UPDATE: Eric Gordon (knee) now appears to be out for this game, so the C’s really should take this one.
Boston at New Orleans
8:00 P.M. ET
New Orleans Arena
Boston: 105.8 points/100 possessions (9th)
New Orleans: 95.2 points/100 possessions (21st)
Boston: 109.3 points allowed/100 possessions (25th)
New Orleans: 90.9 points allowed/100 possessions (6th)
Key Injuries: Paul Pierce (heel) is likely out. Chris Wilcox (shoulder) is out. Mickael Petrius (knee) is still not quite ready.
Probable N’awlins Starters: Marco Belinelli (PG), Eric Gordon (SG), Trevor Ariza (SF), Carl Landry (PF), Emeka Okafor (C)
View From The Opposing Bench: Hornets 247
Thumbnail: In the spirit of early season overreactions, let’s linger on the Celtics’ abysmal defense through two games (check the alarming number above), the mounting injuries and the awful, terrible, no-good concern that Boston has entered that no-man’s land of the Association, where they’re just good enough to beat most mediocre teams, but at least one major piece shy of being able to challenge the big boys (also known as Milwaukee-ness).
On the upside, Paul Pierce is a seriously major piece, and these have been two of the most encouraging losses of the last few years. The bench looks stronger, the offense surprisingly perky, and it is – after all – early. So, in this first auspicious SEGABABA of 2011-12, the C’s have a very winnable game in New Orleans and a chance to give us all reason to exhale.
Nobody here at CelticsHub wants to be writing about an 0-3 team tomorrow.
May I now direct your attention to Eric Gordon, the central player New Orleans received in the Chris Paul trade? C’s fans who didn’t watch a ton of Clippers games last year (everyone but Bill Simmons) may not be familiar with his game but he’s a rising star in the league and only 23 (as of Christmas Day).
What’s special about Gordon is his ability to create his own shot off the dribble and get to the line (you could make an argument those are the two most important offensive skills come playoff time and reference guys like Dwayne Wade, Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler and the like).
When you marry Gordon’s basket attacks with a passable outside game, he’s a worrisome matchup for anyone in the league, particularly Ray Allen, who may not be strong or fresh enough to handle him. I’d expect we’ll see Avery Bradley covering Gordon for stretches tonight.
Pierce is out, Kevin Garnett has been less than assertive on the offensive end and the C’s still sport the 9th best offense in the league after four days of action. Speak not of small sample sizes! I reserve the right to be blindly optimistic, especially if the defense starts to resemble something like the one we’ve watched the last four years.
New Orleans has only one star and, more importantly for the Celtics, they’ve barely had time to figure out their offense since the Chris Paul trade was finalized. If Boston can keep Gordon out of the paint (hello strong side zone) and make consistent Celtics-of-yore efforts on defense, Monty Williams’ squad will likely be forced into second and third options off of broken plays. Clamp down on their outside threats (particularly Belinelli) and it’s a reasonable bet that the Hornets can’t do enough damage to win this one.
And of course, a few stops will unleash one Rajon Rondo to attack in the open court. Rondo looks determined to prove that he is not a big scaredy cat when it comes to attacking the rim. Through two games, Rondo is averaging 8.0 attempts at the rim (he was at 4.3 last season). He’s also taking an incredible 11.5 free throw attempts per through the first two games (last season: 1.9).
It’ll be interesting to see how Doc Rivers handles his rotation tonight, in this first 24-hour-turnaround of the season. Danny Ainge gave him a deeper bench than last year and though it’s been thinned by the injury to Chris Wilcox, there are enough guys there to contribute the kinds of minutes that will keep Allen and Garnett fresh in May. If Doc uses them.
Keyon Dooling and Brandon Bass have both distinguished themselves as rotation players through the first two games.
Joe Gerrity of the Hornets247 is predicting (tongue-in-cheek, mind you) that his post-game headline will read: Hornets Obliterate Celtics.
I’ll say he’s 100% dead wrong — for basketball reasons.
Celtics 99 Hornets 93