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Without Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett, the Celtics look like a shadow of their former selves. On Friday afternoon at the TD Garden, they played like it in an 83-81 loss to the New Orleans Hornets, who had lost their seven previous road games. The Celtics committed 17 turnovers (with just 16 assists) and shot 18.8 percent from beyond the arc (3-16).
The final play served as a proper microcosm for the entire game and what the team plays like without so many important players. With about 20 seconds remaining and the team down by two, Paul Pierce took the ball and it appeared he was either gearing for the last shot or would dish it away with seconds to spare. Pierce then lost control of the ball, fired a wild pass to Ray Allen, who threw up a wild three-point attempt with nine seconds to go. Ray’s attempt rimmed out, and the Hornets gathered the rebound. The listless Celtics then elected not to foul Chris Paul, and time ran out.
The Celtics scored the first 16 points of the fourth quarter and led by seven points for a short time in the fourth, but the Hornets stormed back with a big shot from Trevor Ariza and some quality play from Chris Paul (20 points, 11 assists). Allen led the way for the C’s, going for 18 points (2-4 from deep), six rebounds, and four assists, but he can’t do it alone. Paul Pierce scored 12 points, turned it over six times, and missed all four of his three-point attempts.
During their 16-0 run, the Celtics had Luke Harangody (2 points, 4 boards), Marquis Daniels (10 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks), Jermaine O’Neal (8 points, 3 blocks), Nate Robinson, and Allen all on the court, and it appeared that Doc found a second unit capable of providing energy and tight defense. Harangody’s play was especially good on a play in the third quarter, when he missed a three-pointer, gathered his own rebound, and hit the lay-up to earn a big Tommy Point.
Emeka Okafor finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while David West added 19 points for a Hornets team that started the season 11-1. They have since gone 8-13, but still are a talented team and aren’t easily beaten, especially when your team (the C’s) are missing so many pivotal players.
The Celtics start a five-games-in-seven-days stretch with a game Sunday in Toronto. You may remember that the Raptors won the last meeting in Toronto, and the Celtics will be looking for revenge. Rondo could start, but if he doesn’t, he may see time later in the week.