Horford, Morris return as Celtics end 3-game skid

BOSTON — The Boston Celtics saw both center Al Horford and forward Marcus Morris return to the starting lineup Sunday night against the Charlotte Hornets after missing time with knee issues.

Horford had 10 points and six rebounds in 19 minutes, and Morris 12 points and eight rebounds in 20 minutes of a 119-103 rout of Charlotte to end Boston’s three-game losing streak.

Horford also made his 900th career block and had five assists.

Horford had missed the past seven games with patellofemoral pain syndrome in his left knee, while Morris had missed the past two with right knee soreness.

The Celtics had struggled without their starting frontcourt tandem, losing their past three games — including a 120-107 defeat to the Milwaukee Bucks at home Friday night that prompted a postgame team meeting that kept the locker room closed for more than a half-hour after the game had ended.

But while Morris has been one of Boston’s best players this season, getting Horford back is critical for the Celtics as they enter a stretch that will see them face a string of strong post players in upcoming games, including Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, Houston Rockets center Clint Capela, Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge and Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns. The Celtics are already without backup center Aron Baynes, who has been sidelined for several weeks with a fractured bone in his left hand.

“[Horford’s] been a winner his whole career, and there’s a reason that he wins,” coach Brad Stevens said before the game. “He makes huge, impactful plays on the court. More than that, he’s a steadying presence on the team and can direct us at both ends of the court.

“Some of that is manageable when Baynes is available, but it’s harder when they’re both out. But there are games where different guys have to step up and play. I thought [Daniel] Theis and Robert [Williams] gave us good minutes in this stretch, and they have to be ready again. Theis certainly gave us good minutes in this stretch, and will play quite a bit as Al is on his minutes restriction, at the least.”

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