A triple-double by Rajon Rondo and another strong performance by the bench were necessary for the Celtics to escape with a win over the terrible Bobcats. Rondo finished with 17 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds in his third triple-double of the season — and 36th of his career, counting playoffs.
Pierce powered through a poor shooting night to score a game-high 19 points while Jeff Green and Courtney Lee combined for 20 points. Hakim Warrick and Ramon Sessions each scored 16 points for the Bobcats, who fell to 3-24 in their last 27 games.
Fourth quarter, 2:46, Celtics 92-83: Barbosa and Lee received a warm applause when they left the game, for good reason. Those two helped turn around this game when it looked like it might slip away for the Celtics. Barbosa’s crazy high scoop floater and Lee’s chasedown block on the break enabled the Celtics to keep just enough of a cushion between themselves and the Bobcats.
Now the starters, with Green replacing Bass, will try to close it out.
Oh yeah, and Rondo has his third triple-double of the season.
Fourth quarter, 6:21, Celtics 84-74: Sorry, ‘Cats. Rondo and Co. do not feel like having a letdown.
With his dime to a cutting Lee for a reverse layup, Rondo pulled within one rebound of his third triple-double of the season. More importantly, Lee’s basket restored Boston’s double-digit lead with Pierce still off the floor. Leandro Barbosa joined Rondo and Lee in a super-speedy three-man backcourt.
Fourth quarter, 8:53, Celtics 78-74: The Bobcats look perfectly fine with continuing all they had going on in the third quarter, when they shot better than 70 percent and held the Celtics to 35 percent.
Still, the Celtics have a few aces up their sleeve. Rondo, Garnett and Pierce all started the fourth on the bench, although Rondo checked in at the scorer’s table quickly after Green tossed a pass straight out of bounds. The Celtics appear to be resting on the belief that their three All-Stars will bail them out, which could turn out to be a good gameplan, although it is a dangerous one.
End of third quarter, Celtics 76-70: Lee was feeling under the weather, so the plan was the limit his playing time. Rivers has, sort of, as Lee has played fewer than nine minutes heading into the fourth quarter.
The few minutes he has played, though, Lee has been far from sickly. He dashed to the hoop for a layup to spread Boston’s four-point edge to six, then forced a turnover that should have turned into points, if the referee had not called a foul as the Celtics had a three-on-one advantage.
With Charlotte showing no signs of giving up and Terry having another off shooting night, Lee may be called upon to support Rondo and Bradley more down the stretch.
Third quarter, 2:13, Celtics 72-64: Pierce may have 16 points, but he has been anything but hot from the field. He was 1-for-7 from deep before nailing a 3-pointer from the top of the key, making him just 5-for-15 shooting overall. The third quarter has been the opposite of how the Celtics should have played to put this one away, and now they are in a game, for sure.
Third quarter, 6:10, Celtics 65-58: Using a 16-2 run spanning the two halves, the Bobcats pulled even and Rivers adamantly refused to call a timeout to stop the bleeding. Rivers basically told the players: “It’s the Bobcats. Deal with it.”
Here are some words that are not often typed: Once Garnett left the floor, the Celtics started to figure things out. Sullinger scored a floater and Bradley drilled a corner three — his fourth in seven attempts in this game — leaving the Bobcats to wonder what happened.
Halftime, Celtics 56-45: The one thing this game does not need is to be elongated. A steady march to the free throw line in the second quarter did that, though, as the Celtics tried unsuccessfully to put this one out of reach.
These teams had combined to shoot seven foul shots after one quarter, but in the second quarter things ground to a halt. They combined for 26 free throw attempts in the quarter, completely killing the tempo after Boston took an 18-point lead.
Green scored 11 points in the quarter to lead the Celtics off the bench, while Bradley and Pierce matched him for the game’s high. Rondo is still very much in line for a triple-double with nine points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Basically, the Celtics need to keep doing the same things on both ends in the second half. They have held Charlotte to 33 percent shooting while knocking down 53 percent of their own attempts.
Second quarter, 2:50, Celtics 51-36: Jason Collins keeps surprisingly people. Long known as a defensive specialist, Collins is still that, but he showed up to training camp looking lighter and more spry than ever.
His transformation has shown as he has gotten more comfortable in the Celtics’ defensive system. He rejected Jeff Adrien and gave the UConn product a little bit of smack talk before the referee whistled a dubious defensive foul. Still, the fact that Collins, Green and others off the bench are being aggressive at both ends must be encouraging for Rivers.
Second quarter, 6:52, Celtics 42-30: Just when the Bobcats got things close, Jeff Green took over.
Yup, this could be one of those games.
After the Bobcats cut their deficit to six points, Green swooped in for a layup to spark an 8-2 run. It ended with Green going baseline past Brendan Haywood, playing some of the worst defense in the history of the game, for a dunk.
Second quarter, 10:05, Celtics 32-18: The second quarter is starting to become the frame when the Celtics set themselves apart. With Garnett anchoring a unit with four bench players, the Celtics are looking to put some distance between themselves and their opponent again.
Lee skipped into the lane for a floater and Jeff Green popped off a screen for a jumper to give Boston its largest lead of the game. Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap smelled danger and asked for a quick timeout less than two minutes into the quarter.
End of first quarter, Celtics 28-18: Men and women in uniform are all around here at the TD Garden on “Seats for Soldiers” night, and the Celtics gave them a good effort in the first 12 minutes. The Celtics held the Bobcats to only 7-for-25 shooting while scorching themselves, nailing 12 of 19 shots.
Rondo was the key cog. Unless he sits for a long stretch in the second quarter, the Celtics’ point guard could have a triple-double by halftime.
First quarter, 1:28, Celtics 25-15: Set your Rajon Rondo triple-double watch machine on “high alert.” With the first quarter not even complete, Rondo has nine points, six rebounds and five assists. He is directing a Boston offense that is clicking and shooting 11-for-16 from the field.
First quarter, 8:47, Celtics 11-2: As we mentioned before, the Celtics should be able to breeze through this one and use this game as a glorified scrimmage. After a two-day layoff since their last game, that appears to be exactly what the Celtics intend to do.
The Celtics have hit their first five shots and have limited the Bobcats to one basket in eight tries. Rondo has assisted all but one of those buckets — although his pass to Avery Bradley, who pump-faked and drove baseline for a dunk, was a dubious assist, at best — as the point guard looks to bring his assist total back up.
6:48 p.m.: Doc Rivers can be superstitious, but only when he has no control over the outcome of the contest. That is why he sat in the same seat at Gillette Stadium and did the same things he always does during Patriots wins while watching the Pats defeat the Texans on Sunday.
During the Celtics’ five-game win streak, though, the coach has gone about his same habits, without worrying about the implications.
“Not with us,” Rivers said. “I’m just that way with other teams. With us, hell, I just show up and say, ‘Please, guys, make shots.’ When I watch other teams that I like, you tend to do the same stuff, turn the beer label the same way, all that.”
The Celtics might not need any hocus-pocus to beat the Bobcats, but no team is immune to the “trap game.” Chris Wilcox will be back in uniform, but he is not expected to play with a sprained thumb. It is possible Wilcox may play Wednesday for the first time since Dec. 18.
The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: Let’s be real here for a second. No talk of “anything can happen” or “nothing should be taken for granted” or any of that cliche stuff. The Celtics should have a six-game win streak at the end of the night. No excuses.
That is because the awful Bobcats (9-27) are in town for the third game of Boston’s five-game home stand. If the Celtics (19-17) do not take care of business against Charlotte, it will be a massive step backward for a team that finally appears to have turned a corner.
Why? Because the Bobcats are baaaaad — even worse than their record indicates.
Charlotte has won three games since Thanksgiving, a span of 26 games. They recently snapped an 18-game losing streak, which was incredible. It was not incredible that they lost 18 straight. It was a amazing that they finally won.
Join us for updates and analysis from the TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.