Brilliant shooting performances by Peja Stojakovic (26 points, 6-for-10 on treys) and Chris Paul (22 points, 9-for-13 on FGs) enabled the Hornets to stay within striking distance of a huge early-season road win. Ultimately, it wasnt quite enough, as New Orleans upset bid was thwarted late by unbeaten Boston (4-0).
Although the Hornets dropped to 1-2, this was a better performance in defeat than what they produced in winning vs. Sacramento on Friday. New Orleans trailed by just three points entering the fourth quarter and remained in contention until Paul Pierce drained a dagger three-pointer to put the Boston up by nine points with 1:17 to play.
Hornets coach Byron Scott said before the game that his teams initial progress will depend partly on how quickly they develop chemistry and integrate six new players. Were a bunch of players right now. Were not a team, Scott described. (Improvement as a team) is a (matter of time) thing, guys getting used to each other and knowing each others habits.
New Orleans did a much better job of finding open teammates tonight, particularly after Stojakovic got hot from the perimeter. The Hornets finished 13-for-28 on three-pointers, a big reason why the Celtics were never able to shake the visitors.
A few other notes from the 10-point loss:
After getting dominated at San Antonio and outscored by Sacramento, the New Orleans bench was solid in Boston. Even before most of Stojakovics scoring barrage took place in the second half, the Hornets reserves had out-produced the Celtics, one of the leagues deeper teams. It was 22-8 in bench scoring at halftime.
Along with Stojakovics contributions off the bench, Hilton Armstrong (6 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block, 19 minutes) was active all game. He played a bit more than expected due to foul trouble for Emeka Okafor (5 points, 10 rebounds, 29 minutes). Meanwhile, Bobby Brown was ultra-aggressive on offense, firing up nine shots in his first nine minutes of action. He finished 3-for-12 to tally eight points.
HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES (courtesy Boston Celtics)
Head Coach Byron Scott
On progression of the game:
You gotta give them a lot of credit, theyre a very good defensive team as well. They have so many weapons on the offensive end, Paul [Pierce], and Kevin [Garnett] and Ray [Allen], and they you got Rasheed [Wallace] to add to that mix so very tough team to defenseto defend against. I give our guys a lot of credit, battled all night, played hard, played tough. Were going game-by-game to see how much we improve, and we improved. We played against one of the best teams in this league. With four minutes in the game left, you know, the game was still in doubt so thats an improvement. We just want to see if we can carry it over to tomorrow.
On Boston's plus-30 points in the paint:
They were catching the ball, with the elbow and off the post, just like in the mid-post where its one dribble into the rim. But again, we did a pretty good job on initial sets and on the defensive end. We still gotta do a better job of communicating. The one thing I told or guys, I said, that is truly a team over there. They talk to each other on the floor. They communicate extremely well. They cover each others back. We are a team right now that has a bunch of individuals that are playing. We gotta get to that point where were talking and communicating on the floor that same way and with that same intensity and that same purpose. When we get there then well be, you know, well be pretty good this year.
We played tough. Youve got to give them a lot of credit. They executed down the stretch, made plays on both ends of the floor, and they were able to pull away.
He shot the ball great. We did a great job of finding him when he was open, and guys getting him open. And if hes open hes capable of making those shots, so I mean its not a surprise he knocked them down, its just getting him the opportunity to do so."
On Rajon Rondo and Chris Paul heated discussions:
I just know two competitive guys, trying to hold the fort down for their team and going out there, and trying to give their team the best opportunity to win games. You like to see that. Its not bad at all. I mean thats all it is. It is two competitive guys butting heads."
When your on your team is looking for you they're setting screens for you and at that time we really moved the ball and I was able to get some good looks...
Well, I dont know how good you can feel. Its still a loss. But, we tried. We tried I think we didnt have enough focus for 48 minutes. Some parts of the game were good for us from both ends of the floor. But we just didnt have enough consistency."
On Chris Paul:
Chris, Hes been from very beginning hes been the leader of this team on both ends of the floor. He does unbelievable things. He does everything for us. So we need him to keep doing those things. As a team we need to play better basketball.