Zero and Counting…

The Celtics loss to New Orleans last night is yet another reminder that the season is long and that energy is difficult to maintain, particularly for graybeards Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.  The Celtics came out strong, building a five-point lead after the first.  In the second quarter, the assertiveness of point guard Greivis Vasquez, the insistence of Robin Lopez on the offensive glass, and the determination of Al-Farouq Aminu, who has had a very productive January for the Hornets, particularly on the defensive and rebounding end, took their toll.  The lead was gone by halftime.

Coming out of the half, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett sleep-walked through the beginning of the third, which turned the game.

Pierce and Garnett, play-by-play in quarter three:

  • 11:11: Paul Pierce misses 26-foot three point jumper
  • 10:53: Paul Pierce bad pass (Al-Farouq Aminu steals)
  • 10:07: Kevin Garnett bad pass (Al-Farouq Aminu steals)
  • 9:38: Paul Pierce misses technical free throw
  • 9:33: Kevin Garnett traveling
  • 9:03: Paul Pierce bad pass (Anthony Davis steals).

Mercifully, Rivers called timeout with 8:47 to go.  By that time, the Hornets were leading 52-43.

Though the plus/minus category is often misleading, last night’s plus/minus was tough to ignore:

  • Kevin Garnett’s minus 26 was one of his worst outputs of the year.  Though he scored 15 points on 7 of 12 shooting, Garnett gathered only 4 rebounds, his lowest total since the west coast swing (3 @ GSW, 4 @ LAC).  
  • Al-Farouq Aminu, the Hornets third-year small forward from Wake Forest, finished with a New Orleans-high plus 18.  In addition to the steals, Aminu’s tenacity resulted in 12 of 13 free-throw shooting, proving costly for the C’s.

A few ugly reminders that aggressiveness is what the Celtics had found over the last six games, and aggressiveness is what they lacked last night:

  • New Orleans took 31 free-throws to the Celtics’ 16.
  • The Celtics took more 3-pointers (18) than free-throws.
  • The Celtics scored a meager 35 points in the second half.
  • Sullinger and Bradley combined for 6 personal fouls and 2 rebounds.
  • Overall, the Celtics were out-rebounded 48-33.  (Yes, we still need an actual back-up center)

The Celtics shot o of 6 from the 3-point corner (4 of 18 overall from 3): Lee went 0 of 3, Green, Terry, Bradley each missed 1.

Pierce shot 1 of 7 from long-distance, including o of 4 after the half. Pierce’s 3rd Quarter was particularly repulsive:

The loss reminds us that this is a long season and that Pierce’s offense relies more heavily on Rondo than ever before.  Rondo had a sub-par night himself (only putting up 8 shot attempts, and turning it over 5 times, though he managed 11 assists).

When the Celtics’ starters struggle, they become desperate for solid contributions from at least 3 of these 5: Bradley, Sullinger, Green, Terry, and Lee. Sullinger, Lee and Bradley lacked the apark they have shown recently. Terry, on the other hand, found his shooting touch again.

The match-up with Chicago on Friday becomes even more challenging now that the confidence that comes with a winning streak is gone.

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