West keys turnaround

NEW ORLEANS -- It might have only been Delonte West’s third game back with Boston since he injured his ankle, but the hybrid guard was in midseason form against New Orleans, leading the team on a 21-6 run that turned the game around in the third quarter.

West checked out with 9 points (on 4-of-5 shooting), 5 assists and 1 rebound in 19 minutes, but confessed it will be a while before he’s feeling physically healed.

“I’m a left-handed player and I like to spring off my right leg,’’ West explained, “but I can’t get the lift I want just yet. And I’m also running around with a brace on my right arm.

“I tried to jump and dunk, but then I see [Emeka] Okafur and I start getting timid about hitting the ground.’’

West said his ankle is “getting stronger every day,’’ and he's hopeful the spring in his jump will return before the year is out.

Doc Rivers said he forced the issue with West by calling for him to operate out of the post.

“I knew he was running out of gas when we called the play again and he waved it off,’’ Rivers said.

Points at a permium: Scoring has been a challenge for the Celtics on this mini-road trip, but as Kevin Garnett pointed out again after the 89-85 victory over the Hornets, it’s defense that puts them in position to win games. Boston held New Orleans to 13 points in the third quarter on 28.6 percent shooting (6-21).

“We won this one on pure defense,’’ Garnett said. “When everything else is going [expletive], we always have that.’’

Lost weekend: Paul Pierce was an abysmal 1-of-9 from the floor but finished with 9 points on 6-of-6 free throw shooting. That, combined with a 2-for-10 performance against Houston on Friday, gave him a weekend total of 3-for-19 (15.5 percent).

The one basket Pierce buried against New Orleans was a signficant one. David West had cut Boston’s lead to 78-75 with 6:12 left in the game when Ray Allen misfired on a jumper. Nenad Krstic kept the possession alive for Boston, and Pierce nailed a three-pointer to push the advantage to six.

“[Against Houston] I had no rhythm, but against New Orleans I did have some rhythm,’’ Pierce said. “All my shots felt good. I just missed them.’’

Jeff Green (10 points on 5-of-7 shooting) played so well in his place, Rivers kept Pierce on the bench for extended minutes in the third quarter. Pierce finished with 34 minutes.

Odds and ends: Ray Allen logged 44 minutes and quietly gave the Celtics a team-high 20 points, which was matched by Glen Davis. Even more encouraging than Davis’ 20 points were his eight rebounds, a point of emphasis with the coaching staff ... The Hornets outrebounded Boston 38-33, including 10-6 on the offensive glass ... The Celtics shot 75 percent (12-for-16) in the final quarter ... Boston’s bench outscored New Orleans’ bench 39-6.