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Celtics Nip Hornets

The Boston Celtics made clutch free throws late to defeat the Hornets 89-85 at the Hive Saturday night. The soldout crowd in New Orleans left the arena unhappy, as the Hornets fell to 7th in the Western Conference, only one game back of Portland and a game and a half back of Denver. Here is more from the AP and, followed by blogging and analysis from Scott Prather.

David West led New Orleans with 32 points. Marco Belinelli added a season-high 23 points, but Chris Paul went without a basket for only the fourth time in his career, finishing 0 of 9 from the floor.

“It’s going to be hard for us to win if I play like that,” said Paul, who did have 15 assists. “I’ve got to do better. We lose by four points, and I play like that.”

Paul barely grazed the rim on a runner in the lane that would have tied it at 83 late in the game, and Emeka Okafor was tied up for a jump ball as he went for the putback. The Hornets controlled the tip, but Belinelli was stripped as he drove to the basket.

Paul, who had been averaging over 25 points a game since his return from a concussion, could not hit anything. In the last few outings when Paul has been hot from the field, West has struggled with his offense. Tonight, Paul did not have a single FG, while David West led all scorers with 32. The two Hornet captains need to put it together on the same night for this team to truly have a legitimate chance to beat the NBA’s elite in a 7 game series.

West showed his feisty nature several times last night. Garnett, who gave West a not so inadvertant elbow, along with Nenad Kristic, who slapped West’s chest after a dead ball, seemed to get under David’s skin. West’s offense was fantastic, but his defense looked like it did two seasons ago, absent at times. Missed free throws, Paul’s poor shooting, and terrible bench play, are the three reasons the Hornets lost a game they should have won. Defensively, with the exception of West in the fourth quarter, New Orleans showed why it sports the top ranked defense in the Western Conference.

Hornet defense will need to carry over to the road, where the Hornets are 16-20. Only a game and a half up on 8th seeded Memphis, New Orleans has a tough three game road trip on the horizon. Thursday night they play in Salt Lake City, followed by a red eye flight to Phoenix to play the Suns on Friday, and then must rest up for a Sunday matchup with the surging Lakers. It is imperative the Hornets win two of these three games. However, one game would most likely keep them in the 7 spot for another week in the standings.

It’s crunchtime, and New Orleans needs to start putting together complete games on the offensive end of the floor. Defense is great, but does you no good if you can only score 85.

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