The Celtics may be 2-8 in the second half of back-to-back sets on the road this season, but it's safe to assume they're more than happy to get right back out on the court on Saturday night in the wake of Friday's no-show in Houston.
Beaten every which way in a dreadful first half by the Rockets en route to a 93-77 loss on Friday, the Celts will look to bounce back in New Orleans against the Hornets (40-30) on Sunday night at 8 p.m. EDT (TV/Radio: CSNNE/WEEI).
New Orleans will be looking to sweep the season series from the Celtics after beating them 83-81 on New Year's Eve at TD Garden. Boston (48-19) was without Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo in that one, with Hornets star point guard Chris Paul doing most of the damage by scoring 20 points, dishing 11 assists, grabbing six steals and posting five boards.
Countering Paul on Saturday will be Rondo, who continues to struggle. He was a paltry 2-for-11 against the Rockets with only six assists, marking his fourth straight subpar performance. Rondo is just 4-for-29 in his last four games and has averaged just 6.5 assists over that stretch, down five per game from his season average.
Rondo's slump has affected the entire Celtics offense, which has scored 100 points or more just three times in nine games this month and has not recorded a 100-point game in five straight outings. Ray Allen has put up just 12.2 PPG in his last five contests, including eight points against Houston, while Paul Pierce has averaged 9.3 points in his last three games on the road and has managed to average 12.4 PPG during the last five games.
Luckily for Boston, their chief competition for first place overall in the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Bulls, lost on Friday night as well, and will be idle on Saturday. A win will vault the C's ahead of the Bulls for the conference's top spot by a half-game.
Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal continues to travel and practice with the team, but will not suit up in the Crescent City and is unlikely to return to game action before the C's return home to face the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night at TD Garden.