In the end, this one came down to crunchtime execution. Tied 77-77 with two minutes to go in the game, New Orleans made tougher shots and better decisions than Boston and pulled out the victory. And while the reasons for it are somewhat different than last season, the C’s are 1-3 in their last four games and officially in another post-Christmas slump.
The Celtics trailed 66-57 at the end of three quarters before ripping off a furious 16-0 run to start the fourth quarter. But after Trevor Ariza hit a desperation three to beat the shot clock and give New Orleans a late lead, Glen Davis made a crucial error that played a huge part in the C’s walking away from this one with a loss. On the ensuing possession, after Ray Allen missed a three, the C’s got the offensive rebound and Davis unleashed a horrific three-pointer with 16 seconds on the shot clock.
That’s Glen Davis. Taking a three. With 16 seconds left on the shot clock.
The Celtics simply don’t have the horses to overcome those kinds of decisions right now. And Doc Rivers knows it. Those watching the CSNNE broadcast caught a disbelieving Rivers staring at and then barking at Davis when he next came to the bench.
Following the Davis miscue, the Celtics got burned on the defensive end. Davis lost David West on a pick and roll when he overplayed the Chris Paul (20 points, 11 assists, 5 rebounds, 6 steals) drive. When Jermaine O’Neal came late to challenge West’s jumper, the Hornets went up by 5, and Boston couldn’t recover down the stretch.
Those final two minutes were a sour chaser to a spirited second half of this one as Rivers’ mix-and-match lineups brought the Celtics back, particularly the O’Neal, Allen, Luke Harangody, Marquis Daniels, and Nate Robinson combo that kicked off the fourth quarter. And there were other positive signs today: the C’s got decent efforts out of Von Wafer, Harangody and O’Neal, who is showing signs of life as he gets more comfortable in the lineup.
Still, as the absent Kevin Garnett would say: it is what it is.
And what it is is another loss.
More on this one to come…