The Celtics beat the Hornets

The Hornets led at the start, kept it close the rest of the game, and then were out-executed by the Celtics when the Boston starting five entered with a few minutes left.  As usual, there was some good, some bad, and some ugly, but the guys played hard, displayed improving familiarity with one another, and generally showed enough that I came away satisfied.  Let’s get to the observations.

  • First and foremost, the Hornets lost the game because of Kevin Garnett.  After keeping him in check fairly well through the first three quarters, the Celtics went to him consistently in the fourth and he couldn’t be stopped.  David West played excellent defense on him, contesting every shot and anticipating his moves, but Garnett kept drilling tough shots over the top of him.  It was a tour de force.
  • On the offensive end, West and Okafor had a terrible game.  The Celtics battled West all game for position and then attacked him aggressively every time he managed to catch the ball in the post, making it impossible for him to work.  Their traps came from all sides, and sometimes he ended up taking some very bad shots since he had no open avenue for passing out. Okafor had the same problems that Dwight Howard encountered last year playing against Kendrick Perkins.  Perkins is limited, but he’s as strong as a bull and defends the post extremely well.  Okafor missed some point-blank shots he normally wouldn’t early, and by the second half he was so tired of battling Perkins he took a trio of mid-range jumpers.  I haven’t done a full Emeka Okafor post to detail his offense, but as a mid-range shooter, he’s terrible.  Terrible.  As in 30% shooting from there last season.
  • Chris Paul was very quiet in the first half, picking his moments and trying to get his big men going.  In the second half, he realized it wasn’t likely to happen and dropped fifteen points and four assists in the quarter.  It was vintage Paul.  I also wanted to point out that Paul’s jumper, if he’s given only a little room, has been automatic so far.  Until a forced three at the end of the shot clock in the third, he’d hit every three-pointer he’d taken this season, even the three-quarter’s court heave he put up just after the buzzer to end the half tonight.  I know it won’t happen, but if he continues to shoot this well, I’m going to have a Paulgasm.  That could be messy.

  • For all of you who rail at the Hornets offense being predictable, you should have been smiling tonight.  If not – shame on you.  With West and Okafor unable to get things going, the Princeton offense went into full swing – and Stojakovic, Songaila, Posey, and (surprising me) Bobby Brown, kept it running.  Peja was moving better than I’ve seen him do since last December, and his shot was dialed in as he drilled shot after shot from deep, even with a hand in his face.  He even put the ball on the floor a couple times and drove successfully as he finished with 26 points.  It was good to see.
  • I’d also like to point out that the Hornet’s bench played fairly well tonight.  Byron actually ran a unit of Hilton, Songaila, Posey, Stojakovic and Brown out to start the fourth, and they only let the score slip by 2 by the  time starters began being fed into the game with around 7:30 to go.  Five minutes of the entire second unit last year would have put the Hornets down 18, not 2.  That’s promising.
  • Bobby Brown is getting hammered by most observers – some of it is fair, but a lot of it is turned up in volume because he’s nailing Collison and Thornton’s butts to the bench.  If you focus on his performance tonight though, it wasn’t a Devin Brown or Mo-Pete level disaster. He went 2-7 from the field from deep, and every single one of those shots but one was taken a good four feet back from the three point line.  Strangely, I only had a problem with two of those – one early on a swing pass that should have been sped on its way to Peja in the corner, and once when he had West open in the post.  Defensively, he showed improvement over the last two games.  He was posted and score on by Ray Allen several times – but so was Paul.  Outside of that, he tracked Rondo very well, and did a good job sticking to Eddie House like glue.
  • Julian Wright played well.  The most upsetting moment of the night was when Bobby Brown was sent in with three minutes to go instead of Julian.  Julian’s defense would have helped tremendously against Pierce and Garnett.  Now, Julian did have a couple sloppy defensive possessions, and had his requisite fast break moment where he started thinking and immediately made a bad decision and turned the ball over.  Still, I liked his defense, his energy on the boards, and his offensive aggressiveness.  Byron has to let the leash slip some here.
  • James Posey’s shot still isn’t in rhythm.  I do want to remind all of you that he had surgery over the off-season, and that’s probably why he looks a little out of shape and doesn’t have his shot back.  It should work itself out in a few weeks.
  • Morris Peterson needs to go back to the end of the bench.  He was never the shooter from the wings I hoped for, but he used to make up for it by filling the lane on the break, drilling the corner three, and rebounding hard.  I’m not sure any of those abilities are still there except maybe the corner three.  I don’t want Peja to take the starting 2-guard position – I prefer him to come off the bench and finish the game.  The options, however, are limited.  I could live with Bobby Brown as the starting 2-guard, with Collison taking Mo-Pete’s minutes.  Of course, I’d like to see what Thornton can do but I still don’t expect to see him until December – and neither should you.  Byron’s rotations shouldn’t surprise you at this point.  He’s nothing if not consistent.
  • Songaila isn’t gifted.  I’d struggle to say he’s even average.  But he continues to pass well, set decent picks, and when beaten defensively(which happens more than I’d like) foul hard.  He’s a fine 8th or 9th man.
  • Lastly, Hilton had an awful first half – and a good second half, particularly defensively.  No, he still hasn’t met a rebound he’d like to take home to mama, but he was tipping balls, working Garnett hard, and wasn’t the detriment he usually was.

The Hornets take on the Knicks in Madison Square garden tomorrow night.  Should be enjoyable.

UPDATE: More notes from the game in our Journals section, plus two plays from Hornets-Celtics make’s top 10 plays of the night:

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