CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Avery Bradley had 30 points and eight rebounds, and the Boston Celtics beat the Charlotte Hornets 116-104 on Monday night for an important Eastern Conference victory.
Evan Turner added 15 points, while Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart each had 14 as the Celtics won for the 10th time in the last 16 games.
Boston moved back into eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings, a few percentage points ahead of Brooklyn in the battle for the final playoff spot.
Kemba Walker led a furious fourth-quarter comeback that fell short, finishing with 28 points and 12 assists. Gerald Henderson added 17 points for Charlotte, which has dropped four of its last five games.
The Celtics built a 19-point, fourth-quarter that that Hornets cut to six behind Walker. But the Celtics closed out the game with some clutch free throws to even the series with the Hornets at 2-2.
Charlotte’s loss clinched a second straight playoff berth for the Washington Wizards.
The Celtics led 56-44 at the half and pushed the lead to 22 behind Bradley’s 15 third-quarter points.
The frustration of a disappointing season seemed to set in for the Hornets late in the third when Walker drove on a fast break and his layup was rejected. Upset there wasn’t a foul called, Walker stopped in his tracks and didn’t hustle back on defense. The Celtics made him pay on the other end as Bradley knocked down a 3-pointer to give Boston an 18-point lead.
And early in the fourth quarter, Henderson was called for a flagrant foul when he shoved Gerald Wallace in the back.
Down 19 in the fourth quarter, Charlotte mounted one last challenge when Walker ignited the crowd with a long-distance 3 from the left wing to cut Boston’s lead to nine with 3:03 left in the game.
Walker hit another 3-pointer and then grabbed his own rebound off a missed 3 and scored to cut the lead to 108-102 with 52 seconds remaining.
After two free throws by Brandon Bass, Walker scored on a driving layup and the Hornets forced a turnover on the ensuing inbounds play with 34 seconds left.
But Walker missed a 3 from the right wing with a chance to make it a one-possession game. The Hornets were called for a clear path foul and Bradley made two free throws. The Celtics got the ball on the side and Isaiah Thomas added two more free throws to push the lead to eight with 24 seconds left and seal the game.
Celtics: Bradley has reached double figures in scoring in 12 of his last 13 games.
Hornets: Henderson has scored in double digits in 17 of his last 19 games. He was averaging nearly 15 points per game during that stretch.
Celtics: Host Indiana on Wednesday night.
Hornets: Host Detroit on Wednesday night.
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