Well, Gary Payton tried to convince Celtics Head Trainer Ed Lacerte that he was OK to go for this one by coming out to test the hamstring before the shoot around. Apparently, the GP smile didn't work on Ed and in the interest of caution GP sat this one out.
Before the game, in our chat room, I once again expressed my concern about the Celtics propensity to "play down to thier competition". In the first half, I couldn't have been more right. Thankfully it didn't last.
In the first 2 minutes of the game, the C's had 4 turnovers. By the end of the first half, that number would increase to 16 turnovers (TO's). Thankfully the second half only yielded 6 TO's.
I'm not going to get into particulars of the 1st, but the C's were shooting 3's well (3/3) and playing aggressive, but sloppy basketball. The passing was.....well...bad, with the kind of throw away passes that turn your stomach to watch. It was fairly clear that the team needed to adjust to not having GP running the show.
The Hornets got a boost of 6 points on 2/3 shooting from Dan "I hurt my" Dickau.
At the end of the 1st: 25-18.
Kendrick Perkins started the 2nd period, along with RD, TA, Jiri and Raef. RD took it straight to Junior Harrington for a quick score out of the break. Jiri hit a 3 at the 8:50 mark to make the score 32-26.
The Hornets then went on a run and by 5:38 the score was 35-32 Celtics. At 4:29 Marcus Banks collected his 3rd foul and left the game. A PJ Brown steal and score at the 4:20 mark and it was 37 all. Another quick steal score around the 3:56 mark and the Hornets had thier first lead of the game. A Blount rebound and put back tied it up again, but a Celtic defensive lapse allowed Lee Nailon to come right back down and score, making it 41-39 at the 2:42 point left in the half.
Oddly, Nailon then got hit with a technical foul after complaining about a foul on Jiri Welsch and the one FT from the techinical and 1 of 2 FT's on the regular set and Jiri had retied the score from the FT line. A short while later, Bostian Nachbar hit a 3pter and with :51 left, the Hornets had the lead 46-41.
RD quickly answered with a drive, followed by PP to Blount and then a FT and at the half it was 46 all.
Allow me to say that again in Red Sox vernacular: At halftime, the Celtics were tied at 46 all with the 2-26 New Orleans "F'N" Hornets.
The C's were 9/15 from the FT line and to repeat the earlier stat, had 16 turnovers. Raef and RD were the primaries for the C's in the first half.
I asked my wife to poke out my eyes so I didn't have to watch the second half, but she told me that would come back to be deemed a mistake. Thankfully, she was right........this time. ;-)
Paul Pierce scored right off to start the 2nd half. PP to Raef for a score and a Jiri steal and kick out to PP for a 3pter and the C's led 57-51 with 8:10 left in the 3rd. The C's managed to get ahead by a score of 64-54 but managed to fetter it away and with 2:46 left, the score was still a depressingly close 67-63. Just to throw in a random fact, since the first team took it's share of abuse in the last game, at the 2:15 mark left in the 3rd, the only points from the Celtic bench belonged to RD, who had 15.
Of course, "I Love" Waltah then came in and hit a 3 which started the Celtic energy run and at 1:45 left in the 3rd, the C's had a 75-65 lead, matching thier largest lead. At the end of the quarter, the C's led 82-65 and the thoughts of self- blinding had started to pass.
A pick and pop by Jiri (who's finally starting to show some consistancy again with his shooting) at 11:28 made it 84-67. A Waltah drop off to a cutting Tony Allen produced a spectacular 2 handed dunk. Big Al Jefferson had a nice follow up dunk off a RD miss. A Waltah' 3pter at 9:20 and the rout was officially on (FINALLY!!!) with the C's ahead 91-67.
Paul Pierce reported briefly in the 4th, for about :49 to collect his 4th career Triple-Double (19/10/10) and then was quickly subbed out for Jiri Welsch, with a comfortable Celtic lead of 94-72 with 7:40 left.
Other than a spectacular follow up dunk by Tony Allen (which you'll all see on SportsCenter tomorrow), off ironically another RD miss, , the rest of the game was mostly going through the motions.
The Celtics win this one: 108-90
Player of the Game: You know what, You decide:
1. RD had 23/5/5
2. PP had 19/10/10 (triple double)
3. Raef had 14/12