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Without Chris Paul, the Hornets are supposed to be a vulnerable squad. Against the Celtics on Wednesday night, they seemed that way, at least through the first two quarters. The C’s held a 55-43 lead at the half, and all was good.
Then, the worst thing that could have happened to the Celtics actually happened: the third quarter began. Down 12 points at the beginning of the frame, the Hornets went on a 29-12 third quarter run to take a five-point lead entering the fourth. They held on for a 93-85 win, and the Celtics dropped yet another game when leading by double digits in the second half.
Somehow, some way, the Celtics have blown eight double-digit second-half leads this season, which is the most in the NBA. How can a team so deep and so talented fail to hold so many leads?
Well, sloppiness is the key. When you look at the numbers, the Celtics really shot themselves in the foot in the third quarter (and second half in general). Right Doc?
“Our defense was horrible in the third quarter,” Rivers said.
How horrible was the team’s play overall? The Celtics shot 5 of 19 from the field and 2 of 9 (YES, TWO-OF-NINE) from the free throw line in the third. In the entire half, the Celtics missed 10 of their 13 free throw attempts.
“It’s tough to win games when you turn the ball over and miss free throws,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
Paul Pierce had a terrible game, finishing with 15 points on 4-of-11 shooting (0-3 from 3pt land) with three assists, four rebounds, and EIGHT turnovers. He scored just two points in the second half. You think his foot is hurting? Do yourself a favor Paul, sit out the All-Star game.
To make matters worse, Ray Allen didn’t play with back spasms, and Kevin Garnett was a shadow of his former self in his nearly 27 minutes (seven points and seven rebounds), and he didn’t even score in the second half.
While the Celtics stunk up the place, rookie Darren Collison stole the show while filling in for Chris Paul. Despite his franchise-record 10 turnovers, Collison finished with 25 points (13 in the fourth quarter) to go with three rebounds, nine assists, and four steals.
In all, the Celtics are really forcing Danny Ainge’s hand. Can this team win it all? It doesn’t look like it. Ainge may have to make a move. We’ll find out by next week. Speaking of next week, that’s when the Celtics’ next game is, on Tuesday against the Kings.