The Celtics beat the Hornets

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Published: December 13, 2008

The Hornets didn’t go down without a fight tonight. They came into the house of the defending champs, a team that had won 13 straight games, and gave it all they had. The first half was nice to watch, with the Hornets playing some nice D, coming up with loose balls and running the break well. Chris Paul was all kinds of awesome and we had a few bench guys step up. But in the third the Celtics took care of the basketball, spread the floor and let Paul Pierce go to work. They opened up a nice lead and were able to keep us at bay all through the fourth. Down the stretch it was Boston coming up with all the loose balls, prolonging their possessions and getting to the free-throw line (not that they were hitting many from there). They were obviously the better team tonight and deserved the W.

It was definitely a measuring-stick game for us. We had won seven of eight, but, as I’m writing this, those seven teams we beat have a combined record of 49-86. So it was good to go up against an elite team and figure out where we’re at. I was interested to see how much we’d progressed since that depressing loss to the Lakers exactly a month ago; the game which pretty much convinced me that the Hornets would not be a serious contender this season.

So, what’s changed?

On the positive side, I like our intensity and effort much better now. We seem to have fallen back into the role of underdog and that works much better for us. Now guys actually seem to care on every possession, which wasn’t always the case in the first few weeks of the season. David West is perhaps the best example of that. He didn’t have the best shooting night tonight, but he was still a big factor out there. He was getting after it defensively, he grabbed a nice few boards, and it was really nice to see him taking that ball right at Kevin Garnett.

Our bench looked decent tonight, too, with guys like Sean Marks, Devin Brown and especially Hilton Armstrong giving solid minutes. I won’t get too high on the reserves though until they put together a string of nice games, not just one every week or two.

That’s about all the good news though. A month ago I figured our biggest problem was our crude offense, and we haven’t made much progress in that regard. As Hubie Brown aptly noted during the game tonight, we rely far too much on Paul and West to create, and not enough on premeditated plays and principles to shake loose our other weapons. That was painfully obvious tonight with Peja getting up just six shots in 30 minutes. It was all well and good the past few weeks when lesser defensive teams would sag off him or fall for his fake backdoor cuts, but it takes a lot more than that to get him quality shots against the Celtics. And that doesn’t just apply to Peja, but to every other guy on our roster who isn’t an All-Star. We have plenty of guys who can score if we run some plays and get them open looks. It’s when we ask them to get their points off kick-outs or by beating their man off the dribble, that’s where we eventually run into trouble.

Let’s get to some bullets…

  • As mentioned, Hilton played well tonight. He started in place of Tyson, who seems to have adopted a 4-day workweek lately. (Just kidding, Ty. Get that neck right soon.) Armstrong shot just 3-9 from the floor, picked up 5 fouls and turned the ball over twice (though I’m sure I counted three for him), but I liked him out there because he brought some good energy and got after loose balls. He held his own defensively and made some strong moves at the other end. The Celtics started playing way off of him in the fourth quarter though, daring him to shoot. That didn’t end well.
  • I guess you could say CP got the better of his match-up with Rondo, Chris easily finishing with the better stat line. Rondo did get in some foul trouble though and that limited his minutes and assertiveness. I liked how Chris baited him into a few fouls. CP is real good at racing ahead of a guy when he’s bring the ball up, then slowing down in a split second so his man runs right into the back of him. And of course he always sells that bump to the officials.
  • Amazing fact brought up during the ESPN broadcast of the game: The Hornets have now played a total of 19 games this season. Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers have played 16 road games already this season.
  • Paul Pierce killed us in the third quarter. Probably wasn’t the best idea in the world to have Peja guarding him, especially when the Celtics spread the floor so well and isolate that match-up. I would have liked to see Posey get more time guarding Pierce. He finally got that assignment in the fourth quarter and was able to slow Pierce’s roll a bit.
  • I love how Hubie Brown calls a halfcourt pass from CP to West “an 80 foot pass.” What’s the full length of the court? 94 feet, right?
  • Our rebounding was horrible out of the gate, with Boston getting a bunch of second chances in the first quarter. We ended up not too far behind in rebounding though, the C’s finishing with a 48-42 edge. Credit Sean Marks for reminding everyone else on the team how to crash the boards. He came in late in the first, and got busy on the glass right away. I honestly didn’t know he was capable of stepping foot inside the key until then.
  • No Antonio Daniels tonight, though he was suited up on the sideline. I’m guessing he’ll be eased into it Sunday at Toronto.
  • We gave up our 5 team fouls early in the third and fourth quarters, meaning a bunch of free throws for the Celtics. They shot 35 total, but made just 22. The final score could have been much uglier if they knocked down their usual percentage.
  • Now I know why they call Glen Davis “Big Baby.”
  • That alley-oop that KG finished late in the fourth was pretty sick. Especially since it was right on Posey’s head. Ouch. Chris Paul had a bunch of funky plays tonight, too. Loved that drop back bounce feed he had to West on the break.
  • I don’t suppose anyone skipped the game and watched Supernanny tonight instead?

That’ll do. Hornets back at it on Sunday at Toronto. Early game that one, tipping at 11:30am Central. Don’t forget about our jumbo-mega watch party. Should be a blast.

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