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Many analysts questioned whether the Boston Celtics could handle the extra back-to-backs and back-to-back-to-backs engendered by the lockout-shortened NBA season. If Wednesday’s road game against the New Orleans Hornets is an indication, the answer is a definite “no.”
The Hornets got double-digit scoring nights from five players – including four starters Wednesday – crushing the still winless Celtics, 97-78.
The Celtics began Wednesday’s game with a 9-2 run, highlighted by two baskets from Sasha Pavlovic. That seven-point lead turned out to be Boston’s largest of the night, as New Orleans responded with an 8-0 run of its own that swung momentum permanently in their favor just six minutes into the game.
The Hornets finished the first quarter up six, then finished the half up nine. After an even third quarter, the Hornets exploded past the exhausted Celtics for a 25-15 fourth quarter that finished the beatdown.
Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo did their best to keep the offense going, combining for 28 points and nine assists. But this offense continues to struggle without Paul Pierce, and Wednesday night the unsettled offense led to far, far too many errant shots. The Celtics shot just over 37 percent Tuesday night, getting a sub-.500 night from the starting five. Only Rondo shot better than 50 percent, and Kevin Garnett‘s 4-for-10 night canceled that out.
So far this season, the Rondo-led offense just hasn’t found the stability necessary to win in the NBA. Rondo can slash through the paint all he wants, but with Garnett’ poor play and Jermaine O’Neal‘s offensive liabilities, Rondo comprises the Celtics’ entire interior game. The Hornets blocked 12 shots Wednesday (though none of Rondo’s), which shows how anemic the Celtics’ attack has become.
They also out-rebounded the Celtics 48-37, but luckily for this season’s roster, the Celtics’ problems on the boards are nothing new.
Whatever accuracy problems the starters have, it pales in comparison to the bench. Boston’s bench shot worse than 29 percent Wednesday night, and in three games has shot with just over 40 percent accuracy.
Bass seems to be the go-to scorer on the bench, but without backup his scoring is certain to plummet as teams double-team him. And as a power forward, Bass can’t bring the ball up and organize the offense. One of the Celtics’ guards has to step up, and it can’t be Marquis Daniels.
As the faintest of silver linings, Greg Stiemsma blocked six shots Wednesday. Considering O’Neal is the only true center on the team right now, developing Stiemsma into a second would almost certainly help O’Neal avoid the injured reserve.