The Boston Celtics keep finding the correct answer for almost any situation.
The Charlotte Hornets are in a different mode, chasing an elusive winning path.
Those trends will collide when the teams meet Saturday night at Charlotte, N.C., with a second meeting set for Monday.
The Celtics carry a five-game winning streak into the game, while the Hornets have lost three in a row and six of their past seven.
The contrast can best be seen in the nearly reverse records of the teams with the Celtics at 31-12 and the Hornets at 11-32.
“This is not a league where you can make a lot of mistakes and win,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “It’s just not.”
The Celtics, who have the best record in the NBA, have shown the ability to make adjustments.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have been doing the bulk of the hard work for the Celtics, yet Brown (adductor) didn’t play in Thursday night’s 109-98 victory at Brooklyn. Tatum is scoring a team-best 30.6 points per game, fifth best in the NBA, while Brown is at 27.2 points.
Tatum had a team-best 20 points Thursday in a balanced approach, with that total matching his lowest in a span of a month. Tatum’s 31.8-percent shooting night, his lowest since Dec. 2, was not an issue against the Nets.
“You just find the open guy,” guard Marcus Smart said.
With so many options, the Celtics used the night to let others spread their wings as six players scored in double figures.
“I trust those guys,” Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla said. “To have a great team, you’ve got to have guys that have the (knowledge) to know when it’s their time to step up.”
Payton Pritchard found the right time to contribute with nine points on 4-of-7 shooting, including some key shots in the second half.
“I think we showed what our team can be with our mindset around our depth and our toughness,” Mazzulla said.
Combined with reserve Malcolm Brogdon, the duo of Derrick White and Pritchard gave the Celtics backcourt a boost. Brogdon is averaging a career-low 23.5 minutes per game in his first season with Boston, but his savvy contributions, which include 13.6 points per game, have been valuable.
The Celtics seem comfortable with numerous player combinations on the court.
“They do a lot of things to help this team win that go unnoticed,” Smart said of the cast of reserves.
Tatum poured in 35 points in a 140-105 romp over the visiting Hornets on Nov. 28.
Brown’s status is questionable for Saturday’s game.
The issues impacting the Hornets are widespread.
“If you want to give yourself a chance to win and build a game where you could eventually be a playoff-type team, there’s things you have to be good at,” Clifford said. “Like for instance, the free-throw game, that’s a big deal. The turnover game, that’s a big deal. The rebounding game, that’s a big deal. Those are things that speak to discipline of play.”
The teams meet again Monday afternoon at Charlotte, where the Hornets have lost eight of their last nine outings. It marks the second consecutive set of games against the same opponent for the Hornets, who were swept this week in Toronto.
Thursday night’s 124-114 setback for the Hornets at Toronto included point guard LaMelo Ball’s season-high 32 points.
–Field Level Media