The Celtics have mixed a very profitable blend of overwhelming defense and red-hot offense to propel themselves to a 3-0 start, while the Hornets have struggled somewhat in their first two games, losing to the San Antonio Spurs by 17 in their season opener and squeaking by the Sacramento Kings by five on Friday.
The Hornets' most notable offseason move was shipping center Tyson Chandler to Charlotte for center and former UConn star Emeka Okafor. That move was met with some criticism, but Okafor put up 11 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked four shots against Sacramento, to help steady any negative opinions of him.
The talk of the town centers around Rajon Rondo and his matchup with Hornets point guard Chris Paul. Both are coming off of impressive games, but for different statistical reasons. Rondo dished out 16 assists in a Celtics win against the Bulls on Friday, while Paul scored 31 points on only 14 shots against the Kings. Rondo's current 37-5 assist to turnover ratio speaks volumes of his improved on-court decision making, but with defense always being the key for Boston, Rondo's number one objective tonight will be trying to contain Paul.
Rondo's defense fit the bill on Friday as he held Chicago point guard Derrick Rose to just 10 points, two assists and no rebounds in 24 minutes of action. The Celtics would be thrilled with a similar line from Paul in this contest.
The Celtics also welcome back Hornets forward James Posey, who played a crucial role on the 2008 championship squad.
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins
Hornets: Chris Paul, Morris Peterson, Julian Wright, David West, Emeka Okafor
Health Check: For the Celtics, guard Tony Allen (ankle), forward Bill Walker (knee) and forward Glen Davis (thumb) are out. Brian Scalabrine (ankle) is questionable.
For the Hornets forward Ike Diogu (knee) is questionable.
Keep it in Mind: The Hornets have not won in Boston since the 2006-2007 campaign.
Who's Hot: For the Celtics, Paul Pierce shot 8-12 (5-7 from three-point nation) en route to 22 points against the Bulls. 20 of those points came in the third quarter alone.
For the Hornets, Chris Paul shot 8-14 from the field and 14-15 from the free throw line and finished with 31 points against the Kings on Friday night.
Who's Not: For the Celtics, Rasheed Wallace was only 2-9 for seven points against Chicago.
For the Hornets, Peja Stojakovich is coming off of a 3-9, 10-point performance against Sacramento.
Key Matchup: Rajon Rondo vs. Chris Paul
Honorable Mention: Kevin Garnett vs. David West and Kendrick Perkins vs. Emeka Okafor
Skinny: The Celtics have favorable matchups at the shooting guard spot (Ray Allen vs. Morris Peterson), the small forward position (Paul Pierce vs. Julian Wright) and the power forward spot (Kevin Garnett vs. David West), but the one matchup that will be magnified will of course be Rondo vs. Paul. If Rondo can contain Paul, New Orleans' entire offense will stagnate and they are not yet a good enough defensive team to make amends on the opposite side of the ball.
If the Celtics can effectively move on the ball on offense and exploit certain matchups, they should be heading to Philadelphia on Tuesday with a 4-0 record.
Keep an eye on the Kendrick Perkins - Emeka Okafor matchup, as both are strictly interior players who have a strong knack for the ball. The rebounding battle between these two will be something to watch tonight.
Who Will Win Tonight's Game?
This poll is closed