CHARLOTTE, N.C. —The Celtics defeated the Hornets, 108-87, in Kemba Walker’s first game in Charlotte after spending eight years with the team. It is Boston’s sixth win in a row.
Walker had a quiet night by his standards, finishing with 14 points on 4-of-12 shooting. But he had more than enough help elsewhere, with Jayson Tatum pouring in 23 points and pulling down nine rebounds and Gordon Hayward riding another powerful first quarter en route to 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists.
Other observations from the Celtics’ win:
■ The Hornets introduced four members of the Celtics’ starting lineup and coach Brad Stevens, and then stopped and showed a video tribute for Walker before his name was announced. Some teams do these tributes at the first timeout, or at the end of the first quarter, but this approach hit the right note.
■ Walker’s mother, Andrea, was sitting in a first-row seat behind the Celtics’ bench wearing a white Celtics jersey with “Mama Walker” on the back. Andrea Walker, who still lives here, said it felt strange to not be in her usual seats, but she said it was a joy to come back and see so many familiar faces.
■ Walker and Hornets guard Terry Rozier scuffled in the first half as they played their first regular-season games against their former teams. Both players went 0 for 6 from the field with two assists before halftime. The difference was that Walker eventually found a rhythm and Rozier did not. The All-Star drilled three third-quarter 3-pointers over a stretch of just over four minutes. Rozier, meanwhile, finished 1 for 11 with 3 points.
■ The Hornets got three offensive rebounds on their first possession of the game, which ended with a 3-pointer. But that was not really a harbinger. They corralled just two more offensive rebounds during the remainder of the first half.
■ Hayward is currently the most confident and comfortable member of the Celtics, which is a bit of a wild sentence to write considering how the last two years have gone. He is playing the game at his own pace, either overpowering smaller defenders or keeping them on his back as he probes in the lane. He followed up his rousing performance against Cleveland with a big first quarter, giving him this ridiculous stat line over a stretch of 44 minutes that started Tuesday and carried into Thursday: 23 for 28, 53 points, 11 assists, 11 rebounds.
■ Robert Williams’s goaltending of Bismack Biyombo in the final minute of the first quarter was pretty entertaining. The ball was about two inches from going into the hoop when Williams swatted it to midcourt.
■ Marcus Smart is definitely the Celtic who will most frequently urge Brad Stevens to use one of his challenge calls. He did it again in the first half on Thursday after being whistled for a foul against P.J. Washington. Stevens tried to take a quick glance at the video board but decided against the challenge. Smart’s move is to mimic throwing an NFL challenge flag, and that looks pretty funny.
■ The Hornets sliced a 14-point deficit to 41-37 in the second quarter and had a Cody Zeller layup attempt to get even closer. But Zeller missed and Boston unfurled an 11-0 run to create some distance.
■ It was hard to tell for sure, but after the first-half buzzer sounded, it looked like Walker initially took a step toward the Hornets’ locker room with the Charlotte players. Eight years in one place will create some habits.
■ Javonte Green, the Celtics’ 26-year-old rookie who signed with the team last summer after playing overseas for four years, tallied his first NBA basket when he hit a floater in the lane late in the third quarter. Then the high flyer added a two-handed dunk on a baseline drive and a soaring one-handed jam a few minutes later.
■ Smart seemed on edge throughout the night. In the second quarter he appeared to take an inadvertent hit from Zeller, so he then helped Zeller to the ground inside before then helping him back up. He then absorbed some contact from Devonte’ Graham and seemed frustrated by that, so then stood in for an offensive foul moments later.
In the third quarter, Smart and Miles Bridges tangled under the hoop and Bridges shoved Smart to the ground, resulting in a technical foul after a review. The two continued to chirp, and Bridges bumped Smart again as he walked toward the bench, and Daniel Theis had to hold Smart back.
■ Jaylen Brown did not look out of place after missing three games with an infection. He made 5 of 9 shots and had 12 points and five rebounds. Brown’s smooth left hand finishes continue to be an encouraging development.