Game On: Celtics @ Hornets

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Published: March 19, 2011

Matchup: Celtics (48-19) @ Hornets(40-30)

Caption me! Please!

Off Efficiency: Celtics 104.5 (14th), Hornets 103.5 (19th)

Def Efficiency: Celtics 97.4 (2nd), Hornets 101.0 (6th)

Pace: Celtics 92.9 (23rd), Hornets 91.2 (28th)

Injuries- Shaq is out. The Hornets are healthy

Consider tonight the first game of the playoffs. From here on out, every contest is that much more meaningful. One slip up could cost the Hornets the 5th seed, and a date with Oklahoma instead of Dallas or the Lakers. At the moment the Hornets are only a game and a half back of fifth seeded Denver.

New Orleans enters tonight’s contest with Boston having won five of their last seven games, and three of four on the most recent home stand. They previously defeated Boston on December 30th, although it should be noted that Boston was playing without Garnett or Rondo. At the time, Michael had a hunch that Rondo would play despite injury because of his rivalry with Paul. Well, tonight I have a hunch that Rondo shouldn’t play, at least if doesn’t want his confidence to sink even lower.

Paul vs Rondo

Paul has been dominating since returning from the concussion, averaging 28-11-6-5 steals-1.7 TO’s, and with 2 days of rest leading up to this one, he should have another huge game. In a quote that you’ve already read, since apparently everyone thinks it’s really mind blowing or something, Paul said “I’ve learned, watching all the games, that if I’m aggressive early, it makes the defense collapse on me and it makes my teammates open even more.”

YOU HAVE TO BE KIDDNG ME, CHRIS PAUL! THE PEOPLE HERE AT HORNETS247 AND AROUND THE INTERNET HAVE BEEN SAYING THAT FOR…

Actually, never mind. This is a great idea. If Chris continues to implement his new strategy of attacking throughout the entire game instead of just in the second half, life is going to continue to be difficult for Paul’s nemesis, Rajon Rondo. He’s only 4-29 in the last four games, not getting to the free throw line even a single time.

Paul and Rondo both do well penetrating and then dishing to the open man, so the Hornets are going to need Okafor to keep the middle clogged up so that Rondo doesn’t start finding seams and getting easy layups. If he finds his game rhythm early, this one gets a lot harder for the Hornets.

Wake Me Up When the Shot Clock Gets to 8

Both teams play a slow, deliberate style, so nearly all of the offense will be run in the half court. On the defensive end, the fans have the potential to play a big roll tonight. The Hornets take 43% of their shots with less than 8 seconds left on the shot clock, and the Celtics take 42% of theirs. That leads to a lot of possessions with Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo just standing on the perimeter barking instructions to their teammates.

Bring Some Ear Plugs

It’s going to get loud tonight, and those in Celtic Green shouldn’t expect to even make a dent in the noise level at the Arena. The Hornets fans, and the Bee-Zanies in particular, will be loud, in attendance, and excited. Saturday night games in New Orleans are typically well attended, and this one has been sold out for days.

On some days having a beer garden and a party outside before the game doesn’t provide too much of an additional boost to the volume level of fans, but on a sunny, 80 degree Saturday in mid March, it’s going to be huge. People will be there for hours beforehand, and once they get inside you can be assured that the Hive will be buzzing. The atmosphere will be of the playoff variety.

Okafor Can Do It

On the offensive end, Okafor could very well have a big game against the strange Celtics front court. He has performed well against Kristic over the years, and continues to enjoy a clear advantage. With Paul penetrating early, and Kristic a poor defender to begin with, I fully expect Okafor to be on the receiving end of numerous silky smooth passes that will result in thunderous smashes.

The crowd will erupt.

It will be glorious.

Notes From the Arena

  • I will be at the Arena for the pre-game press conferences starting at around 5 ct, as well as outside for a few shots of the party. If you have anything specific you want to ask anyone, let me know and I’ll do what I can. As I’ve noted before, the less popular the player, the easier it is to get an answer.
  • New Orleans is 6-3 against the top five teams in the Eastern Conference so far this season.
  • They are 11-2 at home against the Eastern conference as a whole.
  • 11 of the Hornets 12 remaining opponents have won more than half their games.
  • Don’t forget to take a closer look at the Hornets path to the playoffs if you missed it previously.
  • There are LOTS of Celtic fans here early. Let’s hope that the Hornets fans can get loud. The Bee-Zanies have started already.

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