Out to a 3-0 start with relatively easy recent wins over the Bobcats and Bulls, the Celtics were tested on Sunday by the visiting New Orleans Hornets. But the Green passed with flying colors, riding Paul Pierce's game-high 27 points to a 97-87 home victory over the surging Hornets.
Pierce had 20 first-half points as the C's got out to a 47-38 advantage at the half. But the Hornets crept back in the third and early fourth behind All-Star point guard Chris Paul and sharp-shooter Peja Stojakovic to tie the game at 74 with 10 minutes remaining.
But the Celtics kept up the pressure, got some key minutes from Rasheed Wallace off the bench and held on for their fourth straight victory of the young season. Ray Allen added 17 for the C's and Kevin Garnett had arguably his best game of the year to this point, posting 14 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists.
Celtics 97, Hornets 87
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.
November 1, 2009
Headliner: Paul Pierce led the way for the Celtics, who improved to 4-0 with the victory. His 20 points in the first half got the Green out to a lead and his five points late in the fourth — including a dagger of a 3-pointer with 1:17 remaining — cemented the C's win. Pierce was 10-of-14 from the floor on the night, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range.
Unsung Hero: His numbers may not jump off the score sheet, but Rasheed Wallace played an enormous role in the Boston win. He scored 12 points and grabbed five boards off the bench for the Celtics. Kendrick Perkins was also uber-solid down low for the C's, putting up 12 points and seven boards against Emeka Okafor. In a tough matchup against Chris Paul, Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo netted just six points, but added 10 assists, reaching double digits for the fourth-straight game.
For the Hornets, Chris Paul stepped up in a big way in the second half, bringing New Orleans back from a nine-point halftime deficit with 22 points and eight assists. Peja Stojakovic played a huge role in the Hornets' second-half comeback, scoring a team-high 26 off the bench, hitting 6-of-10 shots from 3-point range.
Scrubs: The Celtics' ballhandling was one of the team's few negatives on Sunday. Doc Rivers' squad had 15 turnovers, one off their season high, including four each by Rondo and Garnett. Late in games against more polished opponents, those unforced errors can often be the difference between winning and losing tight games.
Turning Point: The importance of Rasheed Wallace has already been discussed, but the timing of his contribution made his numbers that much more significant.
Shortly after the first tie of the game since the first period, Sheed's timely 3-point bomb with 9:48 left in the fourth gave the C's a 78-74 advantage. Moments later, after a Hornets' miss, Shelden Williams and Eddie House worked a gorgeous give-and-go that resulted in Williams slamming it home to put the Celtics back up six. From that point on, the Boston lead never fell below three.
Up Next: Following Sunday night's win, the Celtics head out for two straight on the road on Tuesday (Philadelphia) and Wednesday (Minnesota) nights.
Tuesday, the C's look to stay unbeaten in an Atlantic Division clash against the 76ers (2-1) in Philly.
On Saturday night, the up-tempo Sixers blew a 23-point lead before scoring the final 17 points of the game and knocking out the Knicks 141-127 in overtime at Madison Square Garden in New York. Andre Iguodala led the way for Philadelphia with 32 points, while Lou Williams added 27 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Twenty-one-year-old Thaddeus Young added a season-high 25 in the win.
The Celtics won all four matchups against the 76ers last season.
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