Celts Close Out Preliminary Play by Dominating Hornets

LAS VEGAS – Two days after scoring only 69 points against the Denver Nuggets, Boston returned to the court and exploded into triple-digits for a 100-80 win over the Charlotte Hornets Monday evening in Las Vegas.

The Celtics nearly matched Saturday’s scoring total through three quarters Monday, as they dropped 68 during the first 30 minutes of action. The offensive surge was keyed by balanced contributions from both the starters and the bench.

Jabari Bird and Jarrod Uthoff led the charge for Boston with 16 points apiece, but they had plenty of company in the scoring column. Seven different Celtics scored in double-figures, including four starters and three reserves. Guerschon Yabusele and Semi Ojeleye were right on Bird’s and Uthoff’s heels with 14 and 13 points apiece, respectively. Pierria Henry also scored 13 points, while Hassan Martin added in 12 and Trey Davis scored 11.

“I thought we played very unselfishly,” head coach Jay Larranaga said of the balanced attack. “I thought we shared the ball.”

That trend started from the opening jump, as the Celtics tallied a whopping 30 points to go along with five assists during the opening frame alone. Charlotte, meanwhile, scored only 20 points during the first quarter.

Boston’s dominant play was maintained throughout the contest, which featured only one lead change. It led by as many as 13 points during the opening frame, by as many as 15 points during the second and third quarters, and by as many as 20 points during the fourth quarter. The final advantage of 20 points matched the largest lead of the night.

Larranaga said that his team watched film of its missed opportunities from Saturday night, and learned from what it saw.

“We had so many extra-pass opportunities in Game 2, and we watched those, and watched how [few] times we challenged people at the rim,” he said. “Tonight we hardly ever did that, so I’m happy with the progress we made.”

Charlotte couldn’t handle the sharp Celtics offense, and it couldn’t score at a consistent clip, either. The Hornets made only 38.1 percent of their shots during the game, including a woeful 9-for-31 effort from long distance.

The contrasting efficiency of the two teams prevented the game from ever truly being in the balance. The final moment at which Charlotte had any hope of a win was when it cut the Celtics’ lead down to seven with 1:10 remaining in the third quarter, but Boston answered by scoring the next five points to regain control of the game from there on out.

The Celtics now stand at 2-1 on the week after completing the preliminary portion of their schedule. They scored at least 95 points during each of their victories, but scored only 69 during their lone defeat.

The NBA Summer League’s preliminary round will be completed Tuesday, which Boston has off. Once the preliminary round is complete, all 30 teams will be seeded for tournament play, which begins July 11. As such, Boston’s next opponent, game date and game time are all to be determined.