Bradley steps up as Celtics best Hornets

Charlotte, NC ( - Avery Bradley came up big in an important game for the Boston Celtics, racking up 30 points to lead the way in a 116-104 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.

Five other Celtics finished in double figures, but it was Bradley who carried the team in a matchup between clubs fighting for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. The talented guard went 12-of-23 from the field, added eight rebounds, and tallied 19 of his points in the second half.

Evan Turner chipped in 15 points, while Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart scored 14 each to help Boston move into a tie with Brooklyn for the East's eighth seed. The Hornets fell to 1 1/2 games back of those two in the race.

"We knew we needed this game," said Turner. "Every game is important, so we came and toughed it out."

Kemba Walker amassed 28 points and 12 assists while enabling Charlotte to cut a 22-point third-quarter deficit down to six in the final minute. However, the Hornets never got closer and were dealt a ninth loss in their last 12 games.

"I like our team, I believe in our team, but I don't like the way we play every night," Hornets head coach Steve Clifford bluntly stated. "You've got to play a game like that like the way we played the fourth quarter. We've got to play with intensity, purpose and mistake-free."

Mo Williams and Gerald Henderson had 19 and 17 points, respectively, for Charlotte.

The Celtics began the game on fire, hitting eight of their first nine shots in building a 17-6 lead less than six minutes in, then separated once again midway through the second quarter.

Charlotte battled back to tie the game at 23-23 late in the opening period, then grabbed a 29-26 edge shortly thereafter when Williams hit a 3-pointer that followed Henderson's jumper to start the second.

Boston countered with a 12-4 run in which Smart, Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko all buried triples, then later held the Hornets scoreless for 4 1/2 minutes during a 10-0 tear that staked the Celtics to a 50-37 advantage with 3:08 to go in the half.

They went into the break owning a 56-44 lead, and Bradley made sure the Celtics stayed in front by taking over the third quarter.

He sank a pair of treys early in the frame to extend the margin to 64-46, then hit another to ignite a 9-2 run that had Boston up by a commanding 83-61 count with two minutes to go in the third. Bradley put up 15 points in all for the stanza.

"I thought Avery was terrific on both ends of the floor," Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said.

Walker and Williams did their best to get the Hornets back in it in the fourth quarter. The latter netted five points during a 10-1 stretch that brought Charlotte within 93-83 with 7:47 remaining, and the lead was reduced to single digits when Walker's trey with 1:04 left got the score to 108-100. He put back his own miss on the Hornets' next possession to make it a six-point game.

Charlotte ran out of steam, though, as Boston hit six straight free throws the rest of the way to seal the outcome.

Game Notes

The Celtics evened the season series at two games apiece with the win ... Charlotte guard Lance Stephenson was held out of the team's rotation ... Boston is now 9-1 in its last 10 when playing the second of back-to-back games ... The Celtics will host Indiana, which sits just a half-game back in the race for the No. 8 seed, on Wednesday. The Hornets visit the Pacers on Friday.