Three areas combined to help thwart New Orleans' bid to end Boston's lengthy winning streak on Friday, as the Celtics posted victory No. 14 in a row and improved to 22-2 (New Hornets guard Antonio Daniels was available and in uniform but did not play; he was spotted several times during the game chatting with Byron Scott with questions about different offensive plays and what the Hornets were doing on the floor. Tyson Chandler also sat out after sustaining neck spasms):
Shooting: New Orleans shot a season-low 35.4 percent from the field and tallied only 82 points, just three more than the teams season-worst output in that category (79 vs. Atlanta on Nov. 5). None of the Hornets starters made half of their shots, with Peja Stojakovic (1-for-6, 0 treys) and Chris Paul (5-for-16) having off nights from the perimeter. Give Boston's league-best defense credit - it's no coincidence that a Hornets offense that had been rolling lately found the going much more difficult against this opponent.
Fouls: As they attempted to close the gap in the second half, the Hornets were unable to make much of a dent largely because they kept sending the Celtics to the free-throw stripe. Boston was in the bonus only a few minutes into the third quarter and ended up attempting 26 fouls shots in the second half. Bostons constant trips to the charity stripe also helped keep New Orleans from getting into transition very often offensively.
Defensive rebounding: The Hornets actually had more offensive boards than the Celtics overall (13-12), but Boston came up with a handful of key rebounds at that end of the floor in the second half. New Orleans played pretty well for most of the night on defense, but the inability to clear the boards allowed Boston to extend a few possessions when the visitors badly needed a stop.
Hornets.com's Will McClaran was in Boston tonight and checked in with some notes from courtside:
BIG OVATION FOR POSEY
Before the game, Boston's PA announcer welcomed back James Posey, who received a standing ovation. He walked to center court where he was greeted by Celtics principle owner Wyk Grousbeck, GM Danny Ainge and head coach Doc Rivers. Posey received his championship ring, thanking all of the Celtics' managing partners. All of the Celtics' players then came out to center court and embraced their former teammate.
Doc Rivers grabbed a mic, saying: "Before we let James Posey go again, we need to just thank him again, and let it be known that this would not have been possible without him. He is what Ubuntu is all about, and we can't thank him enough for what he helped us to accomplish last year."
James gave a wave to the crowd, who roared when he walked back towards the New Orleans bench.
However, Posey was booed after hitting a three-pointer in the first quarter. Apparently the fun's over - he's an opposing player to Boston fans now.
ANTONIO DANIELS PREGAME QUOTES
On the Hornets' offensive system:
"It's very similar to what we were doing in Washington. Eddie Jordan was an assistant under Byron Scott, they're from that same school, so the transition thus far has been very easy. The terminology is very similar, as well as the defensive calls. All the guys have been very helpful, walking me through certain questions that I have."
On his role:
"I think that's a question Byron can answer better than I can. I'm here to be me. I'm going to bring to the table who I am and what I've always done. It's my 12th year; I can't change who I am. I'm a pass-first guy, and that's not going to change. I'm just going to try to be a positive veteran presence on and off the floor."
On the trade:
"Nowadays, nothing really surprises me. I've been in the league for a long time so I understand it's a business. Teams do what they need to do to better themselves. Washington did what they felt they needed to do, as did New Orleans. I talked to all my teammates in Washington, and life goes on. My concern now is helping this New Orleans basketball team."
On going to a contender:
"I'm very thrilled to get this opportunity. Every day in this league is a blessing, and getting traded here was another blessing for me, for a number of reasons. This is a very, very good basketball team, with everything they achieved last year, and what they're on their way to achieving this year, and any way I can stick my hand in the pot and help, I'm ready."
HORNETS POSTGAME QUOTES
Re: They are one of the best defensive teams in the league. How much of it was there defensive schemes, how much of it was you getting shots and you not making them
I thought they did a real good job defensively, theres no doubt about that. But we had our opportunities, we had good looks, but our shooters just werent making shots tonight, thats the biggest thing. David played a great game, CP played a great game. If we had one more guy tonight that would have been able to step up, then we would have had a better opportunity. I was proud of the way we fought, and this is something that weve got to build on because weve got to play this way every night. I thought it was a very physical game, we were physical, they were physical. And again, weve got to take that Toronto and play with that type of intensity.
Re: You missed Tyson tonight
Yeah, yeah. We missed him big time tonight. Just his athleticism, his energy, and his second chance points we get when hes in the game. Some of the putbacks that hes able to do, we definitely missed him tonight.
Re: You come away from this game with a lot of positive things
Yeah, but the one thing I was a little disappointed in the second half was our defense. In the first half we did a pretty good job defensively, in the second half they got 55 points. 45 points were on free throws and in the paint. That cant be allowed. We did a real good job of keeping them out of the paint in the first half, the second half we left Peja out there on the island when Paul Pierce was able to get to the basket. We just didnt do a good job of reacting to Paul when he was in an aggressive mindset. Thats something that weve got to take care of. 10 points out of the paint, and Eddie hit two of them which were threes. They didnt score a whole lot outside the paint.
Pauls a very aggressive basketball player, I think hes one of the best in the league. He creates problems when he puts his head down and tries to get to that basket. We just didnt do a good job of reacting when he was in iso situations. We were so scared of Ray Allen and their shooters that we were allowing him to get to the basket instead of taking away that paint and forcing him to kick the ball to those shooters.
There were stretches where we just couldnt make shots, but there were other stretches where we were aggressive. We just had a bad third quarter. We lacked effort.
We know theyre a great basketball team. Wed been getting stops up until that point. Like I said, we had stretches where we were making shots and stretches where we werent. During that stretch we got some buckets to go. But when it came down to it, we had to go small, and they stayed big. They were able to get some key extra possessions on their end.
Re Tyson Chandler not playing: Hes our center man. Thats really it. Hes not out there, which is a big hole in the middle for us. I thought Hilton [Armstrong] and Mel [Ely] stepped in and played well. I thought they fought hard. But we didnt have our full gun.
I think this game came down to rebounding. We cut it to about six with about 2:35 left, Ray Allen shoots a three in the corner, they get an offensive rebound, made a shot and put us in a tough situation.
Re: is Celtics team better than last year: I dont know, theyve got pretty much the same team. Except for Posey. Pose is a big loss, Im glad weve got him. But we felt like we could have got this one.
Re: is this a team to measure against: Yeah I think so. Tonight we played hard. Ill tell you right now that Im not about any moral victory. We played hard. You win or you lose, and we lost. Hopefully well have the big fella back next game, but if not, guys like Hilton Armstrong, Sean Marks did a great job coming in and filling that void.
Re: acquisition of Antonio Daniels: I think its going to help a lot. AD has been in every situation you can be in in this league. Hes another guard that loves to play. Hopefully hell be that guy that we need.
CELTICS POSTGAME QUOTES
It was a good win for us. I mean they (Hornets) were sitting here last night watching us play and you know, I dont care if you dont play a lot of minutes; youre still playing in that game. It was a struggle. Ill tell you, it was not a pretty game aesthetically; if you looked at the game it was pretty ugly. Lot of frustration in the first half, but I just thought we mentally grinded it out. Made a couple spurts. It was a game of spurts and we had the longer spurts in the second half.