On a night when Chris Paul made his anticipated return to the court, a few lesser-known names stole the spotlight in the fourth quarter. Behind major contributions from the likes of Eddie House, Leon Powe and Glen Davis, the Celtics outscored the Hornets 25-13 in the final stanza, spoiling New Orleans final game before the All-Star break.
For a second straight game, the New Orleans offense sputtered, this time shooting 40.6 percent from the field and going 2-for-11 on three-pointers. The Hornets (30-20) set a new franchise low for shooting percentage in Mondays defeat at Memphis.
By his lofty standards, this was a so-so game for Paul, who was trying to find his rhythm, after being sidelined since Feb. 2. Paul finished with 13 points, five assists, a steal and three turnovers, in 32 minutes. Byron Scott said he planned to limit Paul to about 30 minutes prior to the game, which was why Scott waited to put CP3 back into the game in the early portion of the fourth quarter, even though Boston was in the midst of taking control.
I wanted to make sure he didnt get too many minutes tonight, Scott said. It always scares me when I see him on the bench and hes putting a hot pack on that (groin) area. I told him he was going to get 30 or 31 minutes. Im not going to sacrifice playing him 37 or 38 minutes after (he had missed) over a week. I knew he would be a little rusty, because practicing and working out is not the same as playing in a game.
I was a little nervous about what I could do, whether I could cut (for example), Paul assessed of his return to action. Im excited, because now I feel like Im good to go.
I think the move I made in the first half when I got the and-one, it was a move Ive been trying all week. I tried it Sunday, and when I pushed off, it still hurt. So after I made that move (tonight), I thought I was pretty good.
With the unofficial first half of the 2008-09 schedule coming to an end tonight, reporters asked Byron Scott a few season-in-review questions following the defeat. Here is a portion of the Q&A looking back at the season so far:
Q: Are you disappointed with a 30-20 record at the All-Star break?
Scott: Yes. I expected us to be a whole lot better record-wise than what we are right now. But I also didnt expect us to have as many injuries as weve had, either. Im disappointed because I know were a much better team than 30-20 right now, but Im also very excited about the second half of the season, knowing that Im going to have everybody healthy.
You have to take the good with the bad in this league. We know that injuries are a part of it. I think maybe I was a little naïve, because last year we didnt have these type of injuries, but they seem to bite every team every year, in some shape, form or fashion. So I shouldve expected some injuries this season, but not to this extent.
Im proud of the way our bench has been playing. I think in the second half were going to be a much better basketball team, because of the way the bench has been playing and the confidence that they have.
Q: Why do you think you can still accomplish all of the things you want to accomplish with this team this season?
Scott: I have faith in the guys in the locker room. I have faith in what we do, our system and the players. Like I said, if were healthy in the second half knock on wood I know we can make a run. I know were just as good as any team in the Western Conference when were healthy. Its just a matter now of getting Tyson (Chandler) and Mo (Peterson) back, and hopefully both of them will be ready Monday for practice.
Q: Are you convinced that Tyson Chandler will be back for the second half? Not only with his injuries, but also based on all of the trade rumors that have been going around about him?
Scott: I dont listen to that stuff. A lot of that is stuff that, no offense, you guys put out there. As far as Im concerned, he is here and will be here.
Q: When you watch game tape during All-Star break, what area will you focus on improving?
Scott: Points in the paint (allowed). Individual defense is a must and we have to improve there, but our team defense, we have to do a much better job as we were doing before Tyson got hurt, as far as protecting that paint. Thats a precious piece of real estate down there, and we have to do a much better job of making sure we protect it.
ADDITIONAL HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES
ON GAME: I thought both teams did a pretty good job defensively in the second half. In the first half we created the tempo, in the second half they created the tempo. With 18 turn-overs youre not going to beat a team like this. We just didnt shoot the ball in the second half. We were shooting at 48% in the first half.
We got real good looks, we got points in the paint, we got to the basket, we got the free-throw line we just could not make enough open shots on a consistent basis to get the game we wanted. It just came down to who was going to make the most shots, and obviously they did.
On the end of the game: We lost the game in the last two minutes of the third, and the first four or five minutes of the fourth quarter. We were in the game. I dont think either team was shooting the ball particularly well. That stretch in the fourth quarter killed us. They took the momentum from us, and we werent able to get back in the game.
On the game: I thought we played defense pretty well. (Paul) Pierce really got going early on, but we still were able to stay in the game. We just lost it down that stretch (in the fourth quarter).
On the fourth quarter: They made some key plays and key shots down the stretch. We still got stops, but we werent able to get shots on the other end. Paul Pierce got going early for them. In the fourth quarter they got some key shots from Eddie House.