Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford thought his team “exhaled” after clinching a playoff spot and hasn’t played the same since.
Monday that changed. The Hornets made amends for a terrible performance Sunday against the Washington Wizards, dominating the Boston Celtics 114-100 at TD Garden. The Hornets led by as many as 28 points.
Jeremy Lin had a huge game off the bench for the Hornets with 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists. The Hornets shot 50 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point range.
The Hornets pulled into a standings tie with the Celtics at 47-34 with one game remaining for each team. The Celtics hold a tiebreaker over the Hornets for having won the first two games of a three-game season series.
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Three who mattered
Lin: His 21 first-half points (10-of-10 on free throws) propelled the Hornets to a big halftime lead.
Al Jefferson: He hit five of his first seven shots in his first start in a long time. This was his seventh double-double of the season.
Marvin Williams: He made four of his first seven attempts from 3-point range.
▪ The Hornets have committed only three flagrant fouls this season; one each by Williams, Tyler Hansbrough and P.J. Hairston. The Hornets’ opponents have committed six flagrants, the most recent Sunday in Washington by Wizards forward Markieff Morris.
▪ The Hornets entered this one with an 11-4 record in the second game of back-to-backs. That 73.3 winning percentage is the best in Hornets history since the 1994-95 team went 17-6 in those situations.
▪ Center Cody Zeller missed Monday’s game with a bruised sternum. That meant Jefferson got his first start since Nov. 29, when he suffered a calf strain.
▪ Clifford said he hopes Zeller can play Wednesday versus the Orlando Magic. Otherwise he’ll go nearly a week without a game before the playoffs start this weekend.
▪ Clifford said before the game that once the Hornets lost the chance to have home-court advantage, finishing fifth or sixth is irrelevant to him.
▪ The Hornets entered this game 0-4 against the Celtics since Boston traded last season for point guard Isaiah Thomas.
▪ Fox Sports Southeast will televise Wednesday’s regular-season finale after ESPN dropped that game in favor of Heat vs. Celtics.
▪ Nic Batum left the game in the second half with a sprained left ankle and did not return.
They said it
“This guy is a handful. It’s incredible what he can do.” – Clifford on Boston’s Thomas.
“I don’t seen any difference between fifth and sixth. You won’t know who you’d play, nor would it matter.” – Clifford on seedings
“The East is night-and-day from where it was two seasons ago.” – Clifford on the improved play in the Eastern Conference this season
A OFFENSE: They generated 94 points in the first three quarters off 53 percent shooting from the field and 46 percent from 3-point range.
B+ DEFENSE: They held the Celtics to 38 percent from the field when the game was decided in the first three quarters.
A COACHING: The Celtics had the Hornets’ number of late until Monday.
Bonnell: 704-358-5129; Twitter: @rick_bonnell