Sunday's game against the New Orleans Hornets was a tense game that was closer than the 97-87 final score. It was full of hard bumps, physical play, technicals, and impossible three pointers. Let's go to the live report:
The Big Three: Paul Pierce set the tone of the game with his key baskets when the Celtics were going through some shooting dry spells. He finished the game with 27 points, including some key threes down the stretch to help seal the victory. Ray Allen also had a hot hand, hitting jumpers all around the outside of the paint and finishing with 17 points. KG set the tone with some huge dunks that fired up the crowd whenever Peja Stojakovic was pulling the Hornets closer with some clutch threes. His defense was a large reason for the victory, effectively taking Emeka Okafor out of the game. Speaking of Peja...
The Other Guys: Peja Stojakovic and Chris Paul were the only signs of life from the Hornets of the night, but boy did they play big. Stojakovic finished the night 6 of 10 from beyond the arc and finished with 26 points. He was making them running, open on the corners, even behind his back! (OK, I made that last one up, but it sure seemed like it.) The Celtics had trouble defending him all night and he somehow always seemed to get open. It wasn't until Peja tied the game at 69 all with 10 minutes when the Celtics finally put bodies on him. The Celtics made a run after that to close out the game.
As for Chris Paul, he was going toe to toe with Rondo all night. In the second, the both of them got tangled up under the basket. Even after the whistle blew, the both of them kept going at it, exchanging heated words and drawing double technicals. Even when play resumed, Rondo kept bumping up against Paul and they continued to exchange words the rest of the night. Paul was clearly frustrated with Rondo and it clearly affected his game. Yet he still managed to post 22 points and 8 assists, keeping the Hornets in the game with some amazing shots.
You just got Rondo'd: Rajon Rondo played a very physical game against Chris Paul. Even though Paul had a great night, you can tell that Rondo was making Paul uncomfortable. They were jawing at each other all night and playing physical D. Rondo was distributing the ball left and right, finishing with 10 assists. Rondo is now second in the league in assists, only behind the Suns' Steve Nash. Even though his scoring is down, Rondo has stepped up his defense and his court vision has improved significantly. After the game, it was reported that Rondo agreed to a 5 year, $55 million extension. I'm glad to see that the Celtics locked up their best young player for years to come.
The C's Bench: Rasheed Wallace provided a much needed spark in the second when the Celts were shooting poorly. He hit a couple of big threes to get the crowd in the game and then played great D against Okafor and West in place of KG/Perkins. Marquis Daniels had an off night, scoring only 3 points and had a couple of careless turnovers. Shelden Williams came up with some big rebounds in third to help the Celtics out on the fast break and played a great game.
Eddie's House!: Eddie House had 4 points on the night and missed both shots from beyond the arc. He had an off night, especially after scoring 22 points against the Bulls. However, there was a great sequence where he knocked the ball away from James Posey and ran down the length of the court to grab the ball. Posey pushed him up against out of bounds when House put on his best Tom Cruise face and reacted like he was just punched across a bar. He drew a foul on the play luckily because the replays showed the flop and everyone started laughing in the crowd.
The Token White Guy Watch: Brian Scalabrine returned to the Celts' bench after missing the Bulls game with a bruised ego. He hit a couple of nice jumpers during the intermission and rode the exercise bike with such vigor that he probably could have beat Lance Armstrong in the Tour De' France.
The Holy Shhhhhhh.... Shot of the Night: Chris Paul and Peja Stojakovic are tied with two impossible shots. At the end of the third quarter, 'Sheed hit a three pointer to whip the crowd in a frenzy. Then Paul heaved a shot from behind mid court that dropped in. Everyone in the crowd seemed stunned, then cheered when it was announced that the shot didn't count. However, it was still amazing to see a shot like that go in.
Peja Stojakovic hit a three pointer in the fourth with the shot clock running out where he was running across the top of the key with a man in his face. What was amazing was that he was falling back and sideways at the same time and somehow it still went in. Everyone around us was screaming for some defense because it seemed like every time Peja took a shot, the crowd would hold its breath and groan as he was sinking three after three.
Just Let It Go Man!: After the game was over, Chris Paul tried following Rondo into the Celtics' dressing room. He was talking the whole time and he looked like he was trying to instigate a fight with Rondo. Rondo was the bigger man and looked over his shoulder once before continuing to the locker room. Paul had to be restrained by Hornets' assistant coaches and head coach Byron Scott, who was yelling at Paul to stay back. After the game, Paul talked to reporters and kept taking pot shots at Rondo. It was great to see one of the best point guards in the league lose his cool at the Garden. Hopefully, this will turn into a great feud between two of the top young point guards in the league.
Overheard in the Stands: There was an obnoxious Hornets fan below us in the Loge seats and he could be heard all the way up in the balcony. He was waving a Reggie Bush Saints jersey and he was going at it all night with a guy wearing a Corey Dillon Pats jersey. At one point, the guy in the Dillon jersey yells,
"What the hell are you waving that Bush jersey for? You're at a basketball game, get your sports right! And Reggie Bush? Really? The best thing he's done since he's gone to the NFL is Kim Kardashian!"
We all got a kick out of that, and let me tell you, Reggie Bush guy didn't have much to cheer for at the end of the game!
The Bottom Line: The Celtics started off slow, but slowly built momentum to take out another elite team. Even when the Celtics play sloppy and inconsistent basketball, they are still pulling out victories with timely jumpers and stout defense when it matters down the stretch. The Celtics need to continue to work on starting games stronger and minimizing lapses on help defense. Paul and Peja were hitting too many jumpers off of pick and rolls. However, I am nit picking at this point because the Celtics are off to a 4-0 start and are looking like a rejuvenated team with all of their off season acquisitions paying off so far.
Special thanks to my girlfriend for taking pictures when I was probably too drunk to do it.