Another strong first half followed by another lackluster second half. In this case it was a 12-point lead midway through the third quarter which evaporated in the span of a few minutes.
The ugliness was notable in this one, however, as the Celtics missed eight straight free throws in the second half and turned the ball over 22 times. Paul Pierce led the team with 15 points but had eight of the giveaways. Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Rajon Rondo combine to go 5-of-20 from the floor.
It’s a dismal start to a five-game road trip which spans the All-Star festivities. Throw in another win for Toronto and Boston’s lead in the Atlantic Division is down to four games. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the C’s could be in fifth place in the Eastern Conference before the month is out, especially with four games out West looming on the horizon.
For now it’s time for a little break. We will be back to follow the action when the slumping Celts visit Sacramento next Tuesday.
Fourth quarter, 25.1 seconds, Hornets 91-83: The Celtics’ 13th loss in 22 games is just about in the books after David West hits a pair from the line.
Fourth quarter, 43.2 seconds, Hornets 89-83: Paul Pierce looks lost out there. He just threw a ball right into a defender’s arms for his eighth turnover.
It’s the 22nd giveaway for the Celtics, four shy of a season high.
Fourth quarter, 1:08, Hornets 87-83: What kind of play out of the timeout is that? I imagine it was not designed this way, but Rajon Rondo just chucks one up with about 17 seconds on the shot clock.
Fourth quarter, 1:49, Hornets 87-81: Hate to beat a dead horse here, but this is a six-point game and the Celtics have shot 3-of-13 from the line in the second half. Just going 10-of-13 would give them the lead.
Fourth quarter, 2:07, Hornets 87-81: What a wild night for Darren Collison. His dunk doesn’t go down but still stays on the rim for a second before falling through.
And Tony Allen just made a free throw!!! The Celts had missed eight in a row before that. Of course, he misses the next.
Fourth quarter, 2:45, Hornets 85-80: Tony Allen’s put-back a moment ago is the only field goal in this game over the past 3:16 as this one has become very ugly.
Both teams are shooting under 50 percent after hot starts and they’ve combined for 41 turnovers.
Fourth quarter, 3:01, Hornets 85-80: This is something else. Boston has missed eight straight free throws in a close game down the stretch. It’s hard to figure a team that once had the mental edge on everyone choking away so many opportunities.
Fourth quarter, 3:44, Hornets 85-78: That just about sums it up.
Tony Allen gets a steal and takes two seconds before throwing the ball away. The teams have combined for 43 turnovers in this one.
Fourth quarter, 5:28, Hornets 85-78: Back-to-back turnovers for Paul Pierce here. I mentioned earlier when he got off to a good start that it might not last, and Pierce has struggled since the first.
Fourth quarter, 5:59, Hornets 85-78: A 9-3 run by Darren Collison alone has given the Hornets another cushion. It appeared as if Rajon Rondo was getting ready to come back in, but it may be a minute or two late for Doc Rivers to make the move.
Collison just chewed apart Eddie House.
Fourth quarter, 6:57, Hornets 81-78: It took the Celtics nearly 42 minutes to get their first 3-pointer, a bomb from Rasheed Wallace.
By the way, can we get Rajon Rondo in the game? Eddie House has no chance against Darren Collison.
Fourth quarter, 8:11, Hornets 78-75: That is twice that Darren Collison has chucked one up only because he had to, and that’s twice he’s drawn nothing but net.
Fourth quarter, 9:47, Hornets 74-73: Marquis Daniels is doing his part to turn this thing back into Boston’s favor.
Daniels has a basket, a steal (credited to Rasheed Wallace but picked up by Daniels) and a basket in a span of seconds. Daniels has 12 points.
Fourth quarter, 10:41, Hornets 74-69: Rasheed Wallace adds to this whole free-throw-shooting mess by failing to complete a potential three-point play. The Celtics have missed seven straight free throws. Seven.
End of third quarter, Hornets 72-67: The Celtics have scored a total of 23 points in their last two third quarters. They’ve given up 65. I’m no math whiz, but that seems like a problem.
In a recurring theme, Boston is outplayed on both ends in the third as New Orleans turns a 12-point deficit into a five-point advantage in a span of less than five minutes.
Peja Stojakovic, who had 26 points against the C’s earlier this season, had 11 in the quarter.
Third quarter, 1:10, Hornets 72-67: Marquis Daniels has looked a lot better in his second game back, but he only adds to the misery from the line for the C’s, who have now missed six in a row!
Third quarter, 1:58, Hornets 70-65: Five straight missed free throws does nothing to help the Celtics here, but that’s what they’ve done.
Third quarter, 2:01, Hornets 70-65: It’s really unbelievable, isn’t it?
The Celtics seem to never learn from their second-half collapses and commit the same old mistakes. Once again they are standing around on offense and uninspired on defense and this one has just fallen apart.
It is a 20-3 run for New Orleans. Remember, the C’s were outscored 19-0 during a period of the third quarter against Orlando on Sunday. I’m beginning to wonder if there are just as many mental issues as there are physical.
Third quarter, 3:38, Celtics 65-61: The Celtics’ bench players are starting to trickle in. Let’s see if they can duplicate their first-half effort because this team needs a shot in the arm.
Third quarter, 4:45, Celtics 63-59: OK, that “here we go again” feeling is back. The crowd is in it and the Hornets are starting to get the wide-open looks from the outside that Celtics opponents often use to erase second-half deficits in a heartbeat.
Third quarter, 6:02, Celtics 62-56: Morris Peterson had yet to score in double figures all season until this game. He already has 13.
He and Peja Stojakovic are keeping the Hornets close from the perimeter.
Third quarter, 7:45, Celtics 60-50: Since making eight of their first 10 shots, the Hornets have posted an ugly 11-of-38 (28.9 percent) showing. Their most recent possession included two offensive rebounds and three misses.
Third quarter, 8:59, Celtics 60-48: After the Hornets scored the first five points of the quarter there was a little bit of a “here we go again” feeling in the air, but the C’s have responded with five straight of their own.
Third quarter, 9:25, Celtics 59-48: Among the many things Rajon Rondo excels at is throwing the ball off an opponent as he falls out of bounds. He has done this several times of late, and his most recent act eventually leads to a Tony Allen hoop.
Third quarter, 11:55, Celtics 55-43: We are underway in the second half and the watch is on for the first major run by the Hornets, and if it comes, what it will do to the Celtics mentally.
Halftime, Celtics 55-43: With Ray Allen out and Paul Pierce gutting through his pain and Rajon Rondo spending a heavy dose of time on the bench, the Celtics needed something from their reserves in the first half. They certainly got it.
Boston’s bench broke this one open a bit in the second quarter, which saw the Green outscore the Hornets 28-14.
Aside from an ugly 13 turnovers, the Celtics posted some nice numbers in the first 24 minutes. Here are a few:
- 21-of-35 (60 percent) from the floor.
- 13-of-14 (92.9 percent) from the line.
- six steals and three blocked shots.
- 14 assists on 21 baskets.
Back in a bit to see how the second half goes. We know how it’s gone in the past.
Second quarter, 1:54, Celtics 52-40: Kevin Garnett doesn’t need to move all that well to remain a great passer, as evidenced by the delivery he just gave Paul Pierce. There was almost no room for that thing to get through but Garnett provided the perfect speed and placement to lead Pierce.
Second quarter, 2:56, Celtics 50-40: Most of the starters have returned to help build on a double-digit advantage that the bench was able to provide the C’s.
The quintet of Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis, Eddie House, Marquis Daniels and Brian Scalabrine shot a combined 12-of-17.
Second quarter, 4:00, Celtics 46-38: Do we really want to know what Glen Davis was doing all those hours on Canal Street celebrating the Saints’ Super Bowl win?
Signing autographs and kissing babies, I’m sure. Did someone say “baby”?
Second quarter, 4:16, Celtics 46-37: Glen Davis now joining Rasheed Wallace in this post-up party for the second unit. Davis has nine points on 4-of-5 shooting.
Marquis Daniels, who has two steals, wanted to get into the act himself and easily scored over a smaller Hornets defender.
Unless NOLA has it working from the outside, and they don’t really aside from Darius Songaila, it is in a ton of trouble tonight.
Second quarter, 7:03, Celtics 38-33: The Hornets have not taken a shot inside 15 feet this entire quarter, while everything for the Celtics is inside, inside, inside. In fact, five of New Orleans’ six shots in the quarter are from at least 21 feet out.
Second quarter, 8:50, Celtics 34-31: A 7-2 burst to open the second quarter for the Celtics, whose bench is giving them some nice minutes here.
Rasheed Wallace has eight points and a pair of boards.
Second quarter, 9:48, Celtics 31-29: Rasheed Wallace is schooling Darius Songaila in the post, and you know Celtics fans love to see that.
End of first quarter, Hornets 29-27: Quite a first 12 minutes for Darren Collison, who is stuffing the stat sheet in Chris Paul’s absence.
Collison is averaging 16.4 points and 7.8 assists as a starter and is well on his way in this one. His one-handed floater at the buzzer gives him eight points, four turnovers, three assists and two steals in the first quarter alone.
Boston turned the ball over nine times in the quarter, a truly ghastly number which has led to 10 New Orleans points.
First quarter, 1:51, Celtics 25-23: You have to admire the effort by Glen Davis right there, but that’s perhaps the ugliest end to a 2-on-1 we’ve seen in some time.
Davis has a nice strip on one end and goes in on tiny Darren Collison on the other, only to lose the ball going up.
Eddie House, the only other player within shouting distance, can’t pick it up and watches as the rock rolls out of bounds off his foot.
First quarter, 3:07, 21-21: Some foul trouble for both sides as Rajon Rondo and David West have a pair of fouls apiece.
First quarter, 3:18, 21-21: That’s a third turnover already for Darren Collison. The Hornets are among the league leaders in the fewest giveaways per game, at 12.2.
First quarter, 4:47, Hornets 20-19: Seven minutes, 13 seconds in and we get the first audible Kevin Garnett curse.
First quarter, 5:11, 18-18: David West chucks up a blind prayer in the lane which scrapes the roof and still falls in, a pretty good indication of how this one is going early on.
New Orleans made seven straight shots at one point and is 8-of-11 thus far.
But Boston has weathered the hot streak and Paul Pierce can give the C’s the lead from the line after the timeout. Pierce is moving a bit better in this one, but his best minutes Sunday also came in the early-going before he seemed to tighten up a bit.
First quarter, 6:37, Hornets 14-10: Rajon Rondo may have met his match in terms of quickness in Darren Collison, but Rondo is much more in control of himself out there.
A rookie, Collison has had two turnovers and nearly another when he was moving so fast he basically tripped over himself.
That said, Collison knocks down a jumper and Peja Stojakovic follows with a 3-pointer to make it a 14-4 run for New Orleans.
First quarter, 9:41, Celtics 6-2: Hornets coach Jeff Bower wastes little time picking up a technical foul. He was looking for a foul on his point guard Darren Collison, who had just lost the ball off his own foot going up for a layup.
First quarter, 9:57, Celtics 6-2: David West scores to snap a 6-0 Celtics run to start things off.
First quarter, 11:55, 0-0: We are underway in this important road game for the Celtics. Expect the Green to attack early and often in the lane, for several reasons.
One, their best outside shooter, Ray Allen, is out with back spasms. Two, the Hornets are vulnerable inside, despite the presence of Emeka Okafor.
New Orleans ranks 29th in the league in blocked shots with just 3.6 per game and it was outscored in the paint against Boston earlier this season by a 56-26 margin.
The Hornets are sporting their Mardi Gras-colored uniforms.
7:35 p.m.: In case you had not heard yet, Ray Allen is out of this one with back spasms, the first game he has missed all season.
Tony Allen will start in Ray’s place, alongside Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins.
The Hornets go with Darren Collison, Morris Peterson, Peja Stojakovic, David West and Emeka Okafor.
Ray Allen’s absence gives Celtics players 114 games missed due to various injuries.
7:18 p.m.: As previously reported, Paul Pierce will play in this one against the Hornets, but his mobility bears watching.
Pierce had 13 points and failed to record an assist for just the fourth time in Sunday’s loss to Orlando. He looked a bit shy at times in the effort.
Fortunately, the Celtics will have five days off after they finish up in New Orleans. Unfortunately, Pierce will be in Dallas for the All-Star festivities this weekend, cutting into that much-needed break. Certainly Doc Rivers is hoping he takes it easy in the Big D.
Pierce did have 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting in Boston’s 97-87 win over New Orleans earlier this season and in recent years has owned the Hornets, attacking an often soft interior defense. Consider these scoring totals for Pierce against New Orleans over the last seven meetings: 27, 30, 28, 27, 28, 28, 29.
Talk about consistency.
12:29 p.m.: Entering their last game before the All-Star break and the first of five straight on the road, the Celtics are muddled in uncertainty.
While they remain atop the Atlantic Division, their lead is tenuous. While they recently strung together three straight wins for the first time since Christmas, they looked pathetic in the third quarter of a loss to Orlando on Sunday.
And while Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels returned from injuries Sunday, Pierce is questionable when the Celts visit New Orleans.
One thing is for sure — head coach Doc Rivers is not pleased.
“I thought we played like crap,” Rivers said in a rant following the loss to the Magic, which saw Boston choke away an 11-point lead, allowing Orlando to score 19 straight points during one horrific stretch.
At the very least, the C’s will avoid Chris Paul, who had 22 points and eight assists in a 97-87 Boston win at TD Garden on Nov. 1. Paul is out another month or so following left knee surgery and the Hornets are just 2-4 without him, including 0-3 at home.
We will follow the Pierce situation and all the action on the court right here, so be sure to check back in. Tip is set for 8 p.m.