Game over, Celtics win 94-82: Rajon Rondo put forth another peerless performance with 20 points and 16 assists as the Celtics cruised to an easy victory without Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce.
Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley each had 22 points to lead the Celtics (36-25), who moved a half-game ahead of the Hawks for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Gerald Henderson led the Bobcats (7-52) with 19 points as Charlotte dropped its 16th straight game.
Fourth quarter, 2:59, Celtics 88-76: Pietrus did not have much of a shooting night, so he was pleased to see his 10th attempt from beyond the arc find net. Pietrus was only 3-for-10 on 3-pointers against the Bobcats, and he was aware of how poorly he was shooting.
Still, his shot was enough to help the Celtics restore their lead to a dozen points. It looks like Charlotte is on its way to consecutive loss No. 16.
Fourth quarter, 5:38, Celtics 81-74: With Walker doing several little things, such as taking a charge on Bass, the Bobcats gave the Celtics a scare by pulling within four points. Bradley showed off that corner 3-pointer he dusted off Saturday by fading directly to the corner for a triple to push that four-point lead back up to a more comfortable seven points.
Fourth quarter, 8:49, Celtics 77-69: The Celtics' lead started to inch upward in the beginning of the fourth quarter as the Bobcats seemed resigned to another loss. Walker at least played with some energy, but none of his moves seem to get him anywhere. He missed all except one of his shot attempts, mostly difficult fall-away jumpers with a hand in his face. Those are not shots that will consistently succeed in the NBA, and the UConn product does not seem to have learned that with most of his rookie season behind him.
End of third quarter, Celtics 73-67: Bradley's game just keeps evolving. He got up to 19 points, within one point of Bass' team high of 20, before his final shot of the third quarter was tipped.
The Bobcats may have gotten close enough to make a run, but when a team has lost 15 straight games, it has to be difficult for the players to realize when a victory may be in hand if they turn it up.
Third quarter, 2:38, Celtics 69-63: The only thing that could get Rondo to leave this game was concern over a possible injury. He appeared to tweak his right elbow while going for a steal but did not go to the locker room and only winced mildly when Ed Lacerte gave the elbow a look.
Third quarter, 5:51, Celtics 64-57: Bradley is used to posting games with a high field goal percentage. This was no cutting, layup-filled shooting line, though. Bradley hit seven of his first eight shots on a variety of pull-up jumpers as he continued to show a varied offensive repertoire.
The officials, who kept the whistles in their pockets for most of the first half, could not seem to believe Stiemsma was as good a shot-blocker as he is. Stiemsma rejected his sixth shot at the rim, but he also picked up his fourth foul. Rivers was not happy with either of the last two personals called on Stiemsma.
Halftime, Celtics 52-49: Once upon a time, two teams played the finest half of basketball of all time. The first half of this game did not qualify as that.
There was nothing statistically wrong, and both teams gave a decent effort, but the entire 24 minutes were just not that great. Rajon Rondo finished up the proceedings by saying two words to the officials that cannot be repeated in polite company, picking up a technical foul.
Nobody in either jersey was happy with the officiating in this one. We're all for keeping a game like this one moving along, but a few missed calls were egregious.
The Good: Brandon Bass did not do much after his fast start in the first quarter, but it was enough for the Celtics to build a comfortable lead, even if they could not hold on to it. Bass had 11 points and five rebounds at the half. … Technicals aside, Rondo was excellent in the first two quarters, scoring 16 points and dealing 11 assists, although he turned the ball over four times in the second quarter. … Derrick Brown was an all-around threat for the Bobcats, scoring nine points on 4-for-6 shooting while grabbing four rebounds and nabbing two steals.
The Bad: Again, nobody was truly "bad" in the first half. But overall the play just was not very good.
The So-so: D.J. Augustine did not pose much of a scoring threat with only two points, but he handed out six assists with no turnovers.
Second quarter, 5:03, Celtics 44-35: The officials, like Pierce and Garnett, appeared to take the night off. Biyombo was in the foul lane for roughly seven minutes without a three-second call, and Hollins was unable to get a call on an alley-oop attempt despite getting what appeared to be a pretty clear push in the back.
The teams have combined for 11 fouls, although Johnson has contributed three of those.
Second quarter, 7:17, Celtics 42-32: This game was shaping up to be a youth YMCA game — everybody gets to play and score.
Little-used Marquis Daniels got on the board with a short jumper, joining reserves JaJuan Johnson and Ryan Hollins in the scoring column. Keyon Dooing shared time with Rondo in the backcourt.
The Bobcats have had some tough losses, but one would have to believe losing big to half of the Celtics' roster would be pretty embarassing.
End of first quarter, Celtics 34-23: This was a close game, for about 10 minutes.
Behind a scoring barrage led by Bass and Rondo, the Celtics leapt into a double-digit lead at the end of the first quarter. Bass concluded the first frame 5-for-9 from the field for 10 points. He also added five rebounds.
Rondo could slice up the Bobcats if he wanted to, and it looked like he wanted to. He played all 12 minutes and had 12 points, seven assists and zero turnovers heading into the second quarter.
The Celtics more than doubled up the Bobcats on the boards, 15-6, and committed only one foul as a team.
First quarter, 2:51, Celtics 21-19: With the three All-Stars not in attendance for the Celtics, Rondo needs to look for his own shot moreso than usual. He did that against the Bobcats, taking four shots and hitting three of them in the opening nine minutes.
Rondo also did what he does best, hand out easy shots to his teammates, by racking up five assists with no turnovers.
First quarter, 5:08, game tied 15-15: Stiemsma seemed quite fine with this starting business. The rookie, making his second career start, left his mark all over the game in the opening minutes. He blocked three shots, hit both of his field goal attempts and tracked down two rebounds in the first seven minutes.
Mostly importantly, given Boston's lack of depth down low in this game, he picked up no fouls.
5:30 p.m.: Rajon Rondo will be missing most of his usual company in the Celtics' starting five Sunday.
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce did not travel to Charlotte, and Ray Allen was already out with a sore right ankle. The Celtics' starting lineup therefore will look a lot like the lineup for, well, a team like the Bobcats.
The Bobcats will be short-handed themselves, with players such as Corey Maggette and Eduardo Najera out with injuries. D.J. White was considered questionable for the Bobcats, but White is listed among the starters.
The probable starting lineups — what is left of them, at least — appear below.
8 a.m.: The Celtics' tour of the dregs of the NBA continues Sunday with a visit to the Old North State.
The Bobcats (7-51), owners of the worst record in the NBA and a 15-game losing streak, will try to shock the world by doing something they have not done since March 17: Win a basketball game.
The Celtics (35-25) clinched a playoff spot Saturday night when the Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Indiana Pacers. All that is left is to determine is the Celtics' seed and whether they will earn home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Paul Pierce and Brandon Bass are expected to play Sunday, but Ray Allen is not. Celtics coach Doc Rivers reportedly said Saturday that he expects Allen to miss this game and to be 50-50 for Tuesday's game in New York.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which has an early tip-off at 6 p.m.