Looking to build on their impressive win-streak, the Celtics came out tonight and laid a giant egg. The Hornets were far more aggressive and dominated both the boards (48-33) and the free throw stripe (26-31 over Boston's awful 6-16). Boston's recent chemistry and defensive intensity disappeared, leaving fans to wonder whether the team really has turned a corner.
The Celtics had finally started to turn it around, coming into tonight's game looking to win their 7th straight game against the lowly Hornets. It was a special night for the Rivers' family, as Doc Rivers would have to coach against his son for the first time in his career.
Boston got off to a hot start, going up 21-10 in the first quarter. The starting lineup was on the same wavelength, shutting down the passing lanes, forcing turnovers, and pushing in transition. Then the complacency settled in, and The Hornets pushed their lead to 6 points. Boston came back to within 1 point before halftime.
The Celtics started the 2nd half as though they'd all just run a team marathon. They were incredibly sluggish and got burned for 9 straight points. After going down by as much as 12, they cut the score to 67-63 just before the end of the 3rd.
Austin Rivers has struggled mightily in his rookie year, but he had a relatively good night in the Garden, scoring 8 points off some strong drives to the rim (I'm sure he took hundreds of shots on this court when he would hang with the team during his high-school days). In his interview after the game, he said he'll be sitting at the head of the table at The Rivers' next family dinner
Despite some terrific trick shots, and his first dunk of the season, Rajon Rondo did not protect the ball (5 turnovers) and did not attack the rim when Boston was searching for offense. Avery Bradley looked good early, but faded quickly. Paul Pierce's did well on the boards, but he didn't seem to have his legs tonight, missing 6 of his 7 3-pointers, many at times when the team desperately needed to get going. Jason Terry was actually a factor today, shooting 5-10 for 12 points. He needs to build off this and string together a few solid nights to have any chance of backing up his bold pre-season promises.
Jared Sullinger was in foul trouble all night and never got going, but Brandon Bass was more active than usual in extended minutes. And while Kevin Garnett was solid offensively, he was pounded inside. Anthony Davis, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Robin Lopez all feasted on the putrid interior D with high-percentage looks.
Other than JET, the bench was downright anemic tonight. Courtney Lee missed some potentially game-changing 3's and despite 2 blocks and some stronger rebounding (5 boards), Jeff Green was a non-factor offensively. They've provided constant activity over the streak, at times bailing out the starting lineup, but they never developed a rhythm tonight.
Though much too late, Leandro Barbosa was red hot, scoring 7 points in the last 3 minutes, his only floor time of the night.
"That's a Wrap"
Ultimately, this was a really discomforting loss. There were almost no positives, and the Celtics looked like old, slow, and uninterested. They committed far too many careless turnovers, getting out-hustled by a Hornets team on the second night of a back to back. Boston looked completely demoralized, at times leaving the lane wide open as if resigned to their fate. The bench, which had been great as of late, was nowhere to be seen. The C's still have a lot of work to do if they are serious about going for Banner #18.
Follow Jacob on Twitter @TheReelJZ Jacob Zweiback 1/16/2013 10:33:00 PM Tweet