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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Anderson tip lifts Horents over Celtics, 87-86

NEW ORLEANS – Anthony Davis outreached Kevin Garnett and Jeff Green for a last-second tip-in, and the New Orleans Hornets snapped a four-game skid with an 87-86 victory over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.

Davis was playing despite missing the morning shootaround with an illness, and finished with nine points and eight rebounds. Ryan Anderson scored 21 points and Gordon 18 for the Hornets. ...

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NEW ORLEANS – Anthony Davis outreached Kevin Garnett and Jeff Green for a last-second tip-in, and the New Orleans Hornets snapped a four-game skid with an 87-86 victory over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.

Davis was playing despite missing the morning shootaround with an illness, and finished with nine points and eight rebounds. Ryan Anderson scored 21 points and Gordon 18 for the Hornets.

Paul Pierce scored 11 points of his 28 points in the last six minutes to nearly lead Boston back from a nine-point deficit, but missed a jumper with 16 seconds left.

Garnett, returning from a two game absence caused by a left thigh injury and the flu, scored 20 – not enough to spare Boston from a second straight loss.

C’s have Miami’s attention

The Celtics are still prohibitive underdogs to win the 2013 NBA championship. They were an outside entity in the race even before they lost two regulars for the season to injury, and, plucky as they have been in recent weeks, their stock has fallen in the Las Vegas futures market.

But it is an important sign for this team that those without the luxury of detachment are still taking them very seriously.

The best team in basketball will never be caught overlooking a matchup with the Celtics. On Monday night, the locals were without Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger, and still the Heat were fully engaged, their early stumble notwithstanding.

It’s fair to say the Celtics have Miami’s attention, and the respect of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade speaks louder than the oddsmakers.

The C’s have won one of their three games against the Heat this season, and it could have been two of three had they made another play or two in the final minute or taken better care of the basketball all night. Twenty-one turnovers are a series of largely self-inflicted wounds against a team whose best offense is derived from transforming your largesse into points in the blink of an ESPN highlight.

The Celts allowed Miami 24 points off their 21 turns on Monday, and they gave up 10 offensive rebounds. When you consider the Heat attempted 13 more field goals than the Bostonians, the most shocking aspect of the evening is that the C’s fell by just two points.

The fact Miami didn’t look panicked when down 17 in the first half is a measure of what has grown in the reflection of the 2012 title trophy. The LeBrons would feel very comfortable about their chances should they meet in the irregular season. But the Heat would never get too comfortable on the court.

Lesser opponents may actually stand a better chance of upsetting Miami, because they could be overlooked to a degree. Ain’t going to happen, mind you, but in the immortal words of Lloyd Christmas, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”

On the other hand, there is no chance the Heat will ever forget the Celtics are in the building.

After Monday’s renewal, Shane Battier spoke of how the C’s bring out the best in a team – by necessity.

“There’s no one in the league that tests your mental capabilities like the Celtics,” he said. “In the Garden, it’s always heated. There always seems to be some controversy, and it’s very easy to get out of whack with these guys. At times it didn’t look like we had our emotions under control, but I’m proud of the way we responded, especially down the stretch, especially in a heated environment like this.”

Battier was talking about a team 16 games behind his in the Eastern Conference standings. Hmmm.

Rivalries can be a rather tricky proposition. They don’t really count unless both teams are willing to play along. And it can’t be just their followers; the players have to be invested in the enmity, as well.

For years, Yankees fans have dismissed Red Sox rooters by pointing to the World Series count and saying the matchup is no big deal in New York. But when anyone looked closer and saw how important the games were to the participants, the true fire burned through.

Boston-Miami (or, more properly, Miami-Boston these days) doesn’t have the natural geographic foundation of Sox-Yankees. But as long as the All-Star cores remain in both locations, the Celtics and Heat will never be just another game, no matter the month.