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HORNETS VS. CELTICS
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
March 19, 2011

New Orleans wraps up its season-long, five-game homestand on Saturday by hosting one of the NBAs premier teams, in an interconference matchup. The Boston Celtics won their most recent of 17 league championships in 2008. They also reached the NBA Finals in 2010, but were defeated in a classic seven-game affair by the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Hornets will attempt to continue their run of success against Eastern Conference opponents this season, as well as sweep the head-to-head series vs. the Celtics. On New Years Eve, New Orleans pulled out an 83-81 triumph on Bostons home floor, rallying from a fourth-quarter deficit to post the upset win. Overall, the Hornets have compiled an 18-10 record against teams from the East this season and only have two games remaining vs. that conference. Following Saturdays matchup vs. Boston, NOLA completes its annual 30-game slate against the East on Sunday, April 3 vs. Indiana.

Boston is currently vying with Chicago for the No. 1 seed in the East. The Celtics are one of the most experienced teams in the league, headlined by their Big Three of Ray Allen, 35; Kevin Garnett, 34; and Paul Pierce, 33. During the 2010 offseason, Boston signed free agent center Shaquille ONeal, who turned 39 earlier this month, and 32-year-old Jermaine ONeal, who is a 15-year NBA veteran (he came directly to the league from high school).

The Celtics also made a much-debated transaction prior to the February trade deadline, acquiring versatile forward Jeff Green and center Nenad Krstic from Oklahoma City, in exchange for starting center Kendrick Perkins. Perkins had been a key member of the Celtics during their recent run of one NBA championship and two Eastern Conference crowns since 2008.



INTRIGUING MATCH-UP


Point Guard, Chris Paul vs. Rajon Rondo
This will be the first meeting of the season between the pair of All-Star performers; Rondo sat out the Dec. 31 game due to injury. Paul thrived against the Celtics in Rondos absence, finishing with 20 points, 11 assists, six steals and five rebounds. During the 2009-10 season, Paul missed the latter Boston game due to injury, so the two players have not faced each other on the floor since Nov. 1, 2009.



HORNETS.COM SCOUTING REPORT
A closer look at the Boston Celtics:


Ray Allen


Kevin Garnett

GUARDS
During his second NBA season of 2007-08, Rajon Rondo was viewed as a weak link in the Celtics star-studded lineup, but managed to produce several big games en route to Boston winning the league title. Now in his fifth season, Rondo is widely recognized as one of the NBAs premier point guards. Hes a frequent threat to post a triple-double, averaging around 11 points, 11 assists and four rebounds per game. The University of Kentucky product is ranked No. 1 in the league in assists and No. 2 in steals.

On Feb. 11 against the Lakers, Ray Allen became the NBAs all-time leader in made three-pointers, surpassing Reggie Millers total of 2,560 career treys. The 15-year pro also established a postseason three-point shooting record during the 2010 NBA Finals, draining eight trifectas against the Lakers in Game 2 of the series. The University of Connecticut product isnt required to put up 20-plus points per game as he did in previous career stops with Milwaukee and Seattle, but he must be closely guarded at all times on the perimeter.

Von Wafer is an offensive-minded shooting guard who can score points in bunches off the bench. Wafer was born in Homer, Louisiana, located near the Arkansas border.

Delonte Wests impact in his second stint with the Celtics this season has been mitigated by injuries. The left-hander is a crafty offensive player and tough-minded defender.

Rookie point guard Avery Bradley is a developing pro whos best known for his individual defense. Bradley played his college ball at Texas.

Sasha Pavlovic was signed to 10-day contracts by the Celtics earlier this month. Pavlovic has also been signed to abbreviated deals in 2010-11 by New Orleans and Dallas. Another recent Boston guard signee was Carlos Arroyo, who started for Miami earlier this season before being released.

FORWARDS
In his 16th NBA season, Kevin Garnett is Bostons top rebounder and third-leading scorer. The intense on-floor leader of the Celtics spent over a decade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, reaching the Western Conference finals only once. Since Garnett became a Celtic, Boston has captured a total of eight playoff series in only three postseasons.

Celtics No. 1 scoring threat Paul Pierce is a rarity in todays NBA, having spent his entire 13-year pro career with the same team. Among many noteworthy moments in Boston, the small forward was named NBA Finals MVP in 2008, when the Celtics defeated the Lakers four games to two.

While at Louisiana State, Glen Big Baby Davis helped lead the Tigers on a surprising run to the 2006 NCAA Final Four. This season, the fourth-year pro has often been called upon to step into the lineup for injured teammates and has responded well. Early in the season, many NBA analysts listed Davis as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate for his strong play in a reserve role.

Jeff Green once appeared to be a prominent part of the Oklahoma City Thunders future combined with fellow young standouts Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook but OKC parted with Green in a February trade. The 24-year-old Green provides the Celtics with an infusion of athleticism and versatility.

Another recent roster addition, left-hander Troy Murphy is a skilled shooter and has been an above-average rebounder throughout his decade-long NBA career. When he appears in a postseason contest for Boston this spring, it will be his first-ever playoff game.

CENTERS
One of two LSU products on the Boston roster, Shaquille ONeal is the oldest player in the NBA. He turned 39 on March 6. ONeals injury status for Saturdays game was uncertain at press time, after hed only appeared in 36 games through mid-March due to a right foot injury. Hed most recently been on the floor Feb. 1.

Like the teams other ONeal, Jermaine ONeal has been negatively affected by injuries this season. The former Indiana Pacers star played in 17 of Bostons first 60-plus games.

With several other Boston frontcourt players sidelined, Nenad Krstic has immediately been needed to play major minutes after being acquired in a trade with Oklahoma City. Krstic is a skilled offensive player with mid-range shooting ability.


Players the BOS/NOH want shooting free throws in a close game
CELTICS HORNETS
Ray Allen
Delonte West
Paul Pierce
Kevin Garnett
Troy Murphy
89.3
81.9
80.4
78.7
78.4
Chris Paul
Jarrett Jack
David West
Marco Belinelli
Carl Landry
85.4
85.0
84.0
80.1
77.1
If the BOS/NOH need a three-pointer, their best options are
CELTICS HORNETS
Ray Allen
Troy Murphy
Delonte West
Paul Pierce
Jeff Green
39.9
38.9
37.3
36.9
33.8
Marco Belinelli
Chris Paul
Jarrett Jack
Quincy Pondexter
Willie Green
39.4
36.3
34.8
33.3
31.8
Career FT percentage (through March 15) Career three-point percentage (through March 15)




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