Celtics Overtime is a postgame feature providing extra news, notes and analysis from each game. On Wednesday, the Boston Celtics were defeated by the New Orleans Hornets, 97-78.
Finally, the Boston Celtics were going to get back on track. After two tough losses to the New York Knicks and Miami Heat to open the season, the C's had a cupcake game against a rebuilding New Orleans Hornets team. To top it all off, the Hornets were without their star player in Eric Gordon. What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, a lot.
Boston opened the game on a 9-2 run and appeared to be on the verge of turning the page on their early season struggles. Then, the sloppy play and porous defense returned, and the Hornets had their way for the rest of the game.
New Orleans used a 9-2 run to close out the first quarter with a 24-18 lead and outscored the C's 24-21 in the second quarter to build a 48-39 lead at halftime. Both teams played relatively evenly in the third quarter, with each squad scoring 24 points. The Hornets had a 25-15 scoring advantage in the fourth quarter to secure their second win of the season.
Like always, there were some positives, but plenty of negatives. Positives first, though.
Greg Stiemsma Proves His Worth Defensively
It's never good when you hear the television crew say that Greg Stiemsma was the Celtics' only bright spot of the night. That usually means that it was a pretty bad night, and it was. However, Stiemsma showed to the world that he means business. The reigning NBDL Defensive Player of the Year had a game-high (and a Celtics season high) six blocks and four rebounds in 20 minutes. Stiemsma is not a viable threat on offense -- he had two points on Wednesday -- but he is looking like an NBA defender. That's a good thing for a Celtics team that has struggled mightily on defense this season. Stiemsma will only be active in the case of an injury, such as the current injury to Chris Wilcox. For now, though, the Stiemroller is a welcome addition.
Turnovers Decreased, But So Did Offense
The good news? Turnovers were down on Wednesday, with the Celtics coughing the ball up just 12 times. Not perfect, but a lot better than before. Boston had 42 turnovers in their first two games -- including 24 in the loss to the Miami Heat. However, the Celtics also saw a decrease in their offensive output. Boston had scored 104 points and 107 points respectively in its first two games but was held to 78 points by the Hornets. The C's made 29-of-78 shots to shoot a mediocre 37.2 percent. The thought through the first two games was that it was mostly the defense that was to blame. After Wednesday's performance, it appears that both are problematic.
Rajon Rondo's Limited Offense A Problem
It's hard to believe, but the Celtics have reached a point where they need offense from Rajon Rondo. Through the first two games, they got it. Rondo had 31 points against the Knicks and 22 against the Heat, all while he averaged 12.5 assists. Wednesday, the Celtics didn't get neither points nor assists -- Rondo had 13 points and six dimes. With Paul Pierce out, it is more important than ever that Rondo produced on offense. Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett were good scorers in their day, but the two simply can't be relied on to carry the scoring load anymore. Rondo needs to help.
Bottom Line: Fans were willing to accept the first two losses, mainly because the Celtics made both games interesting in the end. This loss, however, is unacceptable. The C's were facing an inferior opponent that was missing their best player, and they still managed to lose by 19 points. The offense was sub par and the defense was downright bad. It's hard to believe, but the Celtics actually regressed. That's very troubling, and there's no way around it.
Next Up: Boston will look to end its nightmare start when it hosts the lowly Detroit Pistons in the home opener on Friday night at TD Garden. Will the Celtics finally be able to break into the win column? We can only hope so.