Hornets Sting Celtics In Home Opener

By Stephen Alford
Updated: November 3, 2006

Boston CelticsBOSTON — A win on the night that the Celtics honored their patriarch Arnold “Red” Auerbach, who died of a heart attack at age 89 last Saturday, would have been the perfect opportunity to get CelticNation excited about the 2006-07 Celtics. But in the end, it proved to be too much Chris Paul as the Hornets handed the Celtics an opening night loss (91-87).

The reason for the loss? Take your pick.

Lack of defense: Even if he is only in his second year in the League, everyone still expected point guard Chris Paul to have a great game. And he did not disappoint.

CP3 had 10 assists by halftime, and scored the Hornets’ last 12 points of the third quarter, which gave New Orleans a 10 point lead going into the final frame.

Paul drove to the basket at will and finished 7-for-14 from the field, scoring 20 points, dishing out 10 assists, grabbing seven rebounds and coming up with three steals.

Production from the point guards: While Chris Paul had a fantastic all-around game, the point guard tandem of Sebastian Telfair, Rajon Rondo and Delonte West finished a combined 5-for-16 from the field, and were never able to control the floor. Telfair and Rondo could only muster one and three assists respectively, while West, who is supposed to be more of a shooting guard this season, had five assists.

When asked for his assessment of how the floor leaders played, Celtic coach Doc Rivers replied: “Well, you know, not great. But more because they just – I don’t know if it was focus – we just didn’t execute … I mean, it was like they were staring into the – And that happens. I don’t think it will happen often with them, honestly.”

“I thought because it was (Rajon Rondo’s) first game, he allowed other guys to come and get the ball,” added Rivers. “And as a point guard, that can never happen. He allowed Delonte (West) to get it; Tony (Allen) wants to get it – No. Our point guard gets it because you can’t trap him.”

The Cs also made David West looked like a legitimate all-star candidate – at least in the first half of the game. The Celts could not find anyone who could prevent West from putting the ball in the basket as the 3-year veteran shot 6-for-12 from the field in the first half, and finished the game with 18 points.

Lack of chemistry: The younger Celtics were spectators on the court as they watched Paul Pierce score 12 of the team’s 22 points in the fourth quarter. Wally Szczerbiak, who struggled from the field all night long, hit both of his field goal attempts and added five points in the fourth quarter. The only other fourth quarter production that the Celtics got was from Al Jefferson’s three points and Delonte West’s two points, which were his only two points of the game – and that didn’t come until the final 2.4 seconds.

“I thought our trust broke down,” said Doc Rivers. “I thought we relied so heavily on Paul (Pierce) and guys stopped moving the ball. And we just can’t do that. Paul’s a great player and we’re going to get it to him every single time, but if he’s not open there’s a second option and a third option…We’ve got to trust ourselves. I know guys, a lot of them haven’t been in this position before, but that’s going to make or break us down the stretch of games.”

Free throws: Paul Pierce did everything that could be done to win the basketball game – except hit his free throws. The Celtics captain finished with game-highs in points and rebounds (29 and 19), and dished out four assists. However, the Truth converted only 7-of-15 at the charity stripe, including 4-for-8 in the crucial final frame.

Production from the power forward spot: Sure Al Jefferson scored 13 points, but he was only productive in short stretches of the game. The Emerald only grabbed four rebounds, and ended up fouling out of the game after logging 22 minutes.

The usually reliable Ryan Gomes tallied six points, and could only grab six caroms in his 30 minutes of action. Looking at the bright side of things, the Green did manage to out rebound the Hornets 52-46 – thanks to Pierce’s 19 boards.

If the Celtics are having that much trouble at home with a team that didn’t even make the playoffs last year, how will they fare against the likes of Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince and the rest of the Pistons as they host Detroit tonight at the New Garden.

Regarding Red:

Red Auerbach was the first person in the National Basketball Association to draft an African-American player (Chuck Cooper, June 30, 1950); in the 1963-64 season, he was the first coach to have a starting five that consisted of African-Americans (Bill Russell, KC Jones, Sam Jones, Tom “Satch” Sanders, and Willie Naulls); and Red was the first to hire an African-American coach (Bill Russell, April 18, 1966).

Celtics legends John Havlicek, Bob Cousy, Tom Heinsohn, Jo Jo White along with fan favorites ML Carr, Cedric Maxwell, and Robert Parish were in attendance during Wednesday’s game to pay tribute to Red. This will be the first year since its inception that Red Aurebach will not be a part of the National Basketball Association.