C's Add Hornets to List of Vanquished


C's Add Hornets to List of Vanquished

The entire league has now succumbed to the Celtics.

With last night's 112-92 win over the New Orleans Hornets at TD Banknorth Garden, the Celtics have beaten every team in the NBA.

The Celtics' trimmed their magic number to 4, a combination of Celtics wins and Detroit losses, to clinch the best regular-season record in the Eastern Conference. The last time the Celtics defeated every team in the league was the 1990-91 season; the only other team to do it this season is Utah. Boston (57-15) is 25-5 against the Western Conference overall and 14-1 at home.

Paul Pierce scored 27 points and Kevin Garnett added a double-double of 21 points and 13 rebounds. Chris Paul had 22 points and 10 assists for New Orleans (49-22), which entered the game with the Western Conference's top record.

The Celtics host the NBA's worst team tomorrow night - Miami - and play their final 10 games against teams that likely - at best - have a chance to finish eighth in the Eastern Conference.

Nationally, the Celtics are considered the Eastern Conference's top team. While the Hornets sit atop the West, they are not considered the top team, primarily because they haven't been to the playoffs since 2004 and are led by point guard Paul, who has yet to play in the postseason.

"I really don't care what people think," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "I'm not paying it any attention."

Said Hornets center Tyson Chandler: "They're probably not [predicting us to make the NBA Finals] just because people are still surprised we are in first place at this point in the season. I don't think we're getting much respect. They think we may not even make it past the first round."

The Celtics shot 63.2 percent in the first quarter en route to a 30-24 lead. Pierce and Rajon Rondo had 8 points apiece. The Hornets shot 39.1 percent and allowed 20 points in the paint.

The Hornets opened the second quarter with a 17-6 run, finalized by a Bonzi Wells putback, to take a 41-36 lead. The Celtics responded with a 7-0 run punctuated by a Ray Allen 3-pointer to take a 43-41 lead with 5:46 left. Peja Stojakovic's 3-pointer gave New Orleans a 60-56 lead with 0.2 seconds left in the half.

The Hornets outscored the Celtics, 36-26, in the second by making 15 of 25 from the floor and nailing three 3-pointers. Paul and Wells had 8 points each to lead New Orleans. Garnett, Pierce, and Stojakovic had 13 points at halftime.

The Celtics scored the first 8 points of the third quarter, 6 from Garnett, to take a 64-60 lead. But back-to-back 3-pointers by Paul and Stojakovic put New Orleans back up, 66-64. The Celtics used a 22-7 run to take an 86-73 lead with 58.6 seconds left in the third. David West went to the bench with 42.5 seconds left in the third after receiving his third foul in the quarter. The Celtics led after three, 88-75.

Two straight Eddie House 3-pointers gave the Celtics an 18-point lead, 96-78, with 10:07 remaining in the fourth quarter. A House jumper gave Boston a 100-80 lead with 7:33 left and the Hornets never challenged after that.

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