CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — The Boston Celtics were physically and emotionally drained after losing in double overtime to Golden State on Friday night.
But the Celtics are a resilient bunch, and they were able to bounce back Saturday night with one of their most impressive victories of the season.
They pulled away in the final three minutes for a 98-93 victory over the Charlotte Hornets, snapping the Hornets’ four-game winning streak.
Guard Avery Bradley scored 23 points and guard Isaiah Thomas had 21 points and 13 assists, and each made big plays down the stretch.
“Before the game, we got together and said, ‘We’re beat up, we’re tired, but we’ve just got to go out there and play hard for one another and make the right plays,’” Bradley said. “We just have determination to come out every night and play hard for one another and try to get a win no matter what. That shows a lot about our team.”
The Celtics had chances to win at the end of regulation and at the end of the first overtime before falling to the unbeaten Warriors 124-119 Friday night.
“It was all about finding a way,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Last night was an emotional loss, whether we want to act like it or not. So to come back and play that way tonight and get a win on the road against a really good team is a heckuva night.”
The Celtics (13-10) have won three of their last four, and they have won on the second night of back-to-backs four straight times this season.
“We’ve been awfully good on the second night of back-to-backs on the road, for whatever reason,” Stevens said. “So we have a lot of confidence that if we struggle early, we’ll find that second wind. We’ll do what we have to do. I think we enjoy the challenge. This group likes challenges, and that’s a good thing.”
In a game that had six ties and 14 lead changes, the Celtics took the lead for good, 90-89, on Thomas’ fast-break layup with 2:54 remaining. Forward Jae Crowder hit two free throws with 6.6 seconds left for a 96-93 lead; and, after Charlotte guard Nic Batum missed a tying 3-pointer three seconds later, Boston guard Evan Turner added a drive with two seconds remaining to push the final margin to five.
The Hornets, who hit 18 3-pointers in a blowout win at Memphis on Friday night, missed five straight 3-point attempts in the final three minutes Saturday. They finished the game 11 of 35 from 3-point range.
“They had more energy than us tonight,” Batum said. “And they should be more tired than us. We had a different game than them yesterday night. They had a double overtime last game, so we should’ve had more energy tonight. This team came out to beat us, and we didn’t really respond.”
“Our defense was not good in the third quarter,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “They made us pay, and that was the difference in the game.”
Charlotte (14-9) had won nine of its previous 11.
Batum led the Hornets with 21 points. Guard Kemba Walker scored 16, guard Jeremy Lin 14, center Cody Zeller 12 and center Spencer Hawes 10.
The Celtics also got 16 points from Crowder, and 10 each from Turner and forward David Lee.