(Andrew wrote most of this, but didn't have time to finish or post it, so I'm taking care of that for him. Go Hornets!)
Tonight, the Hornets (40-30, 24-10 home) take on the Celtics (48-19, 19-13 away) in the New Orleans Arena. Boston has had a lot of trouble on the road recently, and with the packed Saturday night crowd at the Hive tonight, the Hornets will hopefully have an edge tonight. I personally hate the Celtics (they're all such whiny babies, especially Rondo... who incidentally looks like a bug eyed alien), so let's push the Hornets to a good showing. The Hornets beat the Celtics in Boston in their first meeting, but both KG and Rondo were out, so don't take too much away from it. Key match-ups and game prediction after the jump.
A match-up of two of the best point guards in the game, the two come in on completely different steaks. CP3 has been absolutely lights-out since returning from a mild concussion, averaging nearly 29 points, 11 assists, and 5 steals in the three games since his return. Rondo, on the other hand, has been ice cold recently, scoring just 8 points in his last four games on 4 of 29 shooting. For the Hornets to win, CP3 needs to dominate this matchup... good news is, with the way he's playing recently, there is a pretty good chance of that happening.
Kevin Garnett has been a bit off recently (at least by his standards). He's been shooting well, but hasn't really been filling up the stat sheet like he normally does. He's grabbing only 6 boards and 2 assists per game in his last five games, well below his season averages of over 9 and 4. It's not a huge drop off, but it's definitely noticeable, and you would think his totals would be up without Perkins (no Perkins = more rebounding duties for Garnett). Still, Garnett plays the type of defense that D-West traditionally struggles with, and both Oak and West will likely struggle guarding the two Celtics bigs (both Davis and Garnett have a decent jump shot, and the two Hornets big men have had trouble defending bigs who strech the floor).
This is more like a "half match-up", because the only relevant part to these two facing off is Pierce's offense against Ariza's defense. As Mason noted in yesterday's post, Ariza has struggled in his four games since returning from his groin injury. That being said, Pierce has seen a part of his own game fall off since the all-star break - his long range shooting. He is only shooting 31% from long range since then, a span of 13 games. Conversely, he is shooting 90% from the line in that same time period, up from 84.5% before the break. For Ariza to be successful in his efforts to guard him, he needs to keep him from getting into the paint and encourage him to take long jumpers. If Ariza can keep Pierce from getting into a rhythm, then the Hornets may be able to stomach another inefficient offensive performance from their small forward.
The Celtics are one point favorites. I know they've been bad on the road lately, but they match up really well with the Hornets. I expect Chris Paul to have a great game (say 20 points, 3 steals, 12 assists), but he will need to be unconscious for the Hornets to win. Either way, expect a slow, measured, low scoring game, as both teams play a very methodical style.
Pick - Celtics 90, Hornets 86