Celtics-Hornets review: Boston's defense leads to loss

Celtics-Hornets review: Boston's defense leads to loss
March 21, 2013, 2:30 am
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NEW ORLEANS — As Eric Gordon drove into the lane after getting a slight step on Boston's Avery Bradley in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, Kevin Garnett did the only thing that made sense.

He stepped towards Gordon, increasing the degree of difficulty for what was already going to be a tough shot.

Garnett was successful in helping force the miss, but the man he was supposed to box out on that play -- Anthony Davis -- made Garnett and the C's pay with a game-winning tip-in with 0.6 seconds to play that lifted the Hornets to an 87-86 win.

"It's tough," Garnett said afterwards. "That was my block out."

Maybe so, but it in many ways underlined what the C's problem was most of the night.

Simply put, they didn't play like a team on a string defensively. And at no time was this more apparent than the final points of the game.

"In that sense, you're trying to help a teammate, you're reacting," said Garnett who had 20 points to go with six rebounds. "That's just what it is. I'm acting off impulse as a big man to try and protect the basket. And he (Davis) took advantage of that."

Yes he did.

And if the Celtics aren't careful, teams will continue to find cracks in their defense -- especially teams like the Hornets who are playing for nothing but pride at this point in the season.

"We didn't take advantage of the opportunity and when you mess with the game like that and give a team confidence and the lead, anything can happen. That's what you saw."

Here are some other factors detailed prior to the game, and the role that those keys played in the game's final outcome.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Paul Pierce has had his struggles of late when facing the Hornets, especially on 3s. In his last four games against New Orleans, Pierce has missed 18 of his 20 3-point attempts.

WHAT WE SAW: Paul Pierce's 3-point shooting against New Orleans and overall play was much, much better than it has been in recent matchups against the Hornets. Pierce led all scorers with 28 points on 9-for-17 shooting which included him connecting on two of his three, 3-pointers. Pierce also added a team-high five assists to go with two blocks as well.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Anthony Davis: Bass' improved play defensively and on the boards has been a vital part of Boston's success of late. But he will have his hands full tonight against the No. 1 pick in last June's draft who has shown the promise of being a better-than-average NBA big man.

WHAT WE SAW: Bass had a solid first half, but like the rest of the Celtics, didn't really do much in the second half. Bass (11 points) may have had more points than Davis (nine points), but the rookie delivered when it mattered most, tipping in an Eric Gordon miss with 0.6 seconds to play for the win.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett is with the Celtics, but that by no means equates to him seeing action tonight. He has missed the last two games with a left adductor strain injury and is listed as day-to-day. With 6-foot-10 Anthony Davis and 7-foot Robin Lopez in the frontcourt, the C's could use as much size as possible to combat the Hornets' twin towers.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett missed a couple easy shots early, but regrouped in time to finish with a solid 20-point, six-rebound, three-assist game. He also had three steals. But the C's needed him to be a bigger presence around the glass, especially in the second half which is when the Hornets out-rebounded the Celtics by 17.

STAT TO TRACK: Scoring is always at a premium, but it really has been an issue for the Celtics against New Orleans in recent years. Boston has lost four of its last five games to the Hornets, failing to score 90 or more points in all five games.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston once again failed to reach the 90-point plateau against the Hornets. And like four of the previous five games, it ended with a Celtics loss. "We only got (86) points," said Paul Pierce. "We're a team that can easily score 100 every night just with our pace."