Final, Bobcats win 89-83: So, it is still possible for the Celtics to lose after all.
In a game that no one will remember as an instant classic, the Celtics misfired almost as badly as the Bobcats en route to watching their four-game winning streak come to an end. A late flurry by Jeff Green and Jordan Crawford only helped extend a sloppy contest.
Green led the Celtics with 19 points, although it was far from his sharpest performance. Al Jefferson had 22 points and 11 rebounds, taking advantage of the Celtics’ lack of size down low. Brandon Bass, Vitor Faverani and Kelly Olynyk did their best, but all three collected their share of fouls against the former Celtics big man.
Crawford ended up with 16 points, six assists and five rebounds after bouncing back from a rough start to give the Celtics hope in the fourth quarter. Gerald Wallace matched Crawford’s scoring output of five points in the fourth quarter as the Celtics pulled as close as two points but could not break through against the Bobcats. The Celtics shot 37.7 percent from the field and 33 percent from deep, while the Bobcats mustered just 36.6 percent and 25 percent, respectively. The Cats capitalized on 15 turnovers by the Celtics and managed to create 14 second-chance points by being quicker to loose balls than the Celtics.
The Celtics are back in action Friday at home against the Trail Blazers.
Fourth quarter, :12.6, Bobcats 87-83: On the Celtics’ inbound play, Avery Bradley fumbled the ball and lost it. That should be the game.
Fourth quarter, :17.7, Bobcats 87-83: This game is a mess, but entertaining.
Jordan Crawford came to the rescue, sort of, with an and-one runner to pull Boston within two. But then Al Jefferson plucked an offensive rebound over Avery Bradley and plopped the ball in for what may be the back-breaking bucket for Charlotte.
Fourth quarter, :51.6, Bobcats 85-80: OK, that didn’t work. Jeff Green missed, Gerald Wallace missed a putback with a lot of contact and the Celtics were not able to come up with the loose ball despite multiple deflections as the Bobcats brought it up.
After a foul on Jordan Crawford, the Cats still have the ball.
Fourth quarter, 1:17, Bobcats 85-80: Don’t go away just yet.
Jeff Green converted an and-one foul shot after a bank shot and Kelly Olynyk drew a charge against Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to get the ball back for the Celtics.
Fourth quarter, 2:16, Bobcats 85-77: The Celtics’ hopes of a five-game win streak have been downgraded from critical to serious condition.
The Celtics pulled within four points on a putback by Gerald Wallace, but the bounces continue to go Charlotte’s way. The Bobcats are just a step faster to every loose ball, and with the Celtics not hitting any of the midrange shots that have gone down in the last four games, they can’t afford to lose the hustle plays.
Fourth quarter, 4:53, Bobcats 81-75: The bounces just are not going the Celtics’ way. It’s sort of a shame because otherwise they are doing everything necessary on the defensive end to get control of this game.
Jeff Green and Kelly Olynyk were caught with a couple of tough offensive fouls, and the one call Green did get, he went to the line and missed both freebies. One of the bigger brights spots is Brandon Bass, who is playing workmanlike defense against Al Jefferson.
Bass almost single-handedly forced a shot clock violation by forcing Jefferson out of the post and closing off a pick and roll with Ramon Sessions. The Celtics will need more work like that to get into the lead in a game that still has a lot of time left.
Fourth quarter, 8:39, Bobcats 75-71: Courtesy of Brandon Bass and Gerald Wallace, the Celtics are back in business.
Wallace unleashed a 3-pointer that brought the crowd to its feet even before it snapped through the twine and Bass swooped through the lane for a lefty hook shot to pull the Celtics within four points. The refs rewarded Charlotte guard Ramon Sessions with a foul on a play where Sessions clearly was only barreling into the lane looking for a foul, but that shouldn’t effect the way the Celtics are playing. The momentum is in their favor.
The Celtics may have to work for a while without Avery Bradley, though. He foolishly reached in as Cody Zeller grabbed a defensive rebound, and it was Bradley’s fifth foul. Courtney Lee and Jordan Crawford are playing well enough that the Celtics should be able to weather the storm while Brad Stevens protects Bradley by putting him on the bench.
End of third quarter, Bobcats 71-64: For a while there, it looked like the Celtics pace-pushing bench crew might actually take the lead.
Courtney Lee, Gerald Wallace, Phil Pressey, Kris Humphries and Vitor Faverani are a haphazard unit, but their sheer all-out style works. At least, it does at times.
Lee pulled the Celtics within three points on an elbow bank shot, but the Cats were able to answer when the Celtics got a little too wild for their own good. Regardless, the Celtics have to feel good about their chances heading into the final 12 minutes. Their bench has shown them the way back.
Third quarter, 3:46, Bobcats 65-58: The Cat’s lead is dwindling, bit by bit, and Brad Stevens sees an opening.
This quarter has flown by, with more than nine minutes passing before a stoppage. As the Celtics rebounded a miss by Al Jefferson, Stevens took a timeout before the Celtics could head upcourt.
Stevens recognizes this is the Celtics’ chance to make this a game again. Jordan Crawford has played a solid eight minutes since halftime with eight points on 3-for-5 shooting, and Stevens doesn’t want to let an opportunity to cut Charlotte’s lead to five points get away.
Halftime, Bobcats 51-43: OK, so that wasn’t quite as terrible.
The Celtics actually lost two points in the second quarter, but that was an improvement over their disjointed first quarter. Still, this is far from a thing for beauty.
Avery Bradley is off to another promising start with seven points and Jeff Green has 12 points, tying Al Jefferson for the game’s high. But the Celtics have missed a lot of bunnies, owing to their .364 field goal percentage.
In a way, that low field goal percentage is slightly encouraging for the Celtics. They can’t miss any more easy shots than they did in the first half, so things have to even out in the second half. Right?
Second quarter, 5:14, Bobcats 43-33: It looks like the bad old Jordan Crawford is back, at least for a half.
Crawford, whose point guard play has been a major piece of the Celtics’ recent run, is 1-for-5 from the field so far. His shot selection has been almost as poor as it was in Washington, when he played himself straight out of the Wizards’ rotation.
The good news for Crawford is that the Celtics don’t have any choice but to play him. The means he will get every opportunity to play his way back into his form of the last week, when he was one of the most efficient point guards in the league, albeit in a very brief stretch.
Jeff Green has actually started to find his groove, which may be Boston’s only chance to get back in this. He posted up and went aggressively to the hoop for two consecutive buckets, the second of which netted him an and-one.
Second quarter, 8:30, Bobcats 37-23: Resilience has been the Celtics’ calling card during their win streak, but even they have limits. With the Bobcats stretching their lead to 14 points, Brad Stevens has seen enough.
The bench has been a big part of the Celtics’ recent success, pushing the pace and in many cases extending leads. But tonight they have not been as successful. Courtney Lee leads the Celtics in scoring with five points but he has also made two poor fouls and missed a couple of wide-open threes.
End of first quarter, Bobcats 27-21: The Celtics will need to have short memories to erase that awful opening from their minds.
The Celts shot 36 percent in the first quarter while letting the Bobcats shoot 61 percent. Courtney Lee captured the essence of that first quarter by committing an and-one foul on a layup by Ramon Sessions, then dribbling down the other end and hitting a 3-pointer as the clock expired.
Al Jefferson owned the undersized Celtics with eight first-quarter points, while matching Kemba Walker and Vitor Faverani with a game-high four rebounds.
First quarter, 5:45, Bobcats 18-8: Al Jefferson has never been known as a distributor. In nine NBA seasons, he has averaged 1.5 assists per game.
So it figures that Charlotte would begin this game with an assist by Jefferson.
Jefferson, who is playing just his third game of the season, handed off to Kemba Walker for a backdoor layup to get the Bobcats rolling. The Cats should have gone up 6-0 on a fastbreak layup by Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but MKG missed the layup.
That did not slow down the Cats, though. They have hit seven of their nine shot attempts and have two 3-pointers from Anthony Tolliver, their nominal starting power forward.
6:02 p.m.: Through the Celtics’ current four-game winning streak, Kris Humphries has remained one of the few players who can’t claim a major role in the success. In order to contribute, he needs to actually play.
Humphries played less than seven minutes combined in the first two games of this run and did not play at all in the most recent win over Orlando. He did log 18 minutes of productive, five-rebound play in Miami, but other than that the veteran big man’s minutes have been limited.
He should (finally) get a shot tonight. Jared Sullinger, who was hobbled by a bone bruise in his right knee at practice on Tuesday and is day-to-day, will sit out against the Bobcats. Coach Brad Stevens said Humphries will get Sullinger’s minutes.
Sullinger is a loss because the Celtics take on throwback big man Al Jefferson tonight. The 10th-year veteran returned to the Bobcats’ lineup Monday and had 10 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes of action. Having one less rotation big to throw at Jefferson will make the Celtics’ job that much tougher.
The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: The Celtics are clicking, but they’ll have a challenge in town on Wednesday night.
Al Jefferson has returned to the court for the Bobcats, and while the veteran big man is far from a perfect player, he will be the best post player the Celtics have encountered during their recent run of success. The Bobcats (3-4) are expecting big things from Jefferson after signing him to a three-year, $41 million contract this summer, so they sure would like to see him give the undersized Celtics (4-4) a lesson in post work.
The Celtics will counter with a balanced attack that featured seven players scoring in double digits in Monday’s win over the Magic. But the Celtics cannot afford to let up, since a tough upcoming slate could quickly undo all their recent hard work if they let their guard down for a moment.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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