Hornets 89, Celtics 80

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NEW ORLEANS (AP)—Jamaal Magloire has been the New Orleans Hornets’ one consistent force during their recent slide from fourth to sixth in the Eastern Conference.

He came through again with 23 points—including six dunks—and 17 rebounds in the Hornets’ 89-80 victory over the Boston Celtics on Friday night.

“Magloire was really big again. He’s just been so consistent,” Hornets coach Tim Floyd said of the fourth-year center, who now has 42 double-doubles this season—20 in his last 24 games.

Baron Davis remained sidelined with a sprained left ankle and may not play Saturday night in Milwaukee. But fellow guard David Wesley, who missed the Hornets previous game and practice with a sore sprained left big toe, scored 19 points on 7-of-16 shooting, hitting a pair of 3-pointers.

“I’m just trying to find a rhythm to play with” the pain, Wesley said. “It’s been a while since I’ve had numbers like that.”

The Hornets got 15 points from George Lynch, starting because he defended Paul Pierce well in New Orleans’ three other victories over Boston. Lynch had three second-half 3-pointers and helped hold Pierce to 5-of-16 shooting as New Orleans completed a four-game season sweep of Boston.

Pierce said soreness in his right ankle from a recent sprain also affected his play.

“They played a good team defense … I was hampered a little bit,” Pierce said. “We settled too much for the outside shots. They pounded us on the inside and wore us down.”

Lynch’s third 3 capped a 7-0 run that gave New Orleans an 80-68 lead with just over three minutes remaining, and the Celtics didn’t threaten again.

New Orleans remained a game behind Miami for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Miami also won, eliminating Cleveland from playoff contention.

Boston, meanwhile, inched closer to clinching despite the loss because its only remaining pursuer, Philadelphia, lost to Washington. Boston now needs only one victory or a Philadelphia loss to make the playoffs.

“Win this game and we go to the playoffs. You’d think we’d play with a greater sense of urgency. But we just didn’t,” Pierce said.

“What also scared me the most about this team: Some days it seems like we have it and other days it seems like we don’t,” Pierce added. “You’ve got to be mentally tough when the playoffs come and we don’t have that, collectively or consistently. I wish I was God. I’d bless everybody with it. But it has to come from each individual.”

Reserve Ricky Davis led the Celtics with 23 points. Some of his baskets were highlight-reel worthy, but he had a few lapses as well. He elected to dunk in the final seconds of the third quarter, and the basket ended up being waved off for coming a split-second late.

And with Boston down 69-64 midway through the final period, Davis soared for an offensive rebound but missed a dunk when he tried to slam it down with one hand. The Celtics got the rebound, and Davis took a 3 that missed.

On the Celtics’ next trip, a fast break, Davis missed a reverse layup and complained that he was fouled.

Pierce finished with 16 points, while Mark Blount had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

But the Celtics as a whole had trouble shooting, finishing at 32 percent— the lowest percentage against New Orleans this season—including 7-of-27 from 3-point range. The Hornets shot 40 percent and outrebounded Boston 55-46.

New Orleans led by as many as nine points in the first half as Magloire got off to a strong start with five dunks through the first two periods.

Lynch held Pierce to 1-of-7 shooting through nearly the entire first half.

But Davis came on to keep Boston close with shots ranging from a 3-pointer to a two-handed alley-oop jam. On the latter basket he jumped so far above the rim to catch Chucky Atkins’ seemingly overthrown pass he caused even the hostile crowd to ooh and ah in amazement.

In the last minute of the second quarter, Pierce hit two more shots, thesecond a 14-foot fade in the lane, giving Boston a 43-41 lead at halftime.

Notes

Hornets coach Tim Floyd does not expect reserve shooting guard Courtney Alexander—rehabilitating his right Achilles’ tendon from a preseason tear— back for the playoffs. “I think as far as we’re concerned we’re ruling that out,” Floyd said. Alexander returned to New Orleans several weeks ago to work out and said he wants to return this season. But Floyd said he doubted that was realistic “given the severity of the injury. … All I’ve seen him do is jog.” … The Hornets (39-40) need to win two of their last three games toavoid their first losing season in 11 years.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Boston
R. Davis R. Davis
8-19,  23 Pts
6 Rebs, 2 Assists
 New Orleans
J. Magloire J. Magloire
9-21,  23 Pts
17 Rebs, 1 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists