'Bizarre' performance gets C's past Hornets, 89-85

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'Bizarre' performance gets C's past Hornets, 89-85

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

NEW ORLEANS The Boston Celtics are in the midst of their own brand of March Madness these days, as they turned in one of the more bizarre performances this season.

Bizarre?

A thing of beauty?

It doesn't matter what you call it.

The Celtics have one word for it a win.

And Saturday's 89-85 win over the New Orleans Hornets in the Big Easy, ways about as tough a victory as the Celtics have managed to pull out this season.

Ray Allen, who had 20 points, put the game away with a pair of free throws with 2.8 seconds to play.

Boston

Bosto trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half and fell behind by 15 early in the third, before rallying for the victory.

"To come back the way we came back; to start out the third quarter poorly, I thought it meant a lot to the guys to come back," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "They wanted this win and I thought they liked it because a lot of people pitched in."

Among the Celtics contributing to the victory was Glen Davis.

Davis, who grew up in nearby Baton Rouge and starred at LSU, looked very much at home most of the night.

He finished with 20 points off the bench, which included eight during a decisive third quarter surge by the Celtics (49-19) who are now tied with the Chicago Bulls for the best record in the Eastern Conference.

"We haven't got real good wins lately," said Davis. "So this is a good win for us."

While there has been some debate of late about the Celtics being too offensive-minded, their strong showing in the third quarter was fueled in large part because of their ability to take the Hornets out of doing what they wanted to do.

New Orleans' Marco Belinelli had 23 points, with only seven coming in the second half.

And after shooting a shade under 61 percent in the first half, Boston put the defensive deadbolt on New Orleans in the third quarter by limiting them to just 6-for-21 shooting, or 28.6 percent.

"Give the Celtics credit. they picked up their presssure, we couldn't' run a play and they hit some big shots," said New Orleans coach Monty Williams. "Their defensive presence in the third quarter hurt us."

And to some degree, healed some of the wounds that the Celtics were still licking after a dismal 16-point loss the night before at Houston.

While it wasn't Boston's largest margin of defeat this season (that was a 17-point loss at Phoenix on Jan. 28), it was arguably the worst.

Against the Rockets, the Celtics trailed by as many as 29 points.

But Saturday was a different opponent, a different kind of game and fortunately for the Celtics, a different outcome.

"We won this pure defense, man," said Kevin Garnett, who had 12 points and nine rebounds. "Pure defense."

And that defense led to a slew of easy scores for the Celtics, especially in the third quarter.

Following a 3-pointer by Allen that cut New Orleans' lead to 58-47, the Celtics went to work defensively.

The net result was a 20-6 run to end the third, essentially wiping out all the momentum that the Hornets had built up over two-plus quarters.

And in the fourth, Boston continued to display its defensive swagger by forcing 24-second violations, jump-balls and turnovers.

It was a much-needed win for a Boston team that came in having lost four of its last six games.

While much of the attention during Boston's recent skid has focused on Rajon Rondo and the problems he has had, Rondo's role has been just part of the team's overall poor play.

On Saturday, Rondo was actually one of the few bright spots for the Celtics in the first half, when he scored eight points which included a buzzer-beating jumper to end the half that cut New Orleans' lead to 51-40. He suffered a hand injury in the third quarter and missed some action, but was able to return to the floor.

Rondo finished with nine points and five assists on 4-for-8 shooting from the field.

"They were cool. It felt good to hit a shot, more than one," Rondo quipped. "More than one. It was a relief."

The same could be said for the Celtics, getting a much-needed road win - a rarity for them this season when it's a back-to-back set and the second game is on the road.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Isaiah Thomas' recent shooting woes mirror those of Celtics

Isaiah Thomas' recent shooting woes mirror those of Celtics

BOSTON – As Isaiah Thomas walked off the TD Garden floor Monday night in the fourth quarter of the Celtics' 114-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the All-Star guard’s franchise streak of 43 games with 20 or more points scored was about to end.
 
Credit the Hawks, whose defense made life miserable for Thomas most of the game, limiting him to 4-for-21 shooting (19 percent) which stands as the worst shooting night for Thomas as Celtic when he has taken at least 10 shots from the field.
 
Thomas chalks up his struggles Monday as just one of those bad nights that comes from time to time in an 82-game season, but it’s part of what has been a stretch of inefficient shooting games for him.
 
And it’s not a coincidence that the Celtics (38-22) have lost three of their past four at the same time Thomas finds himself in one of his worst four-game stretches for shooting the ball this season.
 
In fact, Thomas has shot just 35.4 percent from the field in Boston’s past four games. In that span, he has made less than 45 percent of his shots in each game, which is only the second time this season he has had a four-game stretch like that.
 
And while defenses certainly give him more attention than any other Celtic, he’s still getting to the spots he wants to get to while taking the shots that are best for him.
 
The only difference of late, is that more shots are off the mark than previously.
 
“I missed a lot of shots in the paint. I got where I wanted to,” Thomas said. “That wasn’t just me; that was our team. We missed a lot of shots we normally make.”
 
Which is why there’s no sense of panic or heightened concern on the part of the Celtics heading into their game Wednesday night against the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
 
Boston rookie Jaylen Brown was quick to credit Atlanta for doing a good job defensively against the Celtics.
 
But he too recognized that at times they were their own worst enemy with all of the blown opportunities.
 
“We missed a bunch of easy shots and I think that is just focus,” Brown said. “We’re not going to hit every shot every game, but I do expect us to play a little bit better than what we did and I think we’re more capable of being a bit more locked in. It happens; you just got to forget about it and bounce back Wednesday against Cleveland.”