 home games.