'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

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hornets

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hornets

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics host the Hornets at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Hornets preview: Boston, Charlotte heading in opposite directions

Celtics-Hornets preview: Boston, Charlotte heading in opposite directions

BOSTON -- The last time Boston saw the Charlotte Hornets last month, both teams were streaking in the wrong direction with each coming in having lost three in a row.

Both come into tonight’s game streaking, although in two very different directions.

Boston (25-15) has won 12 of its last 15 games to firmly establish itself as the third-best team in the East behind Cleveland and Toronto. Meanwhile the Hornets (20-20) are on the cusp of falling below .500 for the first time this season after losing their last four games.

Still, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has seen enough of this Hornets team to know that a win tonight won’t come easily.

“This is a good team,” Stevens said. “We all know Charlotte. They don’t beat themselves. We’ve had to play really well against those guys. This is going to be a tough one, as we all know.”

Figuring out why these two teams are trending in opposite directions isn’t all that complicated.

For the Celtics, their success of late has hinged heavily on their ability to make 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s problems have had a lot to do with a tough slate of road games (all four of their recent losses were on the road) and their inability to make shots which has been an issue in some form for them all season regardless of the opponent.

Look at the last four games, all of which the Hornets lost while the Celtics won three of their four games in that span.

The Hornets rank 21st in scoring with a 101.5 points per game average while the Celtics average 110.8 points which ranks 8th in the league.

Charlotte ranks dead-last in the league the last four games when it comes to shooting the ball (40.5 percent), while Boston comes in 18th at 46.0 percent.

But it’s the 3-point shot and its impact on having an effective field goal percentage, that really separates these two.

Boston has averaged a league-best 15.3 made 3-pointers in the last four games while the Hornets and their 9.8 made 3’s ranks 20th.

And as far as its impact on eFG%, Boston comes in with the eighth-best eFG% in the league (54.8 percent) while the Hornets next-to-last in the NBA with an eFG% of .462.

So what does that mean tonight?

Boston will look to continue being fueled offensively by good ball movement and attacking the rim which in turn should result in lots of good looks from 3-point range which is clearly a strength of this team.

Charlotte will search for other sources of offense besides former UConn star Kemba Walker who is on the short list of candidates for a spot on this year’s Eastern Conference all-star roster.

As was the case in Charlotte’s 102-93 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, an off-night shooting for Walker (17 points, 7-for-23 shooting with three assists) left the Hornets extremely vulnerable to defeat. Similar struggles tonight will provide a similar ending for Charlotte which would allow both teams to continue streaking along … something the Celtics wouldn’t mind at all.