Beyond the numbers: Hornets might be just what Horford needs


When you look at the two-game slide the Celtics are currently riding, it’s a given that there are many who need to play better.
Without question, Al Horford is near the top of that list.
If history is any indicator, tonight’s game against Charlotte should be a breakout-type performance for the veteran big man.
Horford has averaged 18.0 points in the three games he has faced the Hornets this season, which is tied for his highest scoring average against any team he has played this season (he also averages 18.0 per game against Washington).
And truthfully, it’s difficult to imagine Horford playing any worse than he did in the 123-116 loss at Atlanta on Thursday.
Against the Hawks, Horford had just four points on 1-for-8 shooting, with five rebounds, three assists and one blocked shot.
Here are some other factors to keep an eye on as Boston tries to inch one step closer to securing one of the top two seeds in the Eastern Conference.
Limit second-chance points: Boston got absolutely crushed by the Hawks on the offensive glass, which led to Atlanta scoring 25, second-chance points. That’s not all that surprising when you consider the Celtics give up 14.1 second-chance points per game which is the fourth-highest average in the NBA.
Three-point shooting: It isn’t as much about the volume of Boston’s 3-point shooting, but the consistency by which they knock 3-pointers down. When Boston shoots at least 40 percent from 3-point range this season, they have an impressive 17-1 record.

Olynyk factor: With Amir Johnson (sick) out, Kelly Olynyk gets the start. Olynyk playing well typically means the Celtics are playing well. This season, they are 23-6 when he shoots at least 50 percent from 3-point range. And when he makes at least one 3-pointer, Boston has an impressive 33-9 record.
Cash in from the line: Getting free throws will be among the many challenges for Boston tonight. They face a Charlotte team that commits the fewest fouls (16.7) per game, in addition to turning the ball over a league-low 11.5 times per game.

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