Celtics Look to Bounce Back vs Hornets

Boston Celtics (48-19) at New Orleans Hornets (40-30)
Saturday, March 19
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #68, Road Game #33
Radio:   WEEI, KMEZ
New Orleans Arena 
Referees:  Marc Davis, Courtney Kirkland, Tom Washington
The Celtics come to yet another dreaded back to back set.  The second game is usually the game that gives the Celtics problems but they came out completely flat and with no focus or energy in the first game and lost 77-93 in Houston.  Now they face a well rested Hornets team that has been off since Wednesday.

This is the second and final game between these two teams.  The Celtics lost to the Hornets in Boston 108-102.   The Hornets are fighting with Portland for the 6th seed in the West and should be motivated to come out strong in this game.  The Celtics are still half a game behind the Bulls for the top seed in the East and blew a great chance to move ahead of them as the Bulls lost to the Pacers but the Celtics couldn't get a win against the Rockets.

The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games and are 19-13 on the road.   The Hornets are 5-5 in their last 10 games and 19-14 at home.  The Celtics are coming off a loss while the Hornets have a 2 game win streak going.

 The Celtics starters shouldn't be too tired from the game the previous night since none played more than 28 minutes.   However, they have had easy games on the first night of back to backs before and still lost the second.   It seems to be a mental hurdle for them that they have to conquer.   Before last night, the Celtics had just lost one other first half of a back to back set.  After that loss, the Celtics bounced back with a blowout in the next game.  We can hope that the Celtics respond in the same way to last night's loss.
Both teams have plenty of motivation to win this game.  The Hornets are fighting for playoff position and would love to sweep the series.  The Celtics should be motivated by the embarrassing blowout they suffered in Houston and they should also want to avoid a sweep by the Hornets.  Hopefully they can dig down deep and pull out the mental toughness needed to win this one.

PG  Rajon Rondo 10.3 PPG   11.7 APG  2.4 SPG

SG    Ray Allen  17.3 PPG  2.8 APG  .466 3P%

SF Paul Pierce 18.8 PPG  5.1 RPG   3.3 APG

PF Kevin Garnett  15.0 PPG   9.1 RPG   0.8 BPG

C Nenad Krstic   8.5 PP   4.9 RPG  0.4 BPG

Jeff Green
Sasha Pavlovic
Glenn Davis
Troy Murphy
Carlos Arroyo
Delonte West
Avery Bradley

Shaquille O'Neal (achilles)  out
Jermaine O'Neal (knee) out
Von Wafer (calf)  out

Probable Starters
PG    Chris Paul 16.3 PPG   9.7 APG  2.5 SPG

SG    Marco Belinelli    10.2 PPG  1.1 APG  .403 3P%

SF   Trevor Ariza   10.9 PPG  7.6 RPG  2.4 APG

PF    David West  18.8 PPG   7.6 RPG    0.9 BPG

C   Emeka Okafor   10.5 PPG   9.7 RPG    1.9 BPG

Jason Smith
Jarrett Jack
D.J. Mbenga
Quincy Pondexter
David Andersen
Marcus Banks
Aaron Gray
Carl Landry
Willie Green
Jerel McNeal


Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs Chris Paul
There is a lot of discussion about what's wrong with Rondo lately.   There are numerous theories including an injury, fatigue, missing Perk, and just being human.   Even though Rondo has been struggling  he usually gets up for games against the top point guards and Chris Paul definitely fits that description.     Chris Paul is the focal point of the New Orleans offense and Rondo needs to showcase his defense along with keeping the Celtics offense moving.   If he doesn't play better against Chris Paul than he did against Kyle Lowry, this could be another long night for the Celtics.

West is  the  Hornets' leading scorer and KG is going to need to slow him down.   KG has a height advantage and he needs to use that to his advantage.  

Honorable Mention
Paul Pierce vs Trevor Ariza
This would be a great time for the Captain to have a big game.   Ariza is a good defender though and could be a tough matchup for Pierce.   If Ariza makes things tough for Pierce, others must step up.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always the key to the game.  Recently, the Celtics defense has been in disarray and they have allowed teams to get wide open shots along with having a layup line at the basket.   The Celtics must continue to work on their defensive chemistry down the stretch as defense is even more important in the playoffs.  It seems lately that when shots don't go in, the Celtics get frustrated and stop playing defense.   Defense wins games and championships.

Rebound -   It takes effort to rebound and the Celtics must put forth that effort if they want to win this game.  They can't allow the Hornets to get second chance baskets.    They must be the team that wants it more if they expect to win this game and that effort and desire will show itself on the boards.

Focus and Effort -  Each player must come into the game focused and they must put out 100% effort from the opening tip to the final buzzer.  If they lose their focus or play with less than 100% effort the Hornets will get the sweep of the series.  

Work the Offense - The Celtics need to find their offense once again.  They have gone from having one of the most efficient offenses to not being able to hit a shot.  Whether it's fatigue or lack of focus, they have to get back to moving the ball, making the extra pass,  and finding the open man.  The Hornets have been struggling with defending the perimeter, losing 13 out of 15 games in which they allow at least 10 three pointers.  If the Celtics can regain their ability to hit shots, it will give them a good chance to win.

Official Report
Marc Davis
Davis has officiated over 460+ regular season games and 7 playoff games. When not officiating, Davis is a motivational speaker who speaks to sales forces on topics including goal setting, team building, the mechanics of presentation. Davis was investigated for threatening to whoop Allen Iverson's a** when AI complained about a call in a game in 2005, but was not suspended for it. The Celtics are 2-0 this season and are 7-3 in their last 10 games with Davis officiating. The Hornets are 4-6 in their last 10 games with Davis on the court. His home W/L record is 34-24.

Courtney Kirkland
Kirkland's debut year in the NBA was in 2000 when he was 26. His achievements in the league so far are 400+ regular season games and 3 playoff games officiated. He worked 2 years in the WNBA, 3 seasons in the CBA, 3 seasons in collegiate level and 4 years as a high school official before coming to the NBA. The Celtics are 3-0 this season and 9-1 in their last 10 games that Kirkland officiated. The Hornets are 8-2 in their last 10 games with Kirkland. He is a homer ref with a home W/L record of 40-12.

Tom Washington
Washington has officiated over 855+ regular season games and 55+ play-off games. The Celtics are 5-0 this season and 8-2 over their last 10 games with Washington calling the game. The Hornets are 4-6 in their last 10 with Washington as a ref. His home W/L record this season is 31-24.

Back to Back
The Celtics are playing in yet another of the dreaded second game of a back to back set.  The Celtics are 6-7 overall in the second of back to back games and every one of those losses came on the road.  They are 1-3 when both games are on the road.   It will take focus and effort to get the win in this one.