Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thoughts on Tonight's Celtics-Hornets Game

Took in my first NBA game of the season tonight. First off, wow. If you had told me tonight's game between the Hornets and Celtics was going to be a blowout, it wouldn't have surprised me. I just didn't think it would be the host Hornets doing the blowing out. This was a Hornets team that lost its two best players (Chris Paul and David West) during the offseason, and their biggest offseason acquisition, Eric Gordon, didn't dress. And somehow, they came out and just blew the doors off a Celtics team that looked positively dead. I'm sure a lot of that has to do with the fact that the Celtics are banged up and road weary (3 road games in 4 nights) and didn't have Paul Pierce, Chris Wilcox or newly acquired Mickael Pietrus, but still. I wasn't expecting it to make that big of an impact.
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The biggest difference between the two sides I noticed was in the front court. Compare the numbers of Boston's four big men - Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal, Brandon Bass and Greg Stiemsma - to the four big men of New Orleans - Jason Smith, Carl Landry, Emeka Okafor and Chris Kaman.

That's a huge point differential. And maybe you get away with that if you're getting strong play from your guards and your wings, but Jarrett Jack outplayed Rajon Rondo (hard to explain that one) and Marco Belinelli basically cancelled out Ray Allen. Both Kevin Garnett and Jermaine O'Neal were disappointing to say the least and while those two weren't the only ones to blame, Boston has to get more production out of their bigs.

Boston was outrebounded 48-37, shot just 37.2% from the floor, and was outscored in the paint 46-24. I don't think it's time to panic in Boston, not with Pierce due to come back soon, but I don't know that Boston can contend with the Chicago's, Miami's and New York's of the league with their current roster.

Some other observations from tonight's game:

*Boston's Greg "The Steamer" Stiemsma and the Hornets' Lance Thomas were both members of Team USA at this year's Pan-Am Games. Both players made their NBA debuts tonight. Stiemsma, the 2010 D-League Defensive Player of the year, blocked 6 shots. If there was a bright spot for Boston in this one, it was the play of the Steamer.
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*Every time Chris Kaman does anything good, they play a clip of Chewbacca yelling. Nothing like a good Star Wars reference. I guess Kaman does kind of resemble a Wookiee. Tall, hairy, physical...
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*28 year old Carldell "Squeaky" Johnson also made his NBA debut tonight. The former UAB star scored his first NBA point on a technical free throw in the 4th quarter. Squeaky is the Brian Scalabrine of the Hornets. I'd never even heard of this guy, but the Hornets fans were all about him.
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*The Hornets have a cheer that makes no sense to me. They want everyone in the audience to 'Raise the House'. I've heard of Raise the Roof, but I don't know what Raise the House is supposed to be. They even have a cartoon guy on the jumbotron jacking up a house. Can anyone explain that one to me?

*Five years ago I went to the Celtics home opener when they opened their season against the Hornets. Tonight's game between the same two teams featured only one player that appeared in that game, Rajon Rondo. Paul Pierce started that game for the Celtics, but didn't play tonight, and Brandon Bass was actually on the Hornets, and was the only player who dressed for them that didn't get into the game. Some of the players who did play in that game? Peja Stojakovic, Tyson Chandler, Chris Paul, David West, Al Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins, Wally Szczerbiak, Sebastian Telfair and Tony Allen. What a difference five years makes.

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