By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
March 20, 2013
When the New Orleans Hornets and Boston Celtics last met on the hardwood on Jan. 16 in Massachusetts, bragging rights in the Rivers family were at stake. In the first-ever NBA matchup between Hornets rookie guard Austin Rivers and his father, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, the younger Riveres and his New Orleans teammates enjoyed a 90-78 victory. It was one of the first-year pro’s best games of 2012-13, featuring eight points in 23 minutes of playing time.
Unfortunately for Austin, he won’t get a second crack at beating Dad on Wednesday evening, when the Hornets and Celtics wrap up their annual two-game series. Austin sustained a broken hand during a game against the Lakers on March 6, an injury that will sideline him for 4-6 weeks (likely the remainder of the regular season).
Without their backup combo guard on the court, the Hornets will attempt to build upon the success they experienced against the Celtics in the first meeting. New Orleans compiled one of its most effective defensive performances of the season at Boston, limiting the Celtics to just 35 second-half points and 15 in the fourth quarter. Boston struggled mightily from three-point range (4-for-18) and the foul line (6-for-16).
On the offensive end, Al-Farouq Aminu paced an extremely balanced attack for New Orleans, scoring 18 points (including 12-for-13 foul shooting). Robin Lopez added 17 points, while Greivis Vasquez, Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson also contributed double-digit points. Rivers and Jason Smith each had eight points off the bench. While the Celtics had a difficult time locating the rim on their free throws, the Hornets were an excellent 26-for-31 (83.9 percent).
Intriguing matchup: Power forward, Anthony Davis vs. Kevin Garnett
Although Boston technically lists Garnett as a center, it’s possible that these two unique, athletic big men will be matched up against each other at times Wednesday. Davis’ body type and versatile array of skills have caused some NBA analysts to draw comparisons to Garnett, a future Hall of Famer now in his 18th season. As of Tuesday morning, Garnett’s playing status was uncertain; he missed Monday’s epic showdown vs. Miami due to injury.
After the veteran Celtics dropped to 20-23 overall after a loss in Atlanta on Jan. 25, the news quickly got exponentially worse. On the same weekend, it was learned that All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo would miss the remainder of the season due to a torn ACL he had sustained against the Hawks. At the time, many NBA analysts speculated that Boston might be in jeopardy of falling apart without their floor general. Instead, the Celtics have come together and played their best basketball of 2012-13 over the past six weeks. In the first 21 games without Rondo, Boston went 15-6, including going undefeated at home. Several players have picked up their individual performance in the absence of Rondo, including forward Jeff Green and guard Avery Bradley.
With Rondo sidelined, the Celtics’ most important player is probably forward Paul Pierce, who has spent his entire 15-year-career in the franchise’s classic green and white uniforms. Pierce is Boston’s leading scorer and a go-to guy when the Celtics need a critical basket. He’s a versatile offensive player with three-point accuracy, a mid-range jumper and the ability to get into the paint on drives.
On the rise
After missing the entire 2011-12 season due to heart surgery, Green has enjoyed an excellent return to the court. Part of a controversial trade in which the Celtics dealt interior anchor Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City, Green has frequently appeared on highlight films lately. The 6-foot-9, 235-pounder is deceptively athletic and often provides a key spark off the bench for Boston.
Veteran shooting guard Jason Terry and February trade acquisition Jordan Crawford give Boston a pair of streaky perimeter marksmen who can come in off the bench and immediately change the momentum. Terry is no stranger to making big shots, as a longtime member of the Dallas Mavericks and a key cog in their 2011 championship team. Crawford is relatively unknown after playing for Atlanta and Washington previously.
On the sideline
Glenn “Doc” Rivers was a fine player in the 1980s and 1990s, a steady point guard who spent a total of 13 years in the NBA. He earned his unique nickname as a youngster, when he happened to wear a Julius Erving (a Philadelphia guard nicknamed “Doctor J”) T-shirt to a basketball camp. One of the coaches began calling him “Doc,” and the label stuck. Rivers led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA title and is regarded as one of the top head coaches in the league. He’s also a former San Antonio teammate of Monty Williams.
Did you know?
Boston’s 17 championships are the most in NBA history. The Los Angeles Lakers are next with 16, followed by Chicago’s six crowns.
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