In the last two games, the Celtics have made a huge statement. Both the Suns and Hornets were teams that beat the Celtics on the road and both may be teams that we could see in the finals. The Celtics used big 3rd quarters in both games to earn blow out wins. With the win tonight over the Hornets, the Celtics have now beaten every team in the league. Message Sent: The Celtics are for real and will be a force to contend with in the playoffs.
The Hornets played the Celtics fairly even in the first half and had a 60-56 lead at halftime. But, the Celtics came out focused and with intensity in the third quarter and blew the game open. After Perk got two cheap fouls called on him, Doc picked up a technical and the team just pulled away and never looked back. I hope never to see Kenny Mauer officiating another Celtics game. This guy really doesn't like us. KG set the tone for the second half with great defense on David West. The first play of the second half was a great alley oop pass from Perk to KG for an emphatic dunk. He dove out of bounds on several plays to save the possession and at one point, he landed in a kid's lap in the first row. Not nearly as scary as seeing Big Baby (or Shaq) coming at you. KG finished with 21 points, 13 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 block. Perk had 7 points, 6 rebounds and 1 assist in 21 minutes.
Rondo once again held his own against Chris Paul and showed that he belongs among the elite point guards in the league. When he was left open, he hit the open shots and played great defense on Paul. Rondo finished with 17 points on 8-10 shooting to go with 2 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal. Ray Allen played only 26 minutes after logging 45 against the Suns and had 12 points, 1 rebound and 3 assists and hit a couple of big shots to help turn the momentum. Pierce had another all around game, matching KG's intensity in the 3rd quarter. When he was doubled consistently found the open man as he finished with 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 9 assists.
Tony played 20 minutes and was the first player off the bench as Ray picked up 2 quick fouls in the first. He finished with 6 points, 2 assists and 1 steal. He played aggressively and drove to the hoop along with playing good defense. There was a scary moment when he leaped to block an alley oop from Paul to Chandler and landed hard on the court. He stayed down as play continued on the other end of the court. He got up slowly but seemed to be ok. House had 8 points and 1 assist as the back up point guard. Sam Cassell didn't play in this game.
Leon Powe once again made the very most of every minute he was in the game. He finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds and a block in 19 minutes. He took a couple of charges and played great defense. One of the better plays of the game was when he got an alley oop pass from Rondo for a dunk. PJ Brown played 10 minutes after DNP's in the last 2 games and finished with 2 points and 1 rebound. Big Baby played only 7 minutes and didn't get on the stat sheet. James Posey didn't score, but played good defense, pulled down 4 rebounds, and took a big charge.
The Celtics dominated this game in just about every way. They shot 60% from the field while holding the Hornets to 44%. They out rebounded the Hornets 40-29. They hit 20-22 free throws with only Rondo and KG missing one each. Pierce was 13-13 from the line. The Celtics outscored the Hornets in the paint 56-30. Both teams took very good care of the ball with just 13 turnovers between them. The Celtics had only 6 while the Hornets committed only 7.
With this win, the Celtics have now beaten every team in the league at least once. They also have earned the biggest one season turn around in Celtics team history. They have swept the Lakers, Rockets, Spurs and Mavericks. They have answered every challenge this season as a team and individually. With nothing left to prove in the 10 remaining games, the will be tuning up their bench, trying to rest the starters a little more, and building momentum going into the playoffs. The magic number for home court advantage in the East is 4 and for the entire playoffs is 5. It sure is a fun time to be a Celtics fan.