Hornets 106, Celtics 88
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP)—Byron Scott wanted his Hornets to play like they weren’t in the middle of a playoff race.
The result was the team’s second biggest blowout of the season.
Tyson Chandler scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and the Hornets bounced back after Boston’s quick start to overwhelm the Celtics 106-88 on Monday night.
“They looked focused more than anything. I didn’t sense any tension or anything like that,” New Orleans’ coach said. “I just sensed a team that looked pretty focused from the start.”
The Celtics couldn’t miss at the beginning, but then had only nine points in the second quarter—their lowest total in a quarter this season—as the Hornets took control.
“I think we picked up the defense somewhat, but at the same time I think that we were fortunate that they missed shots,” Hornets point guard Chris Paul said. “They got a lot of the same shots they did in the first quarter. They just cooled off a little bit, and that played in our favor.”
Boston trailed by 17 at halftime and was never closer than 15 after that. After Paul Pierce’s jumper got the Celtics within 66-51 midway through the third period, New Orleans scored 20 of the next 25 points.
Boston got nine straight points against Hornets reserves to get within 88-67, but that’s as close as it got.
“They really didn’t have an answer for our pace we played at,” New Orleans forward David West said. “That’s why I think we were able to really open it up. We were playing at their pace in that first quarter. In the second quarter, we got the game going, got in our groove and were able to open it up.”
Butler scored eight of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, and New Orleans ended up with five players in double figures.
Paul added 15 points, West scored 12 and Desmond Mason had 11 for the Hornets, who moved within 1 1/2 games of Golden State for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
But Scott didn’t want his team thinking about it in those terms. He preferred for the Hornets to play “loose” like the Celtics, with the NBA’s second-worst record, did in winning at San Antonio in their previous game.
“I think that’s the problem. Everybody keeps talking about the playoffs and all this other stuff and the race,” Scott said before the game. “Like I told them a couple of weeks ago, `We have no choice. We’re going to be in a race.’
“I think we’re thinking about it too much instead of just going out there and playing. Enjoy it. Have fun.”
After reaching as high as seventh place in the West after the All-Star break, the Hornets had lost seven of eight to fall to 10th place. They play at Memphis, which has the NBA’s worst record, on Tuesday night.
Pierce said he thought the Hornets played with a purpose in their search for the playoffs, and Boston didn’t—even after the impressive win over the Spurs two nights earlier.
“That is the NBA. You are going to have your highs and you are going to have your lows,” Pierce said. “I thought we would play a lot better than how we did tonight. They got a lot of loose balls and had the extra effort.
“They pretty much had their way with us.”
Boston used a 17-5 run to open a 19-12 lead after Pierce’s second 3-pointer in the first 5 minutes. Pierce also had a three-point play as the Celtics hit their first nine shots.
Pierce’s third 3-pointer of the game stretched Boston’s lead to eight in the final minute of the opening quarter. But the four-time All-Star’s first rest on the bench sparked an elongated drought for his team.
The Celtics didn’t score on their next 13 possessions, and New Orleans scored 11 straight points to take a 34-31 lead on Chandler’s basket along the left baseline.
Even Pierce’s return didn’t help the Celtics much. Kendrick Perkins converted a three-point play on Pierce’s first possession back on the court to tie it at 34, but the Hornets started to pull away after that.
Boston scored only five points in the first 10 minutes of the second quarter, and avoided its lowest scoring quarter in team history with a layup by Al Jefferson in the final 2 minutes before halftime.
The Hornets led 57-40 at the half after outscoring Boston 31-9 in the second quarter.
The Celtics shot 3-for-20 in the second quarter. Boston’s franchise low for scoring in a quarter is six points in the second period of a Jan. 9, 1990 game against New Jersey. … The Hornets had their ninth sellout of the season, and the eighth in Oklahoma City. There were 18 sellouts in Oklahoma City last season. … Chris Tuton, a Hornets fan who is 90 percent blind, sat on the team’s bench during pregame warmups and met players and coaches. An employee of the Oklahoma League for the Blind, Tuton said he still enjoys shooting hoops. “Some people ask me how can I shoot when I can’t see the basket, but if you watch the NBA a lot of times they’re not even looking at the basket when they shoot. They have to shoot so quick that a lot of times it’s just reaction. It’s the same with me.”