With Eric Gordon still unavailable to play in back-to-backs, the Hornets got off to a predictably slow start and found themselves down 21-10 in the first 9 minutes of the game. Greivis Vasquez was at the forefront of the atrocity with 3 missed shots and 3 turnovers. Fortunately, the bench was able to pick us up as Jason Smith, Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts all contributed in the closing minutes and the Hornets deficit was only 5 at the end of one.
The second quarter started similarly to the first as the Hornets once again had trouble putting the ball through the basket. However, after missing 4 of our first 5 shots, Roberts drove to the hoop, landed awkwardly on his leg and had to be helped back to the locker room. Doc Rivers chose Al-Farouq Aminu to shoot the free throws and that seemed to get him and the rest of the Hornets going. Thanks to a Ryan Anderson three, the Hornets took a one point lead into halftime.
The start of the 2nd half went entirely the Hornets way. Thanks to several impressive Aminu steals, the Hornets racked up the first eight points and outscored the Celtics, 17-6 in the first 7 minutes. But our lack of any perimeter scoring allowed Boston to go on a run of their own, limiting our lead to just 5 at the end of the third quarter. Seriously, outside of a Mason elbow jumper, all our offense came from around the basket and the free throw line.
Remarkably, the fourth quarter wasn't any different. Asides a Lopez jumper from the free throw line, the Hornets again failed to score outside the paint. However, as the Celtics did the entire game, they continued to do us a favor, settling for jumpshots. By shooting 7-23 from the field, they ensured the Hornets victory.
1. Free Throw Disparity. The Hornets were the obvious aggressor tonight and it paid off handsomely. The Hornets made 26 of 31 from the charity stripe, including Aminu making 12 of 13! Little did Doc know he might have been responsible for creating the monster when he selected Aminu to shoot Roberts' freebies early in the second quarter.
2. Rebounding. For the second night in a row, we destroyed the opposition on the glass. We grabbed 48 rebounds (11 offensive) versus just 33 (6 offensive) for the Celtics. Aminu and Davis were very good again but Vasquez contributed immensely by picking up 11 rebounds of his own.
3. Austin Rivers. No one figured Austin was going to be able to give the Hornets anything positive. Not after his string of poor performances since New Years Eve. Not when he was facing even more pressure than usual playing against his father's team in Boston. Until the fourth quarter, Rivers was actually our most effective guard. It's really a shame that so many fans were scoffing at his production. No one is saying some big corner was turned, but isn't it nice to just give him a break after some positive contributions?
1. Perimeter shooting. 2 for 17. Anderson and Vasquez were the primary detractors, combining to go 2-12. In a game where our size again dominated the opposition down low, couldn't the Hornets attempt to muster a few more shots well inside the arc?
2. Turnovers. 17 for the game but 12 in the first half. Almost any other night where the Hornets don't shoot well from the perimeter and commit a high number of turnovers, will result in a loss. Fortunately, a combination of our defense and Boston's inability to execute offensively propelled us to victory.
3. Anthony Davis continued underutilization. In a game without Eric Gordon and only playing 21 minutes last night, Davis was primed to help carry the load. However, he didn't get his first shot attempt until almost 10 minutes in and his second, until after halftime. Correct me if I'm wrong, but hadn't Davis' energy returned of late and last night he was showing excellent form and range on his jumpshot? Some figured that perhaps Monty was helping him overcome the supposed rookie wall, but why then was he inserted back into the game with 2:20 left and the team comfortably ahead by 15?
After a 2-1 road trip, the Hornets have two days off before hosting the surprising Warriors on Saturday. Stephen Curry twisted an ankle before tonight's game against the Heat so we might catch a break if he has to miss any more time. Winning is fun, right? Geaux Hornets!