Boston's juggernaut defense rallies Celtics to win over Charlotte Hornets

Beset by injuries to their three-highest paid marquee players, the Boston Celtics relied on their supporting stars to rally from behind to defeat the Charlotte Hornets in a gritty 90-87 win that extended their league-high winning streak to 11 games.

Already missing Gordon Hayward for the season and with Al Horford in the concussion protocol for the second consecutive game, Boston was left even more short-handed after Kyrie Irving was knocked out of commission early following Aron Baynes’ inadvertent elbow that left the Celtics star bloodied.

Once again, it was the Celtics top-rated defense that mauled Charlotte for 48 minutes. The Celtics hounded Kemba Walker into 5-of-19 shooting and as a team the Hornets weren’t much better, shooting 38.8 percent overall. There were no heroic performances from Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Marcus Morris or Jayson Tatum.

Brown had another ugly 3-of-14 shooting night, but chipped in a double-double. Marcus Smart couldn’t find the bottom of the net and finished with a 3-of-16 brick foundation, but wouldn’t back down from Dwight Howard.

Fortunately, Tatum and Marcus Morris provided just enough offense to supplement their asphyxiating defense. Instead, it was backup Shane Larkin, who had scored only 22 points all season prior to Friday night, who lit the offense’s fuse in Irving’s place by filling it up for 16 points in 17 minutes.

Charlotte led for most of the night and even entered the final frame holding a 12-point advantage, but were stifled and converted only four of their 20 field goal attempts in the fourth quarter. Boston’s 16-3 run in the first six minutes of the fourth period gave the Celtics their first lead, and Morris’ contested pull-up 20-footer gave the Celtics a three-point lead with 23 seconds left. Charlotte botched its final two possessions.

Rookie Jayson Tatum stepped it up in the absence of the Celtics leaders. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Walker ricocheted a long 2-pointer that would have given Charlotte the lead. On the final play, Brown deflected Frank Kaminsky’s inbound pass into the Hornets backcourt, forcing Walker to hoist a desperation heave from the other end of the floor as time expired.

On Sunday, the Celtics will have their hands full attempting to push their streak to a dozen games when they face the Toronto Raptors at TD Garden.