Ford Keys to the Game: Hornets 83, Celtics 81
Hornets 83, Celtics 81
Today's turning point came when the Celtics staged a dramatic 16-0 run to open up the fourth quarter, but in the end that didn't even matter. The Key Moment took place far after Boston's surge had come to an end.
Nate Robinson had just missed a free throw attempt - one that would have topped off a three-point play for the Celtics and given them a 78-77 lead - before Trevor Ariza hit what is likely the biggest shot of his season. With just 1:34 remaining in the game and the score knotted up at 77-77, Ariza rose up from the right wing, just in front of Boston's bench, to fire up a desperation 3-point attempt as the Hornets' shot clock was expiring. With Paul Pierce draped all over him - and we mean literally - Ariza splashed the 3-pointer in to put New Orleans ahead by three points.
This wasn't just a normal shot from downtown. Yes, it put the Hornets up by three, but the manner in which it happened was a punch to the gut for Boston. The Celtics had executed its defense to perfection for the entire possession and Pierce was guarding Ariza so closely that he likely wouldn't have been surprised if he was called for a foul.
The Celtics still had an opportunity to respond, but Glen Davis wound up doing exactly what Doc Rivers didn't want. Rivers mentioned before the game that the one thing he didn't want his players to do was try and "step up" and play outside of their strengths during Kevin Garnett's absence. He might have to mention that to Davis again.
Ray Allen missed a 21-foot jumper out of Boston's timeout that came off of a well-executed play. His miss held huge implications, but Jermaine O'Neal tracked down the rebound and gave the C's another chance to score. What happened next, however, left Rivers and everyone else in the building wondering, "Why?"
O'Neal passed the ball out to Allen, who was standing along the right sideline, and Allen tossed one more pass to his left to Davis, who was standing behind the 3-point line on the right wing. Davis caught the ball and realized no one was guarding him, so he decided to shoot. That wouldn't have been a bad thing had he taken a couple of dribbles to shorten the shot attempt, but that's not what he did. He rose up for a 3-pointer, which was only the 16th attempt of his career from that distance, and was well off with the shot. New Orleans grabbed the rebound and David West hit a jumper 18 seconds later to put his Hornets ahead by five with 54 seconds remaining.
Ariza's 3-pointer began the swing that put this game away for New Orleans. Davis' bad decision put the C's in an even larger hole. West's jumper put the W in the bank for the Hornets.
Key Box Score Line
We won't kid you on this one. There wasn't exactly a sparking box score line for any of Boston's players at the end of this game. One of the Celtics did, however, have what may have been his best game of the season to date.
In only his fourth game back from injury, Jermaine O'Neal headed into tonight's contest knowing that the Celtics would need him to produce quality minutes while Kevin Garnett tends to his injured right calf. O'Neal stepped in and delivered plenty of quality tonight.
His eight points came on a subpar 3-of-9 shooting, but the rest of his performance had a huge impact on the game. He grabbed six rebounds, including two big offensive boards, in 33 minutes and was a force at the defensive end. He blocked three of New Orleans' shot attempts near the basket.
Boston surely isn't happy with the loss it endured to close out 2010, but there is no doubt that the C's are encouraged by what they saw out of O'Neal this afternoon.
Box Score Nuggets
- The only quarter in which Boston scored more than 20 points was the fourth, when it scored 24.
- Both teams scored exactly 42 points in the paint.
- Boston committed 19 turnovers that led to 24 points for New Orleans.
- Ray Allen led the Celtics in scoring with 18.
- Luke Harangody, who recorded just two points and four rebounds, finished with the second-highest plus/minus rating of the game at plus-18. That trailed only Marco Belinelli's plus-19.
- No Celtics recorded a double-double, but two Hornets (Chris Paul and Emeka Okafor) did.
- Paul had game-highs of 20 points and 11 assists.
- Emeka Okafor had a game-high 13 rebounds to go along with 18 points.
- Boston began the fourth quarter on a 16-0 run, but then was outscored 17-8 from that point on.
- Glen Davis led the Celtics in field goal attempts with 14, but three other Celtics made more shots than he did.
- Jermaine O'Neal had his best game of the season with eight points, six rebounds and three blocks off the bench.
- Marquis Daniels was the game's only reserve who scored in double-figures. He scored 10 points.
- Boston shot just 3-of-16 (18.8 percent) from downtown.
- New Orleans shot just 12-of-21 from the free-throw line.
- The Celtics had four players (O'Neal, Allen, Nate Robinson and Paul Pierce) grab at least six rebounds.
- Shaquille O'Neal scored 10 points in 15 minutes, but grabbed only one rebound.
- Five Celtics made shots from the free-throw line during the game. All of those five players made exactly two free throws apiece.
- New Orleans got only nine points from its bench, as opposed to 22 from the Celtics' reserves.
- Paul Pierce committed six turnovers.
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers on Glen Davis' choice to take a 3-pointer in the final minutes of a close game: "Who are you talking about? I’m just curious. Can you give me a name? [reference to Glen Davis’ three-point attempt] That’s a very good observation. I’m going to let you just say that. I mean, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that."