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Saturday, March 19, 2011
Game 68: Celtics vs. Hornets

By Greg Payne

(48-19, 19-13 away)     -- vs. --     (40-30, 24-10 home)
at New Orleans Arena, 8 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)

PAYNE'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH
GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)
Home-court advantage in the first round is likely out the window for New Orleans (40-30), but finishing as high as fifth in the West -- which would allow it to avoid the Spurs, Lakers and Mavericks in the first round -- is a distinct possibility.

The Hornets are currently percentage points behind Portland for sixth place, and 1 1/2 games behind fifth-place Denver. Most importantly, Chris Paul doesn't seem to be showing any lingering effects from his recent concussion. The points guard has averaged 28.7 points, 11.3 assists and five steals in three games since his return, and scored a game-high 26 in Wednesday's 100-95 victory over Phoenix.

"I just try to be aggressive," Paul said. "I've learned, watching all the games, that if I'm aggressive early, it makes the defense collapse on me and it makes my teammates open even more."

Paul had a similarly balanced game Dec. 31 at Boston. He had 20 points, 11 assists, six steals and five boards as New Orleans edged a Celtics team missing Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo 83-81.

The Hornets won't have the luxury of avoiding Garnett or Rondo this time around, but Paul is at least catching Rondo in the midst of a horrendous slump. The two-time All-Star has totaled eight points in his last four games while shooting 4 for 29 (13.8 percent) from the field.

Read the full preview HERE.