A Daily Babble Production
Suffice it to say the Celtics have won a few prettier games this season than last night's 89-77 grinder in New Orleans. The sloppiness of the first three quarters combined with Gil McGregor's abuse of Leon Powe's last name as a wordplay tool built up a nice headache. It turned out, however, that the best medication was a dominant fourth quarter for the fellows in green. That being said, my head remains a bit scrambled as I write in the wee hours of Thursday morning, so let's break out the bullet points for some good ol' babbling about this one...
- Just wouldn't be right to start with anyone other than the Truth: Paul Pierce was great last night. The Hornets simply could not guard him. Shooting from mid-range, pulling up in the lane, going all the way to the rim: The captain did whatever he wanted, and it was a pleasure to watch. He logged extra minutes with Ray Allen out of the game in the second half, and while he wasn't quite as dominant as he was in the first half, he continued to require plenty of attention. Over the years, Pierce's strength more than anything else has never ceased to amaze me, and he finished a couple more of those tough bucket-and-foul plays by attacking the rim with pure power. His 30 points came on an efficient night from the field (10-for-19) and the line (10-for-12). Thanks - again - for stepping up when we needed it, Paul.
- Here's hoping Ray Allen's hyper-extended thumb is nothing serious, and best wishes to Ray for a speedy recovery.
- No doubt Chris Paul earns style points for his two smoothly executed crossover moves that freed him for mid-range jumpers and made Eddie House and then Gabe Pruitt look rather silly. But for the second time this season, the Celtics gave Paul a tough time from the field, holding him to 6-for-15 after a 5-for-16 performance in Boston in December. This time, though, they didn't send him to the line 10 times, and it's hard not to feel good about holding CP3 to just 13 points and five assists to go with his three turnovers. Paul was returning from injury and played only 31 minutes, but he seemed more willing to settle from mid-range rather than using his one-of-a-kind foul-line-to-block quickness to wreak havoc in the lane. Though that is probably a different story if Paul were fully healthy (or if Tyson Chandler were present), Rajon Rondo and the Celtics' help defense on the inside earn some credit there as well. Paul won his two battles (as the video people on the Hornets' broadcast refused to let us forget) but certainly not the war. Works for me.
- Once again, an opponent had too much Eddie House. Playing off the ball alongside Rajon Rondo to start the fourth quarter, House came alive with eight points in the first five minutes to spark a 15-3 Celts run that broke the game open. It's amazing how effective this guy is when he plays with distributors and just has to worry about drifting away from the defense to the right spot on the perimeter. Watching him saunter down the court after a big shot while unleashing a barrage of chatter to anyone within earshot never seems to lose its entertainment value. Eddie's energy always inspires me.
- Leon Powe's recent low-post resurgence continues. He looked great last night, attacking the rim, dunking hard and drawing fouls. I eagerly await seeing Hilton Armstrong's smiling face on a Leon poster coming soon to stores near you. That was the definition of a facial. But just as nice was Leon knocking down five of his six freebie attempts and guiding in an eight-footer. Solid performance.
- Large Baby wasn't at his best, but he played stout defense and picked a good time to make his two buckets for the night, a jumper and a dunk (off a nice Rajon Rondo feed) early in the fourth quarter.
- Winning the turnover battle sure can makes a difference. Nice to see the Celts come out plus-5 in a sloppily played game.
- Hilton Armstrong did a bit too much open dunking for my liking early in this game, but he cooled down (and the Celtics rotated a bit better) as the contest progressed.
- Good timing for Doc to get his technical, or at least it appeared that way in retrospect: Nine of the next 10 fouls went against N'Awlins.
- Happy to see both Bill Walker and Gabe Pruitt back involved. Pruitt didn't shoot the ball well, but he continues to work defensively, and the shots he took and decisions he made looked fine. More floor reps will bring a better sense of comfort, and those shots will begin to fall. Or so I'll continue to believe. I'm shamelessly enamored with Bill Walker's athleticism, despite his history of knee troubles. A few minutes for him here and there is always nice. The more, the merrier, especially at this time of year.
- Mixed reviews for the point guard: Rajon Rondo blew by Chris Paul for a couple of impressive finishes at the rim, but he also continued to settle for jump shots on which he didn't look comfortable or accurate. Not being able to reach the rim from inside of 10 feet is always cause for a bit of blushing. But despite the 3-for-11 night and a couple of dopey turnovers (he had four for the game), Rondo got it together in the fourth quarter, pushing the offense with confidence and dishing out six of his 11 assists for the night. As mentioned earlier, he also deserves a good deal of credit for the job the team did against Chris Paul.
- Just occurred to me that I came very close to writing this entire piece without Kevin Garnett's name appearing once. He got himself in some foul trouble, played less than 30 minutes and didn't seem to be in rhythm from midrange. Yet even on a night that was far from his best, he shot better than 50 percent from the field, put up a double-double and played sound defense for this team. It would be a real shame to ever end up taking the Big Ticket for granted, and I almost feel guilty for getting this far into the piece without mentioning him. Such a pleasure to have that fellow wearing the green.
- Though one might have gotten the idea from three of the earlier bullet points, let's make sure we get this in print, especially considering how tough we've been on certain portions of the roster this year: Of the Celtics' 25 fourth-quarter points last night, the bench scored 19. The entire Hornets team put up 13 in a final period that began with the score tied. Hats off to the reserves for doing their jobs down the stretch.