Ray Allen and the Boston Celtics look to notch their first win of the lockout-shortened season when they face the new-look New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday night at New Orleans Arena.
Event: Boston Celtics (0-2) vs. New Orleans Hornets (1-0) - NBA Regular Season, Game 3.
Date/Time: December 28, 2011 - 8:00 p.m. EDT.
Location: New Orleans Arena (Capacity: 19,000), New Orleans, LA.
Broadcast Info: Wednesday night's game between the Celtics and Hornets will be televised regionally on Comcast SportsNet New England, with Mike Gorman, Tommy Heinsohn and Greg Dickerson calling the action courtside. Additionally, the game will also be broadcast nationally on NBA TV. The game can also be heard on the radio on the WEEI Sports Radio Network, with Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell on the call.
Odds: Boston is a three-point favorite over New Orleans on Wednesday night.
Celtics Roster 2011-12: Ray Allen, Brandon Bass, Avery Bradley, Marquis Daniels, Keyon Dooling, Kevin Garnett, JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, Jermaine O'Neal, Sasha Pavlovic, Mickael Pietrus, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Greg Stiemsma, Chris Wilcox. Head Coach: Doc Rivers.
Hornets Roster 2011-12: Al-Farouq Aminu, Trevor Ariza, Gustavo Ayon, Marco Belinelli, Eric Gordon, Jarrett Jack, Carldell Johnson, Trey Johnson, Chris Kaman, Carl Landry, Emeka Okafor, Jason Smith, DaJuan Summers, Lance Thomas, Greivis Vasquez. Head Coach: Monty Williams.
Boston And New Orleans In 2010-11: The Celtics and Hornets met twice last season, with each team winning on the other team's home court. Boston was edged 83-81 in the first meeting in December at TD Garden behind a 20-point, 11-assist performance from ex-Hornet Chris Paul. The C's responded with an 89-85 win in New Orleans in March.
Last Time Out: Boston was defeated by Miami, 115-107, on Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. Ray Allen led all scorers with 28 points and Rajon Rondo added 22 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds for the Celtics, who shot 51.4 percent in defeat. Keyon Dooling scored 18 points off the bench and Brandon Bass added 13 points and five boards. Kevin Garnett finished with 12 points and five rebounds and Marquis Daniels scored nine points for Boston.
New Orleans was triumphant against the Phoenix Suns, 85-84, in the season opener on Monday. Eric Gordon scored 20 points to lead the team in his first game with the Hornets, who had six players score in double digits.Carl Landry scored 14 points, Trevor Ariza added 13 points and Marco Belinelli, Chris Kaman and Greivis Vasquez all had 10 points.
Statistical Leaders: Rajon Rondo is the Celtics' leading scorer (26.5 PPG) through two games and leads the team in assists (12.5 APG) and steals (2.5 SPG). Brandon Bass is the team's rebounding leader (8.0 RPG) while Kevin Garnett averages a team-best 2.5 blocks per game.
Eric Gordon is the Clippers' leading scorer, averaging 20 points, and also averages a team-high 3.0 assists. Emeka Okafor leads the team in rebounding (9.0 RPG) and blocks (2.0 BPG) and Greivis Vasquez averages 3.0 steals.
Storyline: Doc Rivers and the Celtics continue to look for answers after two losses to start the season, both of which featured poor starts but ended with strong play. The Celtics lost by two points to the New York Knicks, 106-104, on Christmas Day before falling to the Miami Heat, 115-107, on Tuesday night. Clearly, offense has not been the problem.
What has been problematic for Boston is the team's defense and high amount of turnovers. The Celtics have given up an average of 110.5 points in their first two games while turning the ball over 42 times in 96 minutes (18 times against New York and 24 times against Miami).
Some of the C's inconsistencies can be blamed on the short amount of preparation time they had for the season due to the NBA Lockout, but every team is going through the same issues. Boston's early struggles also have to do with the fact that the team is without its leading scorer of the past decade, Paul Pierce, who is still sidelined with a bruised right heel and may return for the team's home opener against the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.
Despite the numerous problems in Boston, there is even more uncertainty in New Orleans. The Hornets dealt away star point guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for a hearty helping of talent, including Eric Gordon and Chris Kaman. Gordon certainly isn't on Paul's level in terms of play, but he is a rising young star who should be a mainstay in the league for years to come. Don't expect New Orleans to win a title anytime soon, but they won't be pushovers, either.
As for Wednesday night's game, the Hornets have the all-important extra night of rest and has played one less game than Boston has. Meanwhile, we all know that the Celtics -- with their aging core of the Big Three and other veterans -- have been known to struggle mightily in the second game of back-to-back contests. The C's are three-point favorites, so don't expect this game to be a blowout in either direction.
Players To Watch: With the continual absence of Paul Pierce, the scoring of Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett takes on an even bigger role. If those two can score, the Celtics will usually have a shot at winning any game they play in. Rajon Rondo's offensive growth has also been encouraging, and if he can reach the 20-point mark, it will be a definite plus for Boston. For the Clippers, look for Eric Gordon to carry the scoring load and Emeka Okafor to have a presence inside.
Prediction: Even with the Celtics playing on the second night of a back-to-back, they know how important it is to cut their mini two-game slide off before it gets any worse. Expect a determined Celtics team to bring home their first win of the 2011-12 season. Final Score: Celtics 98, Hornets 92.