Despite running away with an 18-0 run in crunch time, the Celtics have lost in shocking fashion at the TD Garden. They're now 1-3 in their last four games for the first time this season.
Paul finishes with 20 points and David West, 19 for the Hornets. The Celtics get 18 points from Allen, but they needed at least two more.
The C's have Saturday off before starting a back-to-back against the Raptors and Timberwolves on Sunday.
Fourth quarter, 19.6 seconds, Hornets 83-81: The Celtics put David West at the line, and West makes just one of two free throws.
The Celtics are alive. They need one bucket to tie this thing.
Who gets the ball for the last shot? So far, this second half has belonged to Ray Allen. Will Doc go with the hot hand?
Fourth quarter, 21.0 seconds, Hornets 82-81: The Celtics are alive, if not well. Ray Allen gets a big rebound, draws a foul from Chris Paul, and gets to the line for two free throws. He hits them both.
The C's have a fighting chance, but the Hornets still have the lead and the ball.
Fourth quarter, 54.0 seconds, Hornets 82-77: Well, that was ugly. Glen Davis takes a terrible, terrible shot with the game on the line, a 3 from the top of the key. That, folks, is not his game.
David West knocks one down, and the Hornets' lead is five.
Fourth quarter, 1:34, Hornets 80-77: Big, big shot from Trevor Ariza, a 3-ball to put the Hornets back on top with a minute and a half to play.
Doc Rivers has called a timeout. Does he think Ray Allen has another trey left in him? The C's are capable of tying this ballgame with one timely shot.
Fourth quarter, 1:59, 77-77: Nate Robinson just made the play of the game, for my money. The little man just dove for a loose ball, caught it on the run, drove coast-to-coast, got a layup and drew a foul. The C's have tied the ballgame.
Two minutes to go. Who can get the last stop?
Fourth quarter, 3:39, Celtics 75-74: David West sneaks inside for another bucket. He's quietly piled up 16 points.
Never underestimate the challenge of putting stops together without your two best defensive players (wait, check that, three best — Kendrick Perkins is out, too). The C's are in a tough spot, and they're making the most of it.
Fourth quarter, 4:18, Celtics 74-72: This game is far from over. The Hornets have fought back with a quick 6-1 run of their own, and we're now looking at a one-possession basketball game.
The C's need to stay focused and play smart, despite the crazy adrenaline rush of this fourth quarter. Easier said than done.
Fourth quarter, 6:25, Celtics 73-66: This is insane. Ray Allen just knocked down yet another 3-pointer. If you blinked, you may have missed him going from four points in the game to 16.
The Celtics are now on an 18-0 run. The Hornets are 0-for-9 from the field in the quarter. A second ago, the C's were licking their wounds, and now they're dominating.
Fourth quarter, 8:28, Celtics 67-66: The Hornets are amazingly still scoreless in the fourth quarter, as Emeka Okafor just bricked a pair of free throws with a chance to put the Hornets back in front.
New Orleans is melting down. This is unbelievable.
Fourth quarter, 10:19, Hornets 66-63: The bench scoring continues to keep the Celtics alive. The C's have charged back by stringing together three straight stops and getting one bucket each from Jermaine O'Neal, Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson.
Paul Pierce, Glen Davis and Shaquille O'Neal are on the bench, recharging for crunch time. The C's are staging a comeback without three of their best scorers.
End of third quarter, Hornets 66-57: The mistakes are really piling now for the Celtics, who trail by nine and are on the verge of losing three of four games for the first time this season.
Chris Paul gives the Hornets a monster third quarter with nine points, including a free throw off a technical called on a peeved Glen Davis. CP3 is rolling, the Celtics are whining, and this one's getting out of hand.
The Celtics need to calm down and refocus. They also need for Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to carry them to a comeback.
Third quarter, 1:51, Hornets 63-53: Willie Green just hit a beautiful wing 3 at the buzzer of the shot clock, and the Hornets have a double-digit lead for the first time.
Speaking of 3-point shooters, Ray Allen has only four points in this game on five shot attempts. Why aren't the C's getting him involved?
Third quarter, 4:41, Hornets 53-49: Chris Paul has dropped eight points in seven minutes to open the third quarter. He's now got a game-high 17.
CP3 is a tough cover for the Celtics without Rondo around. Marquis Daniels has spent some time at the point in this one, but he's a bit too big and slow to stay with a really quick youngster like Paul.
Third quarter, 7:08, Hornets 48-47: The Hornets are starting to clamp down defensively. They just forced a shot-clock violation with their suffocating D, and then Chris Paul got an inside bucket seconds later to put the Hornets in the lead.
This game has been quite the defensive struggle, hasn't it? Both teams are shooting exactly 20-for-45, which is half-decent, but it's been a slow, plodding game with neither team getting easy shots.
Third quarter, 9:57, Celtics 44-41: Surprise! The Celtics have decided to establish a post game here in the third quarter. They've gotten all their offense so far from Shaq and Big Baby — impressive given the big game Emeka Okafor has had defensively (eight boards, two blocks).
How long can the C's keep this up before Okafor gets fed up and starts pushing people around? Time to put him to the test.
Halftime, Celtics 39-37: Considering all the adversity the Celtics have fought through, they're probably pretty happy with a two-point halftime lead over Chris Paul and the Hornets.
CP3 misses a long 3 at the close of the first half, and the C's cling to their slim advantage at the break. They've gotten seven points each from Shaquille O'Neal and Nate Robinson, and an all-around gem from Marquis Daniels — six points, two boards, two blocks, an assist and a steal — to help them to the halftime lead.
Chris Paul has nine points, four assists and two steals to lead the Hornets.
Second quarter, 3:14, 35-35: The Hornets have charged back to tie the game, as David West and Marco Belinelli have fueled an 8-3 push.
The Celtics need to maintain their efficiency offensively. Right now they have eight turnovers leading to eight New Orleans points — cutting that down should be a point of emphasis going forward.
Second quarter, 5:14, Celtics 34-29: Luke Harangody just made a fantastic play — he had a good look at a 3 and missed it, but he found an open lane into the paint, got his own rebound and tipped it back in.
That's just smart, hustling, heads-up basketball.
Harangody has his first two points of the game, and the Celtics now have a 14-6 edge in bench scoring.
Second quarter, 6:09, Celtics 32-27: Marquis Daniels just got a steal and a clean break to the basket for a transition dunk. That caps off a 13-4 run for the Celtics to open the second quarter — Monty Williams needs a timeout, and the TD Garden is rocking.
This second unit is playing with more energy that Doc Rivers could possibly have imagined. Daniels, Wafer and Jermaine O'Neal have all been great.
Second quarter, 8:08, Celtics 26-25: The Celtics' rotation has been through an overhaul, so they'll need to find bench scoring from unusual places to make this work.
So far, they've gotten one bucket each from Jermaine O'Neal, Marquis Daniels and Von Wafer. That's a good start, but can they keep it going?
The starting five will not be able to do this alone.
Second quarter, 9:37, Hornets 25-24: Without Rondo, the Celtics are running an unusual backup guard duo of Von Wafer and Marquis Daniels, with Daniels handling the ball.
Doc Rivers has made sure to leave Paul Pierce out there with the second unit. He needs a veteran presence, either Pierce or Ray Allen, at all times. The second unit has been so scattered these days that it desperately needs the guidance.
End of first quarter, Hornets 23-19: The Celtics are moving the ball well and hitting shots, but they're lacking a certain physical element without Kevin Garnett. This is a softer, gentler C's squad.
Boston has zero free-throw attempts so far. Doc Rivers has to tell his guys to pound the ball inside and work for it.
Chris Paul has seven points and two assists to lead the way for the Hornets so far, while Nate Robinson has five and two for the Celtics. It might not be CP3-Rondo, but it's still been a fun matchup to watch.
First quarter, 3:49, Celtics 13-10: The C's have really clamped down defensively — they've kept the Hornets without a field goal for the last 3:26, going on a 6-0 tear.
The Hornets are shooting just 4-for-13 as a team, and that's not just bad bounces. The C's are contesting everything, making them work for their points.
First quarter, 5:55, Hornets 10-7: Remember Trevor Ariza? He was a key piece of the Lakers' championship run in 2009 — he's now a solid swingman for Monty Williams and the Hornets.
Ariza's got four points early for New Orleans, including a pair of free throws just now.
First quarter, 6:54, Hornets 8-7: The Celtics just went a solid five minutes without anyone besides Nate Robinson scoring. A well-timed entry pass from Paul Pierce to Shaquille O'Neal for a layup snaps that streak.
Still nothing from Pierce or Ray Allen offensively, aside from a couple of nice passes. The C's offense is still lacking a little pop.
First quarter, 9:17, Hornets 4-3: It takes them a while, but the Celtics finally get on the board. Good ball movement gets the job done — Paul Pierce swings it to Ray Allen, who swings it to Nate Robinson for the open 3.
If the C's keep rebounding and passing this well, they'll be fine in the long run.
First quarter, 11:42, Hornets 2-0: David West sure looks healthy so far. He just knocked down a difficult fadeaway jumper over Glen Davis' outstretched arms, and the Hornets have an early lead.
It'll be interesting to see how this starting five fares defensively with no Rondo and no KG.
2:30 p.m.: Doc Rivers says that Rajon Rondo is close, but not quite ready to return Friday against Chris Paul and the Hornets. Nate Robinson will once again start in his place.
Yep, you got it — Nate and Glen Davis will start together for the first time.
This should be fun.
11:30 a.m.: An interesting question to ponder: With all these bodies being shuffled in and out of the Celtics' lineup, what will happen to the bench?
We're likely to see two changes to the C's second unit Friday: the loss of Glen Davis, who will instead have to start with Kevin Garnett out, and the addition of Nate Robinson, who returns to the bench when Rajon Rondo turns (likely Friday).
The unit will play a lot differently with the perimeter presence of Nate. He's going to reemerge as the offensive focal point of the squad, and his shooting numbers could make or break the C's if they're in a close game early in the fourth quarter with their starters resting.
The C's have had to shake up their starting five a lot with all these injuries. But their bench is feeling the effects even worse.
9 a.m.: Luckily for the Celtics, the beginning of the their time without Kevin Garnett just might coincide with the end of their time without Rajon Rondo.
KG will be missing in action Friday afternoon at the TD Garden, sitting out for the first time this season with a strained calf muscle as the Celtics take on the Hornets. He's likely to miss two weeks. But possibly returning after a two-week absence of his own is Rondo, just in time for an anticipated matchup with New Orleans' star point guard Chris Paul.
The Celtics have weathered all kinds of injuries this season, but they've always had just enough bodies to make it through alive. A potential Rondo return on Friday would be just what the C's need to stay on top in the Eastern Conference.
The Celtics and Hornets tip off at 3 p.m., as both teams will attempt to finish out 2010 with a win.