Boston, MA (SportsNetwork.com) - Trailing by as many as 16 points in the third quarter, the Boston Celtics staged a comeback to beat the Charlotte Hornets 106-98 on Friday.
Isaiah Thomas led that comeback by scoring 21 of his 28 points in the second half to give the Celtics their third straight win.
"We just kind of stayed the course and chipped away," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "We know it's a long game. We've been on the other side of that."
The Celtics got 19 points from Avery Bradley, but Boston's bench carried much of the scoring load with a combined 60 points. In addition to Thomas' effort, Jonas Jerebko netted 16 points and Jae Crowder contributed 14.
Charlotte lost for the sixth time in seven tries despite 31 points from Mo Williams. Every Hornets starter reached double figures, with Al Jefferson and Gerald Henderson each adding 14 points, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist scoring 12 with 11 rebounds and Cody Zeller netting 11.
The Hornets' bench scored just 16 points.
After Charlotte took a 16-point lead on Marvin Williams' layup with under 3 1/2 minutes to go in the third, Boston hit its final four attempts from the field to close the quarter on a 12-2 run and trail just 75-69 with 12 minutes to play.
Thomas fueled that late spurt with five points in the final minute, and the Hornets remained unable to find an answer for him in the fourth. He scored 10 of Boston's first 13 points to help the Celtics tie the game at 82-82.
After Thomas missed a layup with 5 1/2 minutes to play, Jerebko followed up with the offensive board and put it back to give the Celtics their first lead since late in the first half at 89-88. Crowder hit a 3-pointer on their next trip down the court to extend the lead.
The Hornets would only hit one more shot from the floor and needed free throws to remain in the game. They cut their deficit to 96-95 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining, but Crowder pulled down an offensive board and hit a 3 to spark a 9-0 Boston run that put the game out of reach. On the next trip down the floor, Bradley's putback slam punctuated the comeback.
The Celtics never trailed in a first quarter in which they shot 4-of-6 from long distance. Marcus Smart scored all 10 of his points in the period, and Boston took a 27-21 lead into the second quarter when Williams hit a 3 as time expired.
Williams' jumper cut Boston's lead to 31-30 with 8:13 left in the second quarter, but the Celtics scored on their next four possessions. Bradley connected with James Young on a powerful alley-oop dunk and then hit a 3 himself on the next trip.
The Hornets soon went on a 15-1 run to close the half with a 49-45 lead. Jefferson scored six points before Henderson's 3 put Charlotte ahead for the first time. Thomas' free throw temporarily ended the Charlotte surge, but Zeller countered with a layup near the end of the half.
Charlotte picked up where it left off to start the third quarter, scoring the first 10 points to go up 59-45. Bradley's jumper at 8:40 finally interrupted the Hornets' run.
"We played great defense and they turned the ball over," Jefferson said of the run that bridged both halves. "We got away from what we were doing."
Thomas has averaged 22.3 points in four games with the Celtics after the they acquired him from Phoenix at the trade deadline ... Williams is averaging 23.5 points in four games with the Hornets after being acquired from Minnesota ... Kidd-Gilchrist has 10 double-doubles this season ... Boston committed just eight turnovers while scoring 21 points off 16 Hornets giveaways.