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Celtics-Hornets Preview

Feb 9, 2010 - 11:48 PM By KATE HEDLIN STATS Writer

Boston (32-17) at New Orleans (27-25), 8:00 p.m. EDT

Regardless of the outcome of their next game, the Boston Celtics probably won't be satisfied with their play in recent weeks.

In their final game before the All-Star break, the Celtics visit the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday.

After going 6-11 from Dec. 27-Jan. 31, Boston (32-17) seemed to have turned things around, winning three straight, but it struggled again in a 96-89 loss to Orlando on Sunday.

It was the fourth straight loss to a team with a winning record for the Celtics, who were outscored 36-11 in the third quarter by the Magic and squandered an 11-point halftime lead.

"One of the guys said, 'We're better than Orlando,' and I said, 'No, you're not,'" coach Doc Rivers said. "They knocked you out of the playoffs last year. Orlando's better than us right now. Atlanta's better than us right now. L.A. (Lakers are) better than us right now."

Injuries have been one factor in Boston's recent struggles. Paul Pierce returned Sunday after sitting out two games with a foot injury. He missed five contests in December with a knee injury. Reserve Marquis Daniels also came back after sitting out the previous 28 games with a torn ligament in his thumb.

Kevin Garnett, meanwhile, missed 10 games in January with a knee injury.

The All-Star break will provide some needed rest for the Celtics, who are fighting with Atlanta and Orlando for second place in the Eastern Conference. Wednesday is the team's final game until Feb. 16.

While the time off may help Boston get back on track, it won't be long enough for Chris Paul to recover from knee surgery.

With a 123-117 loss to Orlando on Monday, New Orleans fell to 2-4 since Paul suffered a knee injury that is expected to keep him sidelined at least a month.

Peja Stojakovic scored 29 points and Paul's backup, rookie Daren Collison, finished with a season-high 27. Collison, who is averaging 8.1 points overall, has scored 22.7 per game over his last three.

"It is tough (playing with out Chris Paul and directing the offense)," Collison said. "It is real tough but I don't think we have any choice right now. I am more than willing to do this job because I know what it takes to be a point guard and play behind Chris. I have to do the job and I have to do a good job."

The Hornets especially need to do a better job defensively. They are allowing 106.4 points over the last five games and opponents are shooting close to 50.0 percent over that stretch. For the season, New Orleans' opponents are averaging 101.5 points and shooting 47.3 percent.

The 123 points Orlando scored Monday was one point shy of matching a season high in points allowed.

"We understand we are not going to blow anybody out, but we have to scrap and fight and we will put ourselves in position to win a lot of games," David West said.

The offense, though, was a bigger problem in a 97-87 loss to Boston on Nov. 1. West, who is averaging 18.1 points, was held to 10 on 4-of-14 shooting. Pierce scored 27 points in the victory.

The Hornets, who have lost four straight at home, have won two of three at home against the Celtics.