Final: Celtics 104, Bobcats 80. The Celtics are generous enough to let the Bobcats salvage their dignity in the final two-plus minutes, as Charlotte goes on a 6-0 run toward the end and make the final score at least appear respectable. The Bobcats walk out of here with a 24-point loss, a marked improvement from their last visit to the TD Garden.
This, in case you’d forgotten, is what the Celtics are capable of doing with a fully healthy roster. We’ll see how long that holds up. For now, though, the C’s are certainly happy with back-to-back wins on back-to-back nights. A good start to a grueling month of basketball that lies ahead.
Fourth quarter, 2:23, Celtics 103-74: This thing has devolved into a pickup game, pretty much. You’ve got Marquis Daniels tossing up crazy threes, Shelden Williams knocking down jumpers from insanely deep, and Tony Allen gambling for steals all over the place (and occasionally getting them). At this point, the only real question left unanswered is whether the Celtics can top the 33-point margin of victory they put up against the Bobcats in their home opener back in October. And even that’s not too intriguing of a question.
Fourth quarter, 7:47, Celtics 92-64: Amazing what difference one year makes for this Celtics-Bobcats matchup. Last year, these two teams went to overtime twice, with the Bobcats winning one at their place in January and the Celtics getting revenge here at the Garden in April. This year? All blowouts. The Celtics have won by 33 in one meeting, 18 in another, and they’re working on a possible 30-point win again tonight. Did Emeka Okafor and Raja Bell really make that big a difference?
Fourth quarter, 9:11, Celtics 88-63: Every indication at this point is that we’ve officially reached garbage time. Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen are sitting side by side on the end of the Celtics’ bench in warmups, and it would surprise no one if they sat out the rest of the night. On another note, nice to see Shelden Williams make an appearance for the second night in a row. Doc has been saying all along that Williams’ play this season has been fantastic whenever he gets to take the floor — looks like he’s getting rewarded.
End of third quarter, Celtics 82-61: It’s amazing how quickly Nate Robinson has become a fan favorite here in Boston. How long did that take? Two weeks? Robinson gets practically a standing ovation as he re-enters the game to spell Rajon Rondo toward the end of the third quarter. Amazing what a couple of well-timed threes can do for your reputation in this town, isn’t it?
Third quarter, 2:47, Celtics 76-56: Memo to Doc Rivers: Now might be a good time to ease up on the starters and let the second unit get a little bit more P.T. No reason to burn Pierce and Rondo out now with a 20-point lead — share the wealth, right? Apparently Doc’s having none of that. Pierce just keeps lighting it up out there, and the blowout continues.
Third quarter, 4:01, Celtics 74-52: At this point, what can you say to the Bobcats? Everything they try to do defensively backfires. If they try to put guys out on the perimeter and cut down on the open jumpers, Perkins breaks into the lane and gets an easy layup. If the crowd the paint and try to stop Perk, that leaves Pierce open for a jumper that he’ll hit every time. Pierce has seven points in the third quarter, Perkins has five, and the Celtics practically on cruise control at this point, running away with this thing.
Third quarter, 6:28, Celtics 63-50: It’s not every night you see Ray Allen in foul trouble, but that appears to be the case tonight. Ray picks up his fourth personal of the night with 7:31 remaining, hacking Stephen Jackson in the act and putting him at the line for two shots. Don’t underestimate the value of keeping Ray Allen in this game tonight — while his numbers haven’t been dazzling offensively, he’s done a good job on D at limiting Captain Jack’s looks at the basket.
Third quarter, 9:33, Celtics 57-45: The Celtics have decisively won the battle down low in the first two-plus minutes of this third quarter. KG and Kendrick Perkins have come out refreshed and ready to get physical, and it’s showing. Perkins is pushing Theo Ratliff around to create separation and get open looks, and when he doesn’t get off a clean shot, he gets fouled instead. KG similarly is getting inside to create easy buckets. Definitely a good sign for a Celtics team that’s looked a bit softer these past couple weeks.
Halftime, Celtics 54-45: When they’re on, they’re on. The Celtics close out the first half on fire, making every shot in sight and padding their lead to a comfortable nine points heading into the break. They’re shooting a ridiculous 62.9 percent from the field as a team, and led by 5-for-7 from Pierce and 4-for-6 from KG. Those two guys are good for a combined 22 points. The C’s are just pounding the Bobcats’ defense from all over the floor.
Second quarter, 3:35, Celtics 45-41: When the Celtics get down, they can count on the captain to lift them back up. Paul Pierce hits a huge three with the Celtics’ lead down to one at 41-40, firing up this crowd and swinging momentum back in the C’s direction. If Pierce can get things going offensively for the last few minutes of the half, the Celtics can get this lead back before they head to the locker room.
Second quarter, 5:49, Celtics 40-35: You can tell Doc is making a serious effort tonight to rest his starters on the tail end of this home and away back-to-back. You have to worry, though, about the second unit holding this lead — without Paul Pierce and Ray Allen on the floor, Boston’s advantage has vanished into thin air. Four minutes ago, the C’s led by 17 points, and that lead is now five. Rest is all well and good, but Doc can’t let this thing slip away altogether.
Second quarter, 9:30, Celtics 38-21: Make it six straight. Robinson comes out and hits a long two from the right side on the Celtics’ first possession of the second quarter — or so we thought it was a two. The officials confer on the following timeout and rule Robinson’s shot a three-pointer; he now has a game-high nine points here at the Garden tonight, and he’s now made six consecutive attempts from beyond the arc.
End of first quarter, Celtics 31-21: A solid end to the first quarter defensively for the Celtics, who not only limit the Bobcats’ open looks at the basket but also make a concerted effort to beat them to defensive rebounds and deny second-chance points.
The bigger story of the final minute, though: back-to-back threes from Nate Robinson to close the quarter, which means not only a double-digit lead for the Celtics at the break, but also that Nate has made five consecutive threes, dating back to the fourth quarter of last night’s Pistons game. Pretty insane, don’t you think?
First quarter, 3:04, Celtics 22-19: Since we’ve got journeyman center Theo Ratliff, a recent acquisition of these Bobcats, in the building, here’s a little tidbit on the 36-year-old nomad: In a weird way, Ratliff is one of the unsung MVPs of the Celtics’ 2008 title run. Think of it this way — if not for the massive $12 million expiring contract that the Celtics had on their payroll going into the summer of 2007, the C’s wouldn’t have been able to work out the salary-cap math required to trade for Kevin Garnett that offseason. The Celtics were able to pile up the salaries to land KG thanks in large part to one of the worst contracts in NBA history. Don’t forget it. And welcome back, Theo.
First quarter, 6:21, Celtics 15-12: Leave it to these Celtics to make opposing defenses just look stupid if they don’t come ready to play. Every possession is an easy bucket — Rajon Rondo gets an easy layup, Pierce is left wide-open for a mid-range jumper, Perk gets to the basket for a thunderous dunk completely untouched. The Celtics making this thing look easy. If not for a couple nice plays by Stephen Jackson to break away from Ray Allen and create open looks, this game would be a blowout already.
First quarter, 9:33, Celtics 5-4: If Kendrick Perkins has been under the weather these past couple of days, he sure isn’t showing it early on in his first game back. Perk has been the most aggressive man on the floor offensively so far, getting to the basket once for an easy layup and then drawing a foul next time down the floor, getting to the line to hit one of two. Perk has three of the Celtics’ first five points, staking them to an early lead.
7:20 p.m.: We’re ready for tipoff here from the TD Garden, and luckily for Doc Rivers, so are all five of the Celtics’ starters. Doc has confirmed that the regular starting five is back in action — Paul Pierce remains in the lineup despite the nagging thumb problem, and Kendrick Perkins has recovered from his flu bug and is ready to play.
Quote of the night comes from Doc, upon being asked what it’s like to work with a healthy starting five:
“I don’t know. We’ll find out.”
“It’s nice, though, I’ll tell you that,” he adds after a moment to contemplate.
We’ll see if it translates to a win. The C’s will take on a Bobcats team that’s struggled since the All-Star break, losing five of seven.
6:57 p.m.: With two days of rest to recover from their
embarrassing loss to the Nets this last weekend, the Celtics had plenty
left in the tank to overcome the Pistons in the fourth quarter on
Tuesday night. Getting another win within 24 hours might be a little
Kendrick Perkins is sick. Rasheed Wallace is banged up. Paul Pierce is just getting back from an injury. The ailments just keep piling up, but the Celtics have no time to make excuses. They’re in the middle of a playoff race, and their focus is on nothing but winning.
The Celtics return home Wednesday night to take on the Charlotte Bobcats, who have lost five of their last seven but remain a fringe playoff contender in the Eastern Conference. The Bobcats will be out to prove they can win again; the Celtics, who snapped a two-game losing streak in Detroit, just want to keep the winning going. Always easier said than done.