BOSTON — Isaiah Thomas scored 16 of his 26 points in the second half and Al Horford had 18 points and five blocked shots as the Boston Celtics beat the Charlotte Hornets 96-88 on Friday night to stop a three-game slide.

Thomas returned after missing four straight games with a strained right groin.

Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder added 12 points apiece for the Celtics, who held the Hornets to 13 field goals in the second half.

Charlotte played without its leading scorer, Kemba Walker, who did not travel with the team because of personal reasons, and lost its fourth straight.

Nicolas Batum led the Hornets with 22 points and 10 rebounds.

Ramon Sessions had 13 points and six assists, Marco Belinelli scored 11 and Jeremy Lamb added 10 points for Charlotte.

After shooting 2 of 14 from beyond the arc in the first half, the Celtics started hitting from outside in the third quarter. They went 7 of 14 on 3-pointers in the second half and held Charlotte to 19 points in each of the final two quarters.

Crowder hit a 3 with 6:11 left to put Boston up 80-79 after Charlotte scored seven straight points. Thomas drew a flagrant foul by Belinelli and hit both free throws. Boston retained possession because of the flagrant, and Crowder drew another foul and added two more free throws to put Boston ahead 84-79.

Cody Zeller missed from inside for Charlotte, and Thomas came back with a 3-pointer to make it 87-79 with 4:52 left.

Charlotte turned it over right away after the inbounds play and Bradley added another 3 that gave Boston a 90-79 cushion with 4:24 to go.

After a basket by Belinelli with 6:32 left completed their 7-0 run, the Hornets went scoreless until his layup with 2:20 left cut it to 92-81.

Boston held Charlotte to five field goals in the third quarter, when the Hornets were 5 of 23.

Charlotte closed the second period on a 14-4 run and took a 50-41 lead into halftime. The Hornets led 60-48 early in the third when the Celtics started their surge. Bradley, Horford and Thomas rattled off baskets to cut it to 60-54, then Bradley’s 3-pointer with 6:01 left cut the margin to 60-57.

Charlotte got a pair of free throws with 5:14 to go in the period, then Horford’s dunk pulled Boston within three and Kelly Olynyk hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 62 with 3:57 left.

It was tied 69-all at the end of the third.