Game On: Hornets @ Celtics

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Published: December 31, 2010

A team with a seven game road losing streak travels to the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, but all might not be lost. For starters, Kevin Garnett is not going to play and Rajon Rondo is questionable. Even if Rondo can go, he should be rusty and likely won’t get his usual minutes. Doc Rivers said his ankle is quite swollen and he is going to be cautious with him moving forward. A glimmer of hope can also be found in the knowledge that Boston has lost two of its last three after winning 14 in a row.

With all that said, the Celtics will still be favored, and rightly so. They come into the game leading the league in both points allowed and assists. The fact that they lead the league in assists is even more remarkable when you consider the fact that they are only 15th in the league in scoring at 99.5 PPG. As a team they shoot over 50% from the field and get the most out of every possession, while their defense rotates with amazing precision.

Garnett does effect a lot of what Boston does on defense as evidenced by the fact that the team gives up nearly 9 more points per game in the contests that he has missed over the last three years. Garnett is the last line of defense around the rim and he is also extremely vocal in calling out rotations, so there is a chance that the Hornets can have some success in Boston on the offensive end of the court.

Matchups

Point Guard: Chris Paul vs. Rajon Rondo

Advantage: Hornets

Call it a hunch, but I think Rondo is going to play today. Garnett is out and the Celtics have lost 2 of 3, and the Hornets always seem to have a guy returning from injury play against them. If Rondo does play, he should still be slowed by an ankle that Doc (and the doc) says is quite swollen. Rondo sprained his ankle December 15th against the Knicks and according to Rivers, it swells up every time he works out.

If he can go, this should be a great matchup as Rondo has carried his amazing 2010 playoff performance into this regulars season, averaging 11 points, nearly 14 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2.4 steals per game on 53% shooting from the field. Granted, he is still awful from three and from the free throw line (31 % and 43% respectively) but the guy was a legitimate MVP candidate and a sure-fire All-Star before the injuries.

And let us not forget the last time these two teams met in Boston, when Chris Paul apparently had to be held back from going into the Celtics locker room after the game. Apparently Rondo was talking trash during the game about how CP3 was overrated and he would never get a ring. Chris Paul missed the next game due to injury, so this will be the first time the two have seen each other on the court since that incident.

Shooting Guard: Marco Belinelli vs. Ray Allen

Advantage: Celtics

People have been expecting a decline from Ray Allen for a few years now, and it has still yet to come. When the Celtics acquired Allen and Garnett before the ’07-’08 season, the Celtics were said to have a two year window by most “experts” due to their age. And yet here we are in the 4th year and somehow none of them appear to be slowing down, as Allen is logging nearly 37 minutes a game and is having his best season from deep (41.5%) since ’01-’02.

With KG out, look for Allen to pick up a lot of the scoring slack, as he did in that memorable playoff series against the Bulls in 2009. In that series, Allen averaged over 27 PPG, including a 51 point performance and two game-winning shots. It just shows that when fully healthy, the Celtics spread the wealth, but if he needs to, Ray Allen could go off at any time.

Marco on the other hand has been horrible of late and the recipe for a struggling player to cure himself is not the Boston Celtics. Their guards and forwards rotate as if they are on a string and Belinelli will be hard pressed to get to the rim tonight for an easy bucket. Therefore, he will have to rely on others getting him open shots from deep, but can he convert those? Belinelli is 18 out of 60 (30%) in December from behind the arc. Perhaps the banner from Dariusz Ejkiewicz will help.

Small Forward: Trevor Ariza vs. Paul Pierce

Advantage: Celtics

Paul Pierce is exactly the kind of player that Trevor Ariza was brought in to defend. Pierce relies on jab steps and pump fakes to get space for his jump shot, and Ariza’s length should be able to counter those moves if he stays on the floor. Pierce also has a tendency to overdribble (especially if Rondo is not on the floor) and since he doesn’t have a blow-by type of first step, Ariza should be able to pressure the ball when it is in Pierce’s hands and force it out.

On the offensive end, I just don’t know anymore with Trevor. He is 100% a confidence player, as you can clearly see a different swagger after he has made a spectacular play or a couple shots in a row. The problem is that, like my fiancee in Call of Duty, he has a hard enough time getting one- much less going on a streak. Ariza has been just awful in December, shooting 34% from the field (yet he is still taking over 10 shots per game!!!), 15% from three, and averaging over 2 turnovers per game.

If the Hornets get anything from Ariza offensively this game, I will consider it a cherry on top. If not, and if this continues, I fully expect Monty to experiment with bringing Ariza off the bench even if the Hornets do not acquire another small forward. Q-Pon or even Willie Green can’t do much worse.

Power Forward: David West vs. Big Baby Davis

Advantage: Hornets

Kevin Garnett haunts David West’s dreams but if West can go today, he won’t have to face K.G., M.D. (I refer to him as a doctor, because apparently he can diagnose cancer patients). Instead, West will go up against local favorite Glen “Big Baby” Davis in a matchup of a guy who cries after every bucket he scores (And One!!) versus a guy who cries on the bench after not making a bucket.

This will be Davis’s first start, but he has been getting 30 minutes per game as the first one off the bench for Boston, so it shouldn’t be a big adjustment for the LSU alum, who is averaging 12 and 6. Davis will have nearly 45 pounds on D West, which should force him outside, where he can use his quickness. So expect some iso wing plays for West early and often.

Center: Emeka Okafor vs. Shaquille O’Neal

Advantage: Hornets

This is where Boston actually suffers the most from the loss of KG. Yes, O’Neal starts, but the majority of the game is a KG/Big Baby combo up front, with O’Neal just getting spot minutes. Now, Shaq, Luke Harangody, and Jermaine O’Neal will all get increased minutes and Garnett won’t be there to clean up their defensive mistakes.

Shaq should be able to take Okafor into the low block early and overwhelm him, but The Diesel just can’t play 30-35 minutes anymore and over time Okafor should win this matchup. I actually expect the Celtics to play a lot of small ball, with Davis manning the center position for most of the night. From there it will be an interesting battle between Okafor’s strength and Big Baby’s sheer will on the boards.

Bench: Jarrett Jack, Marcus Thornton, Q-Pon, Jason Smith vs. Nate Robinson, Von Wafer, Marquis Daniels, Jermaine O’Neal

Advantage: Celtics

If Rondo starts, then Robinson moves back to the bench and gives the Celtics an explosive element off the pine. Daniels and Wafer have also had their moments this year and O’Neal can still show signs of life in small spurts. Really, though, the Celtics win this match-up by default, as the Hornets bench has been non-existent of late on the road. Mark my words, for the Hornets to win this game, one of these guys will have to step up BIG.

Other News and Notes:

– Since November 22nd, the Celtics are 15-2 and the Hornets are 7-13.

– The Celtics are 112-44 with Garnett and 24-14 without since he arrived.

– Hornets have lost their last three at Boston- all by double digits.

– Hornets have only scored 100 points or more 3 times in their last 20 games.

– Monty says that even if Willie Green is with the team on this current two game road trip, he does not not know if he will play right away. Perhaps Monty will save Green’s return for their next home game, Monday against his old squad, Philadelphia.

95 comments
L_Reazy
L_Reazy

‘JCS’ & ‘Ziko’ (from a previous discussion of “Odom Dominates as Lakers hand the Hornets rare Home loss”) I feel what you mean about realistic trades … but we question trades and why they happen all the time. The reality is if we really knew about trades months before they eventually happened we would say, many of times, “Why would that team want to do that trade?” Point is: we never know why they do what they do! What I do know is each player I included in those trades would fit with there new team. David West & Trevor Ariza would fit in Philadelphia Marco Belinelli would fit in New York Jason Smith would fit in Sacramento Emeka Okafor and Marcus Thornton would fit in Denver Willie Green would fit in Houston Quincy Pondexter would fit in Washington I agree, Jordan Hill and Courtney Lee are young, but they are also just ‘Marginal’ players; and they definitely are not untouchable. Houston would deal those two players, and Willie Green is actually more solid. McGee makes a lot of mistakes with John Wall and Kirk Hinrich, but would probably become more efficient with Chris Paul the same way Tyson Chandler did. This is partially why JaVale McGee is not untouchable, and being shopped as we … type! I see your point about Marco Belinelli for Anthony Randolph, and how New York doesn’t want to give Chris Paul a reason to stay. However, D’toni would absolutely love a player like Belinelli! I know you’ll hate me for this, and I’ll probably be on an Island for this next comment, but, I actually prefer J.R. Smith over Marcus Thornton … yea I know … to me he’s just more explosive. Sorry yawl! Someone mentioned that Jason Thompson is being shopped for a PG, which is true. Nevertheless, he’s being shopped! So, I made a pitch for him. One thing is for certain: The Hornets can no longer make Mediocre or ‘Marginal’ trades and expect to get better or ‘ELITE’. ‘JCS’ I like Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon too, but they can’t help us reach our lofty goals. You know that, because you and I have seen the Hornets do trade that way time-after-time, and we often criticized Jeff Bower for doing so. Dell Demps, for all the good things he has done so far cannot afford to make ‘Bower-like’ mistakes! Let’s make some “Blockbuster Deals”! L_REAZY

JCS
JCS

Happy New Year

Go Blue
Go Blue

No torches and pitch forks for Marco and Trevor this game. I'm so impressed DWest played well with a sprained ankle. Mek did a great job today, and Cp3 was AMAZING. I don't know what the heck was wrong with the bench, but I Willie's defense was nice. Happy New Years!!!!

Cloud520
Cloud520

I was listening in my car and going nuts. I'm sure other drivers thought I was insane

42
42

I pulled over, actually.

f.g. di bene
f.g. di bene

what about great D by beli on pierce with 15 sec on the clock? what about clutch shots by the hated duo? I can start the new year happy after this.

CarnbY
CarnbY

Hell yeah! Happy New Year everybody!

QueenBee
QueenBee

Same to you and all Hornets fans!!! Happy New Year!

m-W
m-W

Whew.

QueenBee
QueenBee

WOOOOOOO!!!! Close out 2010. I couldn't look. I paused my DVR and left the room. Came back, caught up and saw Ariza with that great D on Allen. I don't care if Rondo and KG were out, the Hornets needed this win. Those are the breaks. No one feels sorry for the Hornets when we have players missing.

JCS
JCS

Happy New Year!

Mark
Mark

0 Rondo + 0 Garnett = W. At least we end 2010 with a win!

MaxALM
MaxALM

THANK GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD WE WIN ON THE ROAD!!!!

MaxALM
MaxALM

Why is Jarrett Jack in??? Oh my god no.

MaxALM
MaxALM

oh boy. oh boy. NO MISTAKES PLEASE!

CarnbY
CarnbY

Not the worst time for Ariza to snap out of it!

QueenBee
QueenBee

Best 3 I've seen Ariza make all season and that's including the big one against the Heat. I mean Pierce was damn near tongue kissing him he was so close to Trevor and dude still knocked it down. Wow.

Mark
Mark

Figures when Ariza tries to make shots he misses, but when he jacks up a 3 with 1 second left on the shot clock it goes it. Let's close this thing out Bees.

MaxALM
MaxALM

MARCO AND ARIZA ARE CLUTCH TODAY!!!!!

rm
rm

Monty can't get a solid 10-15 mins from anyone on the bench

QueenBee
QueenBee

Come on Hornets. Don't get me all excited for nothing. Now they're letting Ray effin Allen get going.

MaxALM
MaxALM

OH MY F*****G GOD another 4th quarter meltdown. GREAT JOB

Hornet
Hornet

Chris Paul +18 Jarrett Jack - 13 'nuff said.

MaxALM
MaxALM

Jack needs to STOP TRYING TO DO SO MUCH. It results in what is happening now.

QueenBee
QueenBee

God the Hornets look terrible without Chris Paul on the floor. Soon as he sits the Celts go on a run. Terrible. Other Hornets have absolutely no pride. No pride or game for that matter. In other news, Meka has been playing really well today.

CarnbY
CarnbY

CP3 and Okafor are tearin' it up!

QueenBee
QueenBee

Chris needs a rest but I don't think he can afford to come out of this game. But I guess he's gonna have to. :(

rm
rm

Am I correct in that Gray is not travelling with the team?

JCS
JCS

Let's hope so.

Forever504
Forever504

glen gets to yell at the refs but if that was one of the hornets players they would have T'ed him up

Mark
Mark

Like that yell CP had against the Heat earlier this season? Ri-freaking-diculous.

MaxALM
MaxALM

Big Baby just 4-for-12. Good work. Has anyone else noticed that D West has been getting more blocks this season?? Yeaaaaa

Mark
Mark

Speaking from the third quarter only, DX seems to be more active on defense, hands raised and all. While I don't expect this for 48 minutes, it's good seeing him be a little more aggressive on D.

MaxALM
MaxALM

I really think the Hornets can rediscover some of that early season fire if they take shots earlier in the shot clock. They seem to be much more efficient/effective when they take shots in the first 12 seconds of the shot clock as opposed to the last 12 seconds. I actually read a stat somewhere earlier in the season that proved it. Not saying they should hoist up shots for the sake of being faster-paced...but when they get a good look they need to take it instead of hesitating.

42
42

Part of that is the fast break effect. Part of that is that the longer you wait into the clock, if the ball is on one side, the defense can hedge your way and lower your efficiency at the expense of defending the weak side less well since that is also riskier for you to send the ball over there. Part of that is that the offense has to wait because they are far from crisp. So, to some extent its a symptom, not a cause.

MaxALM
MaxALM

4 fouls on Shaq. Good stuff.

MaxALM
MaxALM

I feel like every time i look at the box score in the midst of a game on the road, Marcus is always 1-for-5 exactly. Let's start finishing at the rim Marcus.

42
42

Yeah, same here. This is why I'm glad he's getting the minutes. It's not productive now, but we have to give him the chance to work through it, just like the other folks have gotten. He's earned the extra length on his rope with his demonstrated upside.

42
42

The box score at the half says a whole lot to me. We have 4 guys 4-of-7: Paul, West, Okafor. Everyone else is 0-for-x, 1-for-x. They have every person scoring whose played, 3 1-for-x, 4 2-for-x, 2 3-for-x. That's a team, people. Also, their today-bench is all + in the +/-, their today-starters are all -. Our situation is reversed except Marcus has a 0 (so + relative to our bench?) and Quincy and Ariza are +4/-4 respectively. To put that in perspective, Marcus is 1 of 5 with no trips to the line . . . and he's got the second best game off the bench today.

QueenBee
QueenBee

Hornets have 6 raggedy bench points. Marquis Daniels has 6 off the Celts bench by himself. SMH.

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

Yeah, these guys just don't show up on the road and that is reason #1 for the 7 game road losing streak (followed closely by the Marco/Ariza combo) Good to see Willie Green back though.

JCS
JCS

@McNamara That brokeback picture of CP and Rondo is pure comedy. Any chance we can we have "Caption This" contest?

Michael McNamara
Michael McNamara

Will mention it to the guys (once those pansies get back from vacation!)

QueenBee
QueenBee

I cannot stand to see a Celtic brick a shot and gets his own rebound for the putback. Hornets need to do better.

HiMyNameisSteven
HiMyNameisSteven

I realized our problem.... why the heck does chris sit on the bench for such long stretches?

MaxALM
MaxALM

to not wear him over the long term....assuming we make the playoffs. assuming is a strong word.