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Fast Break: C’s bob and weave to victory

03.26.12 at 9:46 pm ET
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No Ray Allen or Mickael Pietrus? No problem for the Celtics. Riding the coattails of Paul Pierce (36 points on 10-of-20 shooting, 10 rebounds) and Kevin Garnett (24 points on 10-of-20 shooting), the Celtics won their second game in 48 hours in Charlotte on Monday night, 102-95.

The Celtics are now tied with the 76ers in first place in the Atlantic Division (Philly owns the tiebreaker) and are 12-5 since the All-Star break. They could get Allen back on Wednesday night when they return to the Garden to face the Jazz.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Backing up the Truth: Sunday night Pierce said the Celtics should beat teams like the Wizards, who are in rebuilding mode. The seven-win Bobcats fall under the same umbrella as the Wizards, and Pierce helped make sure Monday’s “gimme game” did not turn into an ignominious loss. His line in the first half filled up the stat sheet: 17 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals and even two blocks.

In the second half Pierce continued to lead the way, scoring 10 points in the third quarter to give the Celtics some breathing room after the Bobcats crept back into the game. The captain was stellar, cutting to the basket and engaging in an aggressive style of play to help set the tone. He earned 18 trips to the foul line (converting 15 attempts).

Avery Ascent: This is the second stint this season in which Avery Bradley has played with the starting unit (earlier this season he started eight games while Rajon Rondo recovered from a wrist injury). In both instances the 21 year-old has risen to the occasion and flashed great potential.

Anyone watching the Celtics this season knows Bradley plays tenacious defense, but what has been a positive sign for Bradley has been his offensive growth. He was productive again Monday night, scoring 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting.

Board to death: For the first time in a long time, the Celtics weren’t annihilated in the rebounding department. No, no, no. In fact, Boston grabbed eight offensive boards, and held an overall 37-33 advantage on the glass.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Reluctant Rondo: Going into Monday night’s game, Rondo had been extremely passive. The last three games Rondo has only taken 19 shots and scored 20 points. Always the enigma, the cerebral point guard has 42 assists over that same stretch, so it’s difficult to fault his performances.

The trend continued against the Bobcats as Rondo had 13 assists (nine in the first half), but only had seven points on 1-of-7 shooting. Against non-lottery bound teams the Celtics will need Rondo to assert himself more in the scoring department.

Nine lives: The Celtics were great in the first quarter. Against an inferior team on the road, Boston jumped out to an 18-point lead at the end of the first 12 minutes. Dreams of an early blowout vanished after a dismal effort in the second frame. Boston executed poorly offensively and even worse on defense, as they were outscored 35-19 in the second quarter.

The Bobcats managed to hang around late, cutting the lead down to four with just under two minutes left, despite the Celtics holding a double-digit lead early in the fourth quarter. The Celtics were able to stave off the run, but things were still more difficult and uncomfortable than they needed to be.

Help wanted!: It’s tough to jump on the Celtics bench for its lack of scoring. With Bradley starting in place of Allen, and Pietrus still unavailable, one figured the starters would have to carry the load (again). Unforeseen, however, was the Bobcats bench keeping Charlotte in contention. In the first half Byron Mullens, Derrick Brown and DeSagana Diop — you’re probably muttering to yourself “Who? Who?? Who?!?!” — combined for 30 points on 12-of-21 shooting and were vital to their second-quarter comeback.

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