Irving critical of Celtics’ implosion, D on Walker

Kyrie Irving appeared to question Brad Stevens’ coaching strategy after Kemba Walker scored 18 of his game-high 36 points in the fourth quarter to rally Charlotte to a 124-117 victory over the Celtics.

The Hornets closed Saturday night’s home game on a 30-5 run that included all 18 of Walker’s fourth-quarter points. The Hornets trailed 112-94 with 8 minutes, 22 seconds remaining.

Asked afterward how hard it is to stop Walker when he’s playing so well, Irving said, “It’s one-on-one, pride.”

“Down the stretch, try to come in and help as much as possible. We should have probably trapped him a little bit more, like every team does in the league,” Irving said. “But we didn’t. Torches us every time we play him. So it’s no surprise.”

Walker had scored 43, 21 and 21 points against the Celtics in three previous meetings this season.

Boston suffered its third consecutive loss. Irving finished with a team-high 31 points.

After the Celtics built their game-high 18-point lead, Charlotte scored on 12 of its final 19 possessions to catch and pass Boston. Walker scored his 18 fourth-quarter points in the final 7:43, including two clinching free throws with 5.9 seconds left.

“Obviously, when you lose an 18-point lead, there is a lot of things that go wrong,” Stevens said. “I thought they did a good job of chipping away at it. [And] we did everything that the book is written on to lose a game that you are up 18 at that point.”

Boston scored twice over its final 20 offensive possessions.

“This game was over in the beginning of the fourth quarter,” Irving said. “We took our foot off the gas pedal, got it to a five-point game and momentum shifted from there.”

It was Charlotte’s largest come-from-behind victory of the season and largest comeback in more than a year.

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