The Boston Celtics try to rebound after getting waxed by the Houston Rockets last night, however the New Orleans Hornets have other plans in mind for the Celtics.

Chris PaulIf I were to guarantee you that the high flying Rockets would score only 93 points against the Celtics last night, you probably would have plunked down more than your average unit wager on the Green.  However, it was the Celtics who succumbed to a smothering defense and were beaten and battered at both ends of the floor in a 93-77 drubbing against the Rockets.  Meanwhile, the New Orleans Hornets have just been laying in wait since their 100-95 win over the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night.

The Boston Celtics (48-19 SU, 30-34-3 ATS) now have 3 consecutive road losses while back to back affairs this late in the season is not what the creaky bones of Pierce, Garnett and Ray Allen need especially on the highway.  But the NBA has a grueling schedule and no team is exempt. 

The only positive thing(s) about last night’s humiliation in Houston is that coach Doc Rivers had the good sense not to try and catch a train that had already left the station (and in addition, this space predicted a low scoring affair and advised a play on the under 197).  He rested his starters in the 4th quarter of a game that was well out of reach in preparation for tonight’s meeting with the Hornets at the New Orleans Arena.

The New Orleans Hornets (40-30 SU, 34-33-3 ATS) finish off a 5 game homestand where they have secured victories over the Mavericks, Kings and Suns while bowing only to the rejuvenated Nuggets.  Chris Paul is the straw that stirs the drink in Cajun country and his unfriendly competition with Celtics point guard extraordinaire will be fun to watch. 

Rajon RondoHowever, Hornets center Emeka Okafor could play a pivotal role as he did in their only meeting of the season with the Celtics when he pulled down 13 boards to go along with 18 points and 3 blocked shots.  The Hornets went on to steal that game on New Year’s Eve day in an 83-81 nail biter at the Garden.

It was indeed another example of the Celtics playing tough defense but not being able to score more than their opponent, similar to last night when they limited Houston to 12 points below their average yet still lost the game.  The Celtics are slumping and their propensity to lose the second leg of back to back affairs is alarming as they have now lost the last four times on the back end of a back to backer. 

The Celtics are also a team without the big man in the middle, Shaquille O’Neal.  Even if Shaq does get the green light from the team doctors and suits up, he does so with very limited practice and without playing in anger for well over a month. 

Perhaps of even more consequence is the play of slumping point guard Rajon Rondo.  It isn’t surprising to note that as he goes, so go the Celtics.  Rondo is a mind numbingly low 13% from the field over his last 4 games and the assists which he doled out so effortlessly throughout the season has taken a precipitous dip as well.  He has not recorded double digit assists in 7 straight games despite a season average of 11.8 assists/game. 

The Hornets are 24-10 at home this season straight up and with the NBA odds makers making this game virtually a pick, we don’t have to concern ourselves with a point spread cover.  The Celtics are tired, slumping and emotionally defeated after last night’s blowout loss to the Rockets. 

If you’re inclined to hang your hat on the fact that coach Doc rested his starters in the 4th quarter, look no further than Sunday’s game against Milwaukee when the team suffocated the Bucks 87-56.  It was in that game that Doc Rivers rested his starters in the 4th in anticipation of battling the Nets the following evening.  The Celtics bombed in Jersey, dropping an 88-79 decision as 5 ½ point road favorites.  Why should tonight be any different against a team that is vastly superior to the Nets? 

My Pick: I’ll take New Orleans +1.