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Celtics Try to Stay Perfect on Trip as they Visit Hornets

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Boston Celtics (55-13) at New Orleans Hornets (46-21)Saturday,March 22
8:00 PM ET
Game # 69. Road Game #35
TV:  NBA LP ch 759, CST, CSN HD
Radio:  WEEI, Sirius 126
New Orleans Arena
 
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The Celtics are on the last game of their very tough Western road trip as they face the New Orleans Hornets.  They beat a motivated Spurs team trying to avoid a 4 game losing streak.  They beat a motivated Rockets team who were looking to extend their 22 game win streak.  And they beat a motivated Mavs team looking to avenge an earlier loss and also to bounce back from an embarrassing loss to the Lakers.  But, this may be their toughest challenge yet. 
 
The Hornets are a very good team and they have the best young point guard in the league in Chris Paul who makes everyone on the team better.  They are a dangerous team that can score in the paint as well as light it up from beyond the arc and that makes them difficult to defend.   They lead the league in alley oop passes from Paul to Chandler and Peja Stojakovic is one of the better 3 point shooters in the league.
 
This is the first meeting between these two teams and they will meet again in Boston in 6 days.  The Hornets are 26-10 at home and 15-7 against the Eastern Conference teams.  They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and have won 2 in a row including a 90-69 blow out win over the Rockets in their last game. 
 
The Hornets are the best in the West and they will be motivated to show that they can beat the best in the East.  The Hornets have been off since Wednesday and the Celtics had Friday off but played a very tough game against the Mavs on Thursday night.   The Celtics have momentum from their sweep of the Texas Triangle and hopefully they can keep that going and not have a let down in this game after those emotional contests.  But there is plenty of motivation for the Celtics to bet that Best in the West, a team they may face in the finals.  They also will be motivated to keep this road trip perfect with 5 wins and 0 losses. 
 
Probable Starting Matchups
PG:   Rajon Rondo vs Chris Paul
SG:   Ray Allen vs Morris Peterson
SF:   Paul Pierce vs Peja Stojakovic
PF:   Kevin Garnett vs David West
C:     Kendrick Perkins vs Tyson Chandler 
 
Key Matchups
  Vs 
Rajon Rondo vs Chris Paul
For the 5th game on this road trip, Rondo will be facing tough competition.  If healthy, Rondo should be able to stay with Paul, but his sore back may be a factor. 

  Vs 
Kevin Garnett vs David West
KG has a height advantage on West and should be able to get the step on him.  He will need to slow down the Hornets' second leading scorer. 

Keys to the Game
Defense:  The Celtics must defend both inside and on the perimeter.  Chandler and West are very tough in the paint and Paul and Chandler have combined for more than twice as many alley oops as anyone else in the league.  They also have several players who are dangerous beyond the arc.  They have won the first 4 games on this trip with their defense and have to continue that in this game.   

Be Aggressive  The Celtics have to be the aggressive on both ends of the court. They have to come out strong and not let up.  The Celtics have to crash  the boards and not allow the Hornets to get second chance points.  They also have to be aggressive taking the ball to the hoop and hustling for loose balls. 

Move the Ball  The Celtics have to continue to move without the ball and to make the extra pass to find the open man.  When they dribble too much and stop the ball movement, they aren't nearly as effective.  Against the Mavs, it seemed as though the Celtics were taking a lot of quick shots and not making that extra pass.  They got away with it by clamping down on defense at the end in Dallas, but may not be as lucky in this game.  They have to get back to moving the ball and finding the open man.  
 
X-Factor
Fatigue vs Adrenaline 
The Celtics will be tired as they are playing the final game of a 5 game road trip and have expended a lot of effort in the other 4 games.  Fatigue could be a factor.  However, adrenaline may take over and give them a boost as they are playing the top team in the West and a win here would be big.