Kyrie Irving scores 25 points on 9-for-12 shooting in the Celtics’ 119-103 win over the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday night at the TD Garden.
BOSTON – The concern level about the Celtics went up a few notches over the past week during a three-game losing streak.
There was a team meeting on Friday night following a 13-point loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, then another session that lasted 90 minutes on Saturday.
After winning eight straight games, the Celtics slipped again, and it was time to talk things out.
Apparently, all that talking worked as the Celtics put together a strong performance from start to finish on Sunday night at the TD Garden.
The Celtics never trailed the Charlotte Hornets, opening a 9-0 lead in the first 1:40 and holding a 33-point advantage in the second half of a 119-103 victory.
Kyrie Irving, who spoke on Friday of some selfish play by the Celtics, set the pace, hitting his first six shots and scoring 17 of his 25 points in the first quarter.
Irving finished 9 for 12, including 4 of 6 on 3-pointers, in his 29 minutes and added five assists and four rebounds.
“Super efficient, nine for 12 is awfully good,’’ said coach Brad Stevens. “The first couple of minutes, it sure seemed like he was aggressive coming down the floor in transition or coming off the screens looking for his shots. We need him to do that. It’s always good to see.’’
The return to the starting lineup of Al Horford and Marcus Morris, who were both sidelined with sore knees, also provided a boost to the Celtics, who take a 19-13 record into a Christmas Day matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers at the Garden.
Horford, who missed seven games in a row, was 4 for 4 and scored 10 points with six rebounds and five assists in 19 minutes while Morris had 10 of his 12 points in the second quarter and grabbed eight rebounds.
“It’s great to have those guys back,’’ said Stevens. “Especially on the perimeter, we’re really deep and when you bring Gordon and Jaylen off the bench, you have a lot of flexibility there. That should be a strength of ours.
“You take a lot of comfort from having (Horford) out on the floor, there’s no question about that. It’s good to have him back. I thought Al looked good. He said he felt good, which is encouraging.’’
Jayson Tatum scored 17 points in 23 minutes with three 3-pointers while Daniel Theis (10 on 4-for-5 shooting) was also in double figures. Terry Rozier had nine points, six rebounds and six assists.
Gordon Hayward had only eight points (plus seven rebounds) but converted an alley-oop pass from Rozier for a dunk on a play similar to the one he was injured on last season in Cleveland.
The Celtics took control during the second quarter and went on a 21-7 run to expand a 43-35 lead to 64-42 before going into the locker room up, 68-47.
Morris scored 10 points in the quarter, including five straight to start that run, and the Celtics were 14 for 24 in the period with Rozier adding seven points off the bench.
At the break, Irving had 23 of his points on 8-for-10 shooting, missing only one of five 3-pointers.
The Celtics were ahead by as many as 33 points in the third quarter when Tatum had eight points. The Celtics began the quarter by outscoring the Hornets, 19-7, to open an 87-56 lead, and the substitutes spent a lot of time on the floor during the fourth quarter.
The first quarter featured a shootout between Irving, who had 17 points in 11:07, and Kemba Walker, who had 14 points in 9:06.
Irving made six of his first shots, including three 3-pointers, while Walker went 6 for 8 in the quarter, which ended with the Celtics on top, 29-26. Walker scored just seven points the rest of the way, going 2 for 7.
The Celtics had raced to the quick 9-0 lead with Irving scoring seven of the points, but Walker had 10 points in a 12-5 run that produced a 23-23 tie.
The Celtics shot 50 percent on the night and limited the Hornets to 8-for-32 shooting from 3-point range.