Keys to the Game: Celtics 104, Hornets 86

jQuery(document).ready(function() { addByline("Taylor C. Snow", "Celtics.com", "taylorcsnow"); keysToTheGame(); });

Key Moment

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – The Boston Celtics played without four of their usual starters Saturday afternoon against the Charlotte Hornets, but that didn’t hold them back from cashing in for a 104-86 win at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The C’s showcased their depth, featuring a brand new starting lineup of Marcus Smart, Gerald Green, Jaylen Brown, Jae Crowder and Tyler Zeller. It took about a quarter and a half for Boston to get used to its new-look rotation, but once its offense got rolling, it was all uphill from there for the C’s.

Boston held a slim 32-30 lead at the 5:17 mark of the second quarter, when Brad Stevens reinserted Green and Zeller into the lineup with the hope of pulling away. Those two ended up sparking a run that the C’s would build off of for the rest of the afternoon.

Zeller was key during the first scoring spree, a 17-8 run during which he tallied six points two assists and a blocked shot over a five-minute and 13-second span to close the half.

The Celtics took a 49-38 lead to the break, and when they emerged for the second half, Green took the reigns from there.

The veteran guard, playing in a Celtics uniform for the first time since 2007, scored nine points during the first 5:08 of the third quarter, giving Boston a 17-point advantage over a Hornets team that was playing most of its starters.

Green and Zeller were subbed out midway through the third, but their momentum rubbed off on the reserves, allowing Boston to maintain its pace and follow through with a convincing win.

Key Player

Tyler Zeller struggled to find an offensive rhythm during Boston's first two preseason contests, but Saturday afternoon the big man found his stroke against the Hornets.

After shooting just 3-for-12 from the field during his first two games, Zeller hit 5-of-7 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free throw line, finishing the game with 14 points. The bulk of his scoring came at a timely point in the contest as he sparked Boston's 17-8 run during the final five minutes of the second quarter, helping the C's build a lead that Charlotte could not put a dent in.

The most promising part of Zeller's performance was that he was nearly perfect from midrange. He was 4-for-5 on shots outside the paint, after missing all five of his midrange attempts during the first two tilts.

With Al Horford and Amir Johnson both resting up Saturday afternoon, the frontcourt spotlight fell on Zeller, and he didn't shy away as he produced a solid, bounce-back offensive performance.

Box Score Nuggets

  • Jordan Mickey led all scorers with 16 points during a 22-minute effort off the bench.
  • Mickey also led the C's with six rebounds.
  • Boston was zoned in from the line, hitting 15 of its 16 free throw attempts.
  • The Hornets shot just 1-of-19 (5.3 percent) from 3-point range.
  • Charlotte out-rebounded the C's 50-35.
  • Rookie Jaylen Brown played a team-high 27 minutes during his first professional start.
  • Boston turned the ball over five times during the first six minutes, but coughed it up only seven more times after that.
  • Frank Kaminsky notched the game's only double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
  • Rookie Ben Bentil tallied a team-best two blocks for the Celts, while playing 12 minutes off the bench.
  • Christian Wood had a game-high plus-minus rating of plus-23, despite the fact that his team lost by 18 points.
  • Marcus Smart and R.J. Hunter were Boston's top facilitators with five assists apiece.

Quote of the Night

Gerald Green on playing in his first Celtics game since 2007.