It’s too bad Chris Paul had to go and get injured. Tonight’s expected Paul-Rajon Rondo matchup could have been a lot of fun.
Instead, fans will have to settle for Rondo-Darren Collison. Doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it, does it?
No matter who the opposing point guard, the Celtics should have one focus when they meet the New Orleans Hornets tonight: To get back on track heading into the All-Star break.
The game will be the Celtics’ last prior to the break, as they look to bounce back from a loss to Orlando that was punctuated by a miserable third quarter in which Boston was outscored 36-11. That loss had many people screaming that Boston’s run at the top was over, or desperate to trade Ray Allen. The wheels have been falling off for almost a month, and in that third quarter against Orlando, Boston finally hit rock bottom. (Okay, fine, the New Jersey Nets are at rock bottom. Not the Celtics. But for a contender, 9-12 over a 21-game stretch is pretty damn bad.)
The question remains whether Boston has the pieces to pick itself off the floor and regroup, or whether the team as presently constructed is done being a contender. Either way, the Celts have no more excuses; their injury slate is almost completely clean.
(Update: I spoke too soon. Ray Allen will not play tonight.)
Paul Pierce, who was questionable with his sprained mid-foot, will play, which means that — for only the second time all season — Boston will have its complete arsenal of players. (Once again, sorry J.R. Giddens, but I don’t include you in that arsenal. If everyone had been healthy all season long, you would have been consistently relegated to the NBDL or the inactive list.)
Doc Rivers claims he will have a quick hook tonight regarding substitutions. Let’s hope he doesn’t have to.
Three things to look for in tonight’s game:
- Ray Allen’s last hurrah? – Danny Ainge continues to say he’ll only make a trade that will help the Celtics in the present. But Allen’s $19 million expiring contract looks mighty attractive to other teams, and could potentially bring the C’s a building block for the future while maintaining their title hopes for this year. Ray could soon be on his way out.
- Intensity/Execution – Boston has had trouble focusing lately. An inability to play 48 minutes of energetic play has been the C’s achilles heel. After Doc Rivers called out his troops to the press following the Orlando debacle, it will be interesting to see how they respond.
- The wings – Paul Pierce and Ray Allen for Boston. Peja Stojakovic and Morris Peterson for New Orleans. Need I say more to tell you Boston has a severe mismatch in its favor?