For the first time at home this season, Boston Celtics starters had to play four quarters of basketball. The Celtics held on for a 97-87 win over the New Orleans Hornets, but it wasn't easy. The Hornets, not the Celtics, came out hot in the third quarter, led by 14 third quarter points by Chris Paul. The Celtics squandered a 12-point third quarter lead and went into the fourth quarter up three points, thanks to a Rasheed Wallace three-pointer with 1.1 seconds on the clock.
The starting lineup going into the fourth quarter was Eddie House, Marquis Daniels, Paul Pierce, Rasheed Wallace, and Shelden Williams. Two minutes into the quarter, Pierce was subbed out for Ray Allen. At this point, the game was tied at 74. The Celtics went on to score six straight points after that, with only one starter in the game. Daniels hit one of two free throws from the line, Wallace hit a three-pointer, and Williams threw down an emphatic dunk.
"If he's not in the game, you know he's coming in the game," Allen said of Rasheed Wallace. He's going to put a lot of pressure on the opposing team's defense. So just continue to use him and I hope he enjoys what he's doing because he's doing a great deal for us."
In years past, fans would scream if we didn't see the starters in such a tight game. That isn't necessarily the case for this Celtics team. They are so deep that they can rest the entire unit in the fourth quarter of a tie game and still do damage on the opponent.
When the starters came back in, they were fresh- and it showed. Kevin Garnett nailed two clutch turnaround jumpers, Allen hit a shot, and then Pierce finished off the Hornets from long range to put the Celtics up by nine with a little over a minute left.
"I thought I made some strong plays down the course of the game, especially when you get tired a little bit," Garnett said of his performance tonight. "I got P (Paul Pierce) a couple open shots. And that's what I'm in there for; I'm in there trying to wreak havoc on defense and then trying to make it easy for everybody else."
He certainly has made it look easy for Paul Pierce through the first four games of the season. Pierce finished with 27 points tonight on 10-14 shooting from the field. He's locked on from beyond the arc as well, going 3-5 tonight.
"Oh, Paul's been amazing," Rivers raved. "You can see it, just his whole demeanor, everything's been good. Paul's been- he's been a pro's pro. Never in a hurry, let's the game come to him, so team-oriented with his defense. He's playing on a team with a lot of guys and people overlook some of the little things that he's doing."
Going into the game, there was much talk about the matchup between Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul. Rondo tried to downplay the matchup before the game, but it was clear that this game meant a little more to him than most regular season games do. Things looked, dare I say it, "chippy", out there, as the two point guards jawed at each other throughout the game, and got into it a little bit in the second quarter.
"They're both feisty," said Ray Allen of Rondo and Paul. "Both aggressive, in your face. They take the ball to the hole. Put you on your heels all game long."
Rasheed Wallace agreed, saying, "It's two of the premiere point guards going at it. Rondo, he's the spark for our team and Chris is the spark for their team."
The competition between the two players comes in the midst of a contract extension deadline of Monday at 6:30pm for Rondo. Reports were that he previously turned down a five-year contract in the range of $45-55 million.
When told that Hornets head coach put Rondo in the top five or six point guard ranking, Rondo smiled and replied, "Cool...appreciate it. At least I'm up there in that five or six group."
Asked where he thought he ranked, he half-jokingly replied, "Top one. One-ish...one and a half-ish.
"1a and 1b with Chris Paul?," a reporter asked.
"1c. I'm 1a and 1b," he said with a smile. "I just believe I'm one of the best at what I do, that's it. That's how I play and I work out and work as hard as I can to be the best. I'm honest with myself as far as other guys. I respect a lot of their game. Chris Paul is a great point guard, there's a lot of [great point guards]..."