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Fast Break: Bobcats take bite out of Celtics 03.25.11 at 10:12 pm ET
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Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett all missed potential go-ahead buckets in the final 30 seconds, and the Celtics suffered their worst loss of the season, 83-81, against a Bobcats team that traded its best player (Gerald Wallace) and sat its next two most talented guys (Stephen Jackson and Tyrus Thomas) with injuries.

After blowing double-digit leads in both halves, the Celtics (50-21) still only trailed 82-81 with 27 seconds remaining. But Pierce (game-high 18 points) missed an ill-conceived, contested jump shot and Gerald Henderson made 1-of-2 free throws to put the Bobcats (28-43) up two with 15 seconds left. Allen and Garnett each missed 3-point attempts in the finals seconds.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Not putting the game away early: After just eight minutes of action, the Celtics had pushed their lead to double digits, and it appeared as though Gino might make an appearance as early as the second quarter. But a lineup that included Glen Davis, Jeff Green, Delonte West and Carlos Arroyo let the Bobcats close the game to 25-19 by the end of the first quarter. Charlotte remained within single digits through halftime.

Not putting the game away late: Just as they did in the first half, the Celtics coughed up a double-digit lead — this time in the fourth quarter, with the starters on the floor. The Bobcats took the lead when Pierce missed a pair of free throws, Henderson grabbed an offensive rebound and laid it in as three C’s watched. Pierce then clanged a 3-point attempt off the backboard and Davis committed his sixth foul. That fourth-quarter stretch defined a game full of poor decisions, as the Celtics settled for jumpers offensively and lacked effort defensively.

Committing turnovers (again): The Celtics committed 18 turnovers in their 90-87 loss to the Grizzlies on Wednesday, and on Friday they picked up where they left off — turning the ball over six times in the first 15 minutes. They finished with 17 turnovers that led to 13 Bobcats points.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Getting Ray Allen involved early: The Celtics’ offense has struggled of late, especially in the first quarter, and Allen’s lack of touches has been part of that dilemma. Not Friday. And definitely not against the Bobcats. Allen took (and made) two 3-pointers in addition to drawing a pair of fouls that led to four free throws. All in all, he recorded 10 of the C’s 25 first-quarter points — the team’s best output for the opening 12 minutes in almost three weeks.

After that, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything else that went right for the Celtics.

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Three-Pointer: Celtics show age before beauty 02.07.11 at 11:42 pm ET
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Ray Allen more than anyone is defying his age with the Celtics this season. (AP)

Even before the Celtics lost for the seventh time this season on the second night of back-to-back games, Rajon Rondo provided the perfect answer as to why.

“We’re old,” said Rondo, who at 24 is the youngest player on the roster outside of the last two guys on the bench, Avery Bradley and Luke Harangody.

The Celtics are indeed old, averaging 31.1 years of age. The good news is that with age comes experience. That’s 902 playoff games and 47 All-Star selections of experience. Generally, that means a lot of victories — just ask the 1997-98 Bulls, who at an average age of 31.6 were the oldest team in NBA history to capture a title, winning 62 games in the regular season and 15 of 21 playoff contests.

But with age also comes aching bodies. Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal have a combined 14 feet and 550 pounds of bodies — logging a total of 66,669 minutes in their careers — that have translated into 47 missed games already this season. Their consistent absences from the lineup means when other injuries occur (i.e., Delonte West, Marquis Daniels and Semih Erden), Doc Rivers’ bench looks like Norman Dale’s in “Hoosiers” when he was forced to play Ollie.

Remarkably, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are defying their ages of 35, 34 and 33, respectively, as the only players on the Celtics’ roster to start 40 of the team’s 51 games. Still, that doesn’t mean their old legs aren’t tired on the second night of back-to-back games.

“I think we have 13 losses, and I know seven of them have come on back-to-backs,” the Celtics coach told reporters after the C’s fell to 38-13 with a 94-89 loss to the Bobcats (click here for the complete recap). “And it’s the same script in five of them, where we win a decent game the day before, we come out, we kind of goof around and then all of a sudden you try to win it in the fourth. Well, then you don’t have anything left.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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Fast Break: Bobcats’ bench bests Celtics at 9:41 pm ET
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Despite leading scorer Stephen Jackson getting ejected, the Bobcats got 19 points and 16 rebounds from Gerald Wallace to hand the Celtics a 94-89 loss Monday night in Charlotte. Shaun Livingston and Gerald Henderson combined for 33 points off the bench for the Bobcats.

Ray Allen led all scorers with 25 points, and Rajon Rondo (10 points, 14 rebounds) produced a double-double for the Celtics (38-13), who maintain a slim lead over the Heat for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

WHAT WENT WRONG

Bench scoring: While a lineup of Nate Robinson, Von Wafer, Luke Harangody, Glen Davis and Allen battled the Bobcats fairly even for the first five minutes of the second quarter, they scored just three points in that stretch. Overall, the Bobcats’ bench outscored its Boston counterpart 44-15 for the game. The 6-foot-7  Livingston (17 points) led the way, using his size advantage against Rondo and Robinson.

Off the mark: When the Celtics’ offense is running on all cylinders, they’ll shoot 60 percent as a team. Against the Bobcats, though, they hovered around 40 percent all night. That’s especially bad when you consider Rondo was seeing the floor well.

Banging the boards: Wallace (16 rebounds) and Kwame Brown (12 rebounds) owned the boards against the Celtics. Wallace is undertandable; Brown isn’t. Together, those two helped the Bobcats out-rebound the C’s by 14 (50-36) for the night. The Celtics really felt the absences of both Shaquille O’Neal and Semih Erden, who sat with injuries.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

The Ray Allen watch: Allen sunk a 3-pointer in the first minute of the game — bringing the magic number to three in order to break Reggie Miller‘s all-time 3-point record. He cut that number to two when he sunk another trey in the third quarter.

At times, though, it appeared Allen might want to wait until Thursday’s home game against the Lakers to set the mark. He must’ve taken more pullup jumpers inside the arc than he had all season. Still, Allen finished with 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting.

Getting under Stephen Jackson’s skin: Earlier this week, when he was sitting on 11 technical fouls for the season and had already been suspended for berating a referee, Jackson said, “If me speaking my mend gets me a tech, hey.” Well, that attitude got him another two technical fouls — in succession — when he thought he got fouled going to the basket. As a result, he was tossed from the game while leading the Bobcats with 11 points at the time.

Brown also picked up a technical when he was fouled by Kendrick Perkins on a layup attempt. Pierce and Kevin Garnett also picked up techs on the night.

Rajon Rondo’s strong start: Just as he did against the Magic, Rondo made it a point to get to the basket right from the opening whistle, which he did rather easily against Bobcats point guard D.J. Augustin. Rondo had 10 points and five assists in the first quarter alone.

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Doc Rivers needs more out of Semih Erden 01.15.11 at 2:05 pm ET
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Doc Rivers admitted after Friday’s escape against the Charlotte Bobcats – without Shaquille O’Neal and Rajon Rondo playing at another level, the Celtics wouldn’t have been too happy.

And rookie Semih Erden would’ve led the list of players feeling pretty miserable.

On a night when the depleted front court needed minutes from their Turkish import, Shaquille O’Neal had to play 35 minutes because Erden – still learning the intricacies of the NBA. Rivers was more than aware that Erden was playing one day after missing practice with a pulled groin.

“Semih, we just needed him more on the floor tonight,” Rivers said. “I just kept telling him, just point, and we’ll get you out, and then we’ll bring you back in and do whatever we can, but we need you tonight. And they went small and we did a great job of not forcing it to them, but letting it come to them in the flow without taking us out of our flow.”

Rivers would not give the rookie a free pass just because of the injury.

“I don’t ask,” Rivers said. “If a guy’s playing, he’s healthy. Listen, they don’t care on the other team.If you’re going to be out on the floor, I don’t want to hear about it and neither does the other team. That’s how we always function, and our guys know that.”

Rondo fell just four rebounds shy of another triple-double while Shaq scored a game-high 23 points in the Celtics’ 99-94 win over the Bobcats Friday night at TD Garden. The Celtics were very effective from long distance, draining 8-of-19 from beyond the arc.

The Celtics joined the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat as 30-game winners, improving to 30-9 on the season and 2-1 on their six-game homestand. They are off until Monday night when they host Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic in the possible return of Kevin Garnett to the Celtics lineup.

And, if called upon, Rivers hopes Erden does his level best to stay on the court.

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Ageless wit and wisdom from Shaquille O’Neal after turning back the clock at 12:15 am ET
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The date was April 8, 2009. The site was New Orleans. Shaquille O’Neal led his Phoenix Suns to a 105-100 win over the Hornets. O’Neal scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and accomplished it in 36 minutes, 38 seconds of action.

That was the last time O’Neal played 35 minutes in a game – before Friday night.

On a night when the Celtics were without three big men and another fell into early foul trouble and had a sore groin, O’Neal delivered the goods.

The 38-year-old center played a season-high 35 minutes, scoring 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting, leading the Celtics to a 99-94 win over Charlotte Friday night at TD Garden. After the game, O’Neal said he wasn’t motivated by Doc Rivers‘ pre-game jab that the future Hall-of-Famer is day-to-day and will be for the rest of the season because “he’s old as hell.”

“I would agree,” O’Neal said without hesitation. “I’ve been around a long time. I knew that whatever happened I was going to be ready. I’ve been in foul trouble and haven’t really played a lot of minutes so there was really no excuse for me to be tired. I just came out and got a few more touches tonight and just did what I do.”

The signs were there early on that Shaq was ready to turn back the clock 5-10 years – like when he ran the court with Rajon Rondo and finished the two-man break by flushing down a jam on an alley-oop from Rondo with 9:36 left in the first quarter.

“It helps a lot when he’s out there looking for me,” O’Neal said of Rondo. “He’s played well. It’s my job when I get the ball I have to finish. Whether its low or a little drop off.”

O’Neal added that he’s on the Celtics to do whatever the team needs, especially while Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Jermaine O’Neal are out of the lineup.

On Friday, it was Shaq who had to help out the bench when Semih Erden picked up fouls early and often. When Erden was whistled for his fourth with 1:29 left in the third quarter, neither Shaq nor coach Doc Rivers were particularly pleased.

“I was [ticked] too. Shaq wants to play but he doesn’t want to play 35 minutes and he had just said coming out, ‘Give me a blow here’ and then bam, bam, Semih’s out,” Rivers said. “With Shaq, it’s just too many minutes. You know, tonight we had no choice. It’s not a big deal for one night; I don’t worry about it. And we don’t play again until Monday, so that’s nice. It came at the right moment.”

It was just Wednesday, when O’Neal played just over 13 minutes, that Rivers felt Shaq took a foul just to get out of the game and get a seat on the bench in the second half.

“You know a lot of times I get fouls helping out so I got to be selective,” O’Neal said. “So I knew we were a big man short so it was like a couple lay ups I knew I had to let go. I was just trying to play smart.”

So how does he go from 13 minutes to 35 minutes, 13 seconds in the span of 48 hours?

“I live in Sudbury and the people at Sudbury Farms won’t allow me to eat junk food,” O’Neal explained. “So I’m eating salad, eating fish. I’m really in shape and work out every night. I’m ready. I came here to be ready.”

As for his role now, O’Neal said he’s not worried about that.

“I’m here to do whatever Doc asks me to do,” O’Neal added. “I knew that whatever happened I was going to be ready. I’ve been in foul trouble and haven’t really played a lot of minutes so there was really no excuse for me to be tired. I just came out and got a few more touches tonight and just did what I do.”

The Celtics are hopeful to have Garnett back on Monday night after a nine-game absence due to a strained right calf.

Oh yeah, Shaq turns 39 on March 6. Maybe Doc will have something special planned for his big man that night.

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The NBA 30 on 30: Blogosphere Forecast (5 of 7) 10.26.10 at 12:13 pm ET
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NBA fans live a team’s ups and downs. They react to every draft pick, trade and free-agent signing. They debate the merits of the 15th man. They find significance in the most insignificant stats. They simply KNOW their team. So, too, do bloggers. That’s why we sought the opinion of the league’s best blogs — one for each of the 30 teams — to break down the team they cover and, of course, the Celtics.

We’ll move to the Eastern Conference’s Southeast Division with the fifth of a seven-part  series (Don’t forget to check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4) …

Atlanta Hawks
ATLANTA HAWKS
by Jason Walker, Peachtree Hoops

Atlanta Hawks coach Larry Drew is interviewed during the NBA basketball team's media day, Monday, Sept. 27, 2010, in Atlanta.

Can Larry Drew get more out of this Hawks team than Mike Woodson did last year? (AP)

ON THE HAWKS: The Hawks spent the summer, once again, reinvesting in the status quo (see Johnson, Joe), which has seen them improve on their record every season since their 13-win nadir in 2004-05.

The major changes were on the bench, where the team replaced Mike Woodson with longtime assistant Larry Drew. Gone are the constant switching defensively and the heavy reliance on iso-sets offensively in favor of a motion offense and playing it straight defensively.

Such change should result in a rise in turnovers, a stat that has always kept the Hawks’ offensive efficiency near the top of the NBA but also kept their best defenders, Josh Smith and Al Horford, in better positions to help the team defensively.

The Hawks were also very fortunate last year in terms of injuries, so their lack of depth didn’t harm them in terms of their regular-season record.

Between the adjustment to new schemes and a likely injury or two to the main core, the Hawks should see the end of their annual increase in win total, but the continued improvement in their younger players (Smith, Horford, Marvin Williams and Jeff Teague) should help balance that somewhat, giving them another 50-win season, fourth in the conference — and getting bounced again in the second round of the playoffs.

ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics have a good thing going … and going … and going with Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, led by one of the most exciting players in basketball in Rajon Rondo.

The true test of whether your franchise is a contender is when the regular season predictions don’t mean jack squat, and the C’s have been in that neighborhood ever since acquiring KG and Ray. It’s a great place to be, and this season is no different.

With a plethora of big men (Shaquille O’Neal, Jermaine O’Neal and Glen Davis) to supplement the core roster in case of any injury up front due to age (and there is considerable age there), Boston should be able to capture home-court again, which makes them a very tough out come postseason time, as they proved so well last season.

I believe they’re a lock for the Eastern Conference Finals.

Charlotte Bobcats
CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
by David Arnott, Rufus on Fire

Charlotte Bobcats players, from right, Stephen Jackson, D.J. Augustin, and Gerald Wallace, share a laugh as they pose for photos during media day for the NBA basketball team in Charlotte, N.C. , Monday, Sept. 27, 2010.

Gerald Wallace (left) and Stephen Jackson (right) will rely on new starting point guard D.J. Augustin to run the offense. (AP)

ON THE BOBCATS: The Bobcats will have a huge hurdle to overcome this season, having lost their starting point guard and starting center (Raymond Felton and Tyson Chandler).

Barring a trade, they’re looking to replace them with D.J. Augustin, a young player Larry Brown seems to despise, and Nazr Mohammed, a center whose sell-by date is long-since passed (last season’s career year notwithstanding).

Even if Gerald Wallace remains an All-Star, and Stephen Jackson and Tyrus Thomas continue playing as well as they did last season for the Cats, they’re going to struggle to get to 40 wins — and could easily finish with near 30 wins.

ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics’ window could be closed this season, given the likely continued decline of Pierce, Garnett and Allen.

There’s also no telling, really, how much Tom Thibodeau meant to the Celtics’ defensive excellence the past few years, and any kind of decline on that end of the floor might be the death knell for them as true title contenders, since no one on the team is a killer offensive threat.

So, give them 50 wins again.

Miami Heat
MIAMI HEAT
by Benny Vargas, All U Can Heat

Miami Heat's Dwyane Wade, left, Chris Bosh, center, and LeBron James react on the bench during the second quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2010 in San Antonio.

The success of Miami's Big 3 may depend on what they get from their bench. (AP)

ON THE HEAT: After a much ballyhooed offseason, the Heat enter the 2010-11 season as legitimate title contenders.

The additions of Chris Bosh and LeBron James along with the re-signing of Dwyane Wade has caused a seismic wave throughout the league, which could signal the beginning of a new NBA dynasty on South Beach.

Miami will have to battle through glaring holes at the 1 and 5 spots, despite their newly assembled constellation of stars.

The Heat must find a way to become a cohesive unit, within an 82-game span, leading into the playoffs. Once the postseason gets underway, expect Miami to face difficult obstacles in Boston and Orlando. Both teams have been together longer and have big edges at the center and point guard positions.

Predicting Miami’s season is difficult, because so many factors come into play. Look for the Heat to make the Eastern Conference Finals vs. Boston and for the series to go seven games with the decisive contest being held in Miami.

The Heat will have a stellar regular season, earning the top seed in the East, but don’t expect them to match the record-setting 72 wins that the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls managed to get.

ON THE CELTICS: While Vegas odds-makers have listed the flashy names on the Heat lineup as favorites to win the Eastern Conference, one has to love the Celtics’ chances.

Boston solidified their roster this offseason with several free-agent signings. The additions only help to strengthen a team that was a Kendrick Perkins injury or a few more key rebounds away from winning an NBA title.

Boston has All-Stars at every position on the floor. While Allen declined a bit last year, Rondo’s emergence as an elite NBA player compensated for the slip in Allen’s game. KG and Shaq must be held back a bit during the regular season, so they can be healthy and rested for the playoffs.

Expect to see Boston easily win the Atlantic Division but to finish with the third seed for the playoffs. The Celtics showed last year that they don’t need to overexert themselves for 82 games in order to have postseason success.

No matter their seeding, the Celtics should be considered the Eastern Conference favorites once the playoffs begin. In the end, it will be Boston and Miami squaring off for a chance to dethrone the Lakers.

Orlando Magic
ORLANDO MAGIC
by Evan Dunlap, Orlando Pinstriped Post

Orlando Magic guards Vince Carter, left, and Jameer Nelson celebrate from the bench during the second half of Game 1 in the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks in Orlando, Fla. , Tuesday, May 4, 2010. The Magic won 114-71.

Vince Carter (left) and Jameer Nelson are happy to be part of Superman's supporting cast. (AP)

ON THE MAGIC: I’m expecting bounce-back seasons from Vince Carter and Jameer Nelson, as well as another year of improvement for Dwight Howard.

I’ve pegged them for 62 wins, because although the East got stronger this offseason, the Magic certainly didn’t decline in talent level from the last two seasons, when they won 59 games apiece.

Carter worked hard on his body this offseason and appears to be much more comfortable on the floor. His jumper has rarely even caught the rim in preseason, as he’s getting his body square and legs into the shot before firing away.

Orlando brought Quentin Richardson aboard, largely due to his 3-point shooting, which will force the Celtics to think twice about leaving him open. The Celtics exposed Orlando in the conference finals last season by utterly ignoring Matt Barnes on the perimeter, due to his unreliable outside shot, which freed them to pack the paint, stymieing Howard inside and shutting down driving lanes for Carter and Nelson. Clearly, Richardson will be one key against Boston.

Orlando will likely win far more games than the Celtics do this season, but don’t let that disparity fool you: If these teams meet for the third consecutive postseason, it’ll be anyone’s series.

ON THE CELTICS: The Celtics proved last season that they’re a tough team to peg, at least until the playoffs roll around.

Given the continuity in Boston’s locker room, at least as far as leadership is concerned, I expect another season of Doc Rivers managing his players’ minutes closely, and the players conserving their energy.

This approach worked to great effect last year, as they took the defending champion Lakers to the brink in the Finals after most basketball observers counted them out, first against the Cavaliers and then against the Magic.

Overall, I’ve pegged the Celtics for a win total in the mid-40s, likely 46-36. If that seems low, or insulting, to the Boston faithful, I think it’s instructive to point out the regular season doesn’t mean a whole lot to this team.

While I’m dubious that the Celtics can flip the switch again, so to speak, Rivers will keep that possibility open so long as he’s able to keep the veteran core fresh. And regardless of their health or engagement level, they’ll always be a tough matchup for the Magic.

The cost-effective additions of Shaquille and Jermaine O’Neal — along with Perkins — give Boston three of the top five Dwight Howard defenders in the league.

Washington Wizards
WASHINGTON WIZARDS
by Beckley Mason, Truth About It

Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) reacts after making a dunk against the Atlanta Hawks during the fourth quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game in Washington, on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010. Wall scored 19 points in the Wizards 107-92 win over the Hawks.

Just how far can uber-athletic rookie John Wall lead his veteran Wizards team? (AP)

ON THE WIZARDS: The Wizards enter the 2010-11 season with positive energy flowing out their ears.

John Wall has already proven to be a man-child not only as an ankle-breaking wunderkind, but as a steady-handed floor marshal — unafraid to put veterans in their place, literally, on the basketball court.

But however solid Wall may be this year, the squad as a whole is perforated with imperfections. Gilbert Arenas can’t guard anyone, only a couple players can hit 3s and the Wizards’ young posts have a history of weak rebounding and late help defense.

See, this is a team full of “you know, if…”s. Because, you know, if Gilbert stays healthy and embraces the off-ball responsibilities like he did in the preseason, if 30-year-old Josh Howard returns to his near All-Star levels of play, if JaVale McGee builds on his breakout summer, if Andray Blatche plays like he did down the stretch last year (21 points a game from January to March), and if Al Thornton eschews the mid-range game and focuses on becoming Count Dunkula, this could be a pretty good team.

That’s far too many ifs for the irresponsible optimism that pervades D.C. hoops fans — but an appropriate amount for a team heading into a 35-47 season.

ON THE CELTICS: Was the Celtics’ run to last year’s Finals the last violent spasm of a dying monster, or simply proof that the beast was slumbering throughout the regular season?

Rondo is superb (Hubie Brown voice) and the East’s best point guard, but the rest of the Celtics’ starting five is declining — that is, unless The Big Ticket really is bouncing back on that right knee.

Boston’s pride won 50 games last year and is replacing Perkins with the chalk outlines of the O’Neals, a significant downgrade defensively and offensively (KP is the best screener in the league). The frontcourt is deeper, but also less effective until Perk returns, and then at what level will he play?

The Celtics should also be concerned after losing Tony Allen, the East’s best perimeter defender and resident LeBron/Wade specialist. Who fills that void? Ray, Pierce, Nate Robinson, Delonte West all fall well short defensively.

On any other team, these concerns would lead one to declare, “They will be worse than last year.” But this is the Celtics, who, like the Spurs in the West, must be taken seriously until emphatically proven otherwise. Most of the East sucks yet again, so 50-plus should be in the cards once more — 55-plus if Garnett is truly “back.”

Stay tuned for Part 6 of this seven-part series: the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division.

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Celtics-Bobcats Preview 12.01.09 at 1:15 pm ET
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The Charlotte Bobcats have come a long way from their season-opening stomping at the hands of the Celtics, a humiliating 92-59 defeat. After falling to 3-9 following a seven-game losing streak, Charlotte (7-9) rolls into Tuesday night’s rematch as winners of four straight, including a 94-87 victory over LeBron James and the Cavaliers and a 92-76 beat-down of the Washington Wizards.

The Celtics (13-4), meanwhile, are in the midst of ‘righting the ship’ after some mid-month struggles, riding their own four-game win streak – including a hard-fought, come-from-behind win over Dwyane Wade and the Heat on Sunday.

The two collide tonight at 7:00 pm in Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, the Bobcats looking to settle the score after their miserable showing to open the season, and Boston looking to continue its return to dominance in the NBA.

Here’s how things are shaping up heading into tonight’s game:

Recent Performance

Heating Up – Both teams head into Tuesday night winners of four straight, each with highlights in their streaks. Charlotte is fresh off a bombing of the Wizards in Washington, and before that a fairly convincing seven-point win over LeBron and his Cavs. Before that? A 116-81 punishing of the Raptors, a team that took Boston to the final quarter in the Garden.

The Celtics aren’t exactly flying low either, however, coming off a solid win over a Miami squad that had every reason to beat them last Sunday. The most important thing to take from the Celtics’ past four games, however, hasn’t been just the W’s so much as it’s been the play of Kevin Garnett. Amidst all the worries and concerns about his knee injury and recovery, Garnett answered critics with an 11-for-12 shooting night Sunday versus the Heat, posting 24 points and 8 rebounds – and, more importantly, putting Boston on his shoulders to seal up a win.

Head to Head

Tough Customers –Glancing at their overall records the past few seasons, you’d assume Boston usually has its way with Charlotte. In fact, it hasn’t exactly been that easy. Aside from their season-opening blowout of the Bobcats to open Charlotte’s 2009 season, Boston has disposed of the Cats in regulation only once in their past three meetings – a five point nail-biter. The other two times Charlotte took Boston to overtime, and one of them was a Celtic loss. Tuesday’s game marks the second of three games the two will play against each other this season, with Boston holding a 1-0 edge in 2009.

Scouting Report

The Bobcats added some punch to their offense when they traded for the Warriors’ Stephen Jackson a few weeks ago. He has totaled 17.4 points per game since he joined Charlotte. That being said, it still remains Gerald Wallace’s team. Wallace leads the Bobcats (aside from Jackson’s seven-game stat sample) in both points per game (15.9) and rebounds per game (11.8). During their four-game win streak, Wallace has led the Cats in boards in every single match, and topped the team in points in three of the four, including back-to-back 31 point nights against the Raptors and Cavaliers.

That being said, in Charlotte’s season opener against the Celtics, Boston was able to corral Wallace, holding him to a season-low 10 points.

The Bobcats do run a fairly diversified offense however, with Boris Diaw (11.7), Raymond Felton (10.3), and Flip Murray (10.3) getting in on the action when they’re called upon.

Key Statistic

.259 – Ray Allen’s three-point shooting percentage over the past six games. The veteran sniper has been struggling with his stroke to say the least. In fact, Allen has only hit multiple three-balls once in his past six games – and twice in his past 10. It hasn’t exactly killed the Celtics, because amidst it all they’ve won four straight. But if No. 20 does not heat up, it could start hurting the Celtics down the road.

6 – The amount of games in a row that Gerald Wallace has hit double figures in rebounds. He is a beast on the boards, and it’s going to be a key for Boston to keep him off them. If they don’t, he can dictate a game (20 boards, 24 points Nov. 2 vs. New Jersey).

Health/Injuries

Same Old – Nothing new for the Celtics, who are still without Big Baby and Tony Allen. Ray Allen had missed last Sunday’s practice because of his son’s illness, and his status for the Miami game was in doubt, but it appears it won’t be an issue for Tuesday’s match-up. Similar story for Charlotte, which is operating with a full complement of players after the recent return of Tyson Chandler following his back spasms earlier in the season.

Quotable

Pedal to the Metal – “This is a time where you have to concentrate more. We understand what being a successful road team is about in the past. It will give us more focus time. I think we understand being on the road, we have to focus a lot more. You can’t play the way we’ve been playing at home on the road because you won’t get those wins.”

Celtics Captain Paul Pierce knows these games are important. The Bobcats aren’t a division rival. They aren’t really even a conference rival, and at 7-9, aren’t considered a playoff threat. But it doesn’t matter. The Celtics know they need to get all the wins they can find, and Tuesday night is no different.

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