Final: Bobcats 92, Celtics 87. In more ways than one, Ray Allen and the Celtics have come up just a little bit short.
The C's fall to the Bobcats, failing to give their best effort on the road on the tail end of a back-to-back. Despite sticking around the entire fourth quarter, they can't get over the hump — and meanwhile, Ray Allen remains one 3-pointer short of Reggie Miller for the all-time record. Everyone in green goes home disappointed tonight.
Allen leads the C's with 25 points, and he also adds three assists, two rebounds and two steals. A solid effort from the man with 2,559 trifectas to his name. Paul Pierce adds 22 points for the Celtics; Rajon Rondo has 14 assists, and Kevin Garnett, 13 rebounds.
Gerald Wallace has 19 points to lead the Bobcats; Shaun Livingston comes off the bench in Stephen Jackson's absence to drop 18 in 22 minutes.
The good news for Ray? He gets to come home and make his run at the record in front of his fans, friends and family. The Celtics take on the Lakers at 8 p.m. Sunday at the TD Garden. Maybe history will finally be made.
Fourth quarter, 21.5 seconds, Bobcats 91-87: Paul Pierce finds a golden opportunity to put the Celtics back in business, but he misses a layup. The C's are forced to foul, and they put Nazr Mohammed at the line. He makes one of two.
The C's need two quick buckets. This is looking pretty dire.
Fourth quarter, 35.3 seconds, Bobcats 90-87: Livingston gets to the line, and he hits one of two. The Bobcats pad their lead, but they're far from comfortable. The Celtics are alive.
They might need a 3. Gee, who can step up and hit one of those?
Fourth quarter, 52.1 seconds, Bobcats 89-87: It appears that the Celtics are still alive. Glen Davis knocks down a jumper, the C's get a stop at the other end, and finally Paul Pierce gets to the line for two shots.
He hits them both.
He's now 7-of-7 from the line in this game, which is absolutely huge. The Celtics need every single point they can get.
Fourth quarter, 1:57, Bobcats 89-83: Eduardo Najera just hit the shot of the ballgame — a 3 from the top of the key to push the Bobcats' lead from three to six.
You know what this means — the C's are now in desperate need of a couple big shots. Likely 3-pointers, and likely from Ray Allen.
This is about to get really interesting.
Fourth quarter, 2:45, Bobcats 84-81: Talk about a solid, resourceful play from Paul Pierce. Rather than settle for an iffy 3 from the wing, the captain cuts in, drives to the basket and gets two free throws.
Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo is being helped off the floor. He looks a little shaken up, like someone knocked the wind out of him.
This might another "Nate Robinson in crunch time" game for the C's. Fasten your seatbelts, everyone.
Fourth quarter, 4:10, Bobcats 81-79: Paul Pierce delivers a hard, hard foul to Gerald Wallace, sending him flying into a cameraman under the basket on a layup attempt.
In a moment, the Bobcats will have a chance to add to their lead.
Pierce and the C's are in real trouble now.
Fourth quarter, 6:09, Bobcats 79-77: The Celtics are on thin ice right now. Their offense has really stagnated, and Gerald Wallace just knocked down a big 3-pointer to put Charlotte back in front.
The C's can't get frazzled. They have to stay composed and keep running their offense — and hey, a couple of second-chance every now and then wouldn't hurt, either.
Fourth quarter, 8:00, Celtics 75-74: Shaun Livingston now has 15 points in 15 minutes. He's not going away.
The C's need to work harder on defense to limit those open mid-range jumpers. Both Livingston and Gerald Wallace are capable of knocking them down.
Fourth quarter, 9:31, Celtics 74-69: Just a couple of flashy backup guards going at it. Shaun Livingston knocks down a nice jumper to snip the Celtics' lead back to three; Nate Robinson strikes back with a smooth shot of his own.
Nate's now 1-for-3 on the night. It feels like that was his first basket since the Carter administration, but that might not be accurate.
Fourth quarter, 10:45, Celtics 72-67: The Bobcats make their push again, but Von Wafer knocks down a big 3 to keep the Celtics comfortably ahead.
Wafer's a guy who might have a chance to step up in Marquis Daniels' absence. But the big question is will he merely be a shooter, or can he expand his game and do more?
End of third quarter, Celtics 69-65: Kendrick Perkins has a big final minute of the third quarter; first a bucket inside, then a monster block on Gerald Wallace at the other end. Perk now has six points, seven boards and three blocks, and the Celtics remain up four.
Perk has been forced to up his minutes without any other true centers on the roster, and he's handled it beautifully. He's played 26 minutes so far in this one, and he's showed no signs of fatigue.
Third quarter, 1:58, Celtics 67-63: Obviously when you think about Ray Allen tonight, you think about his pursuit of Reggie. But in his own right, Ray's having a solid overall game, regardless of his record chase. He's leading the C's in scoring with 23 points on dazzling shooting numbers — 8-of-14 from the field, 2-of-2 from 3, and 5-of-5 from the free-throw line.
Forget about being a record-setter, Ray's just a winner.
Third quarter, 5:01, Celtics 65-61: Not so fast, say the Bobcats. The two Geralds, Henderson and Wallace, each get a driving bucket in the lane, and Boston's lead is cut in half, from eight to four.
This is worrisome — what if the C's need Ray's long-distance shooting to survive with a win? He might have to tie or even surpass Reggie in Charlotte.
Third quarter, 6:35, Celtics 65-57: The Celtics now lead by eight, thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers. Ray Allen gets one, and now he's one trey away from tying Reggie Miller; Paul Pierce tacks on the second. The C's are nearing a commanding lead over the Bobcats, and Allen is nearing history.
Will Ray slow it down with the treys? He doesn't want to tie or break the record on the road, does he?
Third quarter, 9:05, Celtics 59-55: The Celtics rattle off a quick 7-0 run, bolstered by a technical free throw from Ray Allen. The illegal defense call against the Bobcats is the sixth tech of the game, including the double T's that led to Jackson's ejection.
Whichever team can block out the extracurricular stuff and focus on basketball will have a good shot at winning this game. That title is up for grabs.
Third quarter, 11:18, 52-52: In a seemingly long overdue development, to be honest, Kevin Garnett has earned himself a technical foul. D.J. Augustin gets to the line and hits a freebie.
This game has been an emotional roller coaster. Just once, it would be nice for the C's to play an easy one without anybody getting T'd up. Win or lose, they could use a nice, calm basketball game.
Yeah, I know. Not gonna happen.
Halftime, Bobcats 51-50: Two items of good news for the Celtics at the end of the first half — one, Stephen Jackson has been ejected, and two, the C's have kept things close thanks to 23 combined points from their starting guards, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen.
But the C's do still have one glaring problem in this ballgame — rebounding. They're getting manhandled on the glass, 23-15, led by Kwame Brown's nine boards. The C's are tired on the tail end of a back-to-back, and they don't have enough bodies to keep everyone fresh. They've been lacking energy all night.
Can they win anyway? It'll take a big effort from their starting five. They're getting nothing from their bench.
Second quarter, 3:25, Bobcats 44-42: In what appears to a daily occurrence nowadays for the Celtics, things get chippy with a little altercation under the basket. Double technicals on Paul Pierce and Kwame Brown.
Pierce looked like he was trying to play peacemaker this time, but the way the Celtics' last few weeks have gone, it's hard to expect a man in green to get the benefit of the doubt.
Meanwhile, the Celtics are falling apart in this game. Their offense has been terrible (only 13 second-quarter points). They need to regain their focus, and quick.
Second quarter, 5:20, Celtics 40-39: Gerald Wallace suddenly comes to life, turning back-to-back Celtic turnovers into coast-to-coast drives. On the first, he scores; the second, he runs into Rajon Rondo and gets called for a charge.
Wallace is another matchup problem for the C's. When he goes on those cross-court dashes, who's going to stop him? Not Pierce — too slow. Not Rondo — too small. Wallace is a beast when the matchups fall his way, no debating it.
Second quarter, 7:12, Bobcats 37-36: Shaun Livingston, of all people, is killing the Celtics in the second quarter. He's got 10 points on perfect shooting — 4-of-4 from the field, 2-of-2 from the line.
Livingston is using his quickness to get to his spots and put up shots before the Celtics' defenders can react. He's a tricky matchup for the C's, at least whenever someone besides Rajon Rondo guards him.
Second quarter, 8:42, Celtics 32-29: The C's only basket in the second quarter so far is a 3 by Luke Harangody from the top of the key. Nice shot, but that can't be your bread and butter offensively.
The C's need to establish ball movement with this second unit on the floor. They've been awful in that department for weeks now.
Second quarter, 10:08, Celtics 29-27: The Celtics are struggling to score with their second unit plus Ray Allen on the floor. Ray just got called for a traveling violation, and the C's are still being outscored 2-0 in the second quarter.
The continuity of the second unit just became even worse Sunday when Marquis Daniels went down. How are these guys supposed to play well together when they're constantly rearranging their depth chart?
End of first quarter, Celtics 29-25: It's another one of those nights. Rajon Rondo plays the whole first quarter for Boston, and he plays it well. Ten points, five assists and a steal for the point guard early.
The C's have had all kinds of injuries all over their depth chart, but Rondo has been a steady presence for 35-plus minutes a night the last two months. It's nice for Doc Rivers to have one guy he doesn't have to worry about.
Stephen Jackson has a huge first quarter for the Bobcats with 11 points, but the C's have themselves an early lead.
First quarter, 2:42, Celtics 21-18: Rajon Rondo just came to life, rattling off six consecutive points to keep the Celtics out in front. He's now got six points and four assists early.
Rondo has been really effective at finding holes in the Bobcats' offense and attacking. That's the real reason he doesn't get to the line — he has the instincts and the quickness to find spots with no defenders on him.
First quarter, 4:07, Celtics 15-11: Von Wafer has made an early entrance, and Luke Harangody's about to check in as well. With no Marquis Daniels to pick up minutes off the bench, Doc Rivers will be forced to get creative.
He doesn't really have a true small forward on his bench. Wafer is more of a two, and he's guarding Stephen Jackson at the moment. Harangody is more of a power forward, though a bit undersized.
The scary question, though — when Paul Pierce comes out, who guards Gerald Wallace? There's no easy answer.
First quarter, 6:05, 11-11: So far, Rajon Rondo hasn't been the most aggressive point guard on the floor. That distinction belongs to D.J. Augustin, who's been slashing to the basket at every opportunity.
Augustin's rushing his shots, though, and they're not falling. He's 1-for-4 so far — Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Paul Pierce have been racking up rebounds with each miss.
The C's aren't letting the 'Cats have anything easy.
First quarter, 9:00, Bobcats 9-5: Stephen Jackson is having a monster first quarter so far — he's outscoring the Celtics' entire team, 7-5.
Captain Jack has been really aggressive getting to the basket early. It shouldn't be this easy for him. Maybe Ray Allen should stop thinking about Reggie Miller and focus on stopping Jackson.
First quarter, 11:10, Celtics 3-2: It didn't take long. Ray Allen has already hit his first 3-pointer of the night, giving the C's an early lead and moving to within two treys of Reggie Miller.
Tonight could be the night, folks. History is about to be made.
6:10 p.m.: The injuries are really piling up for the Celtics. In addition to the obvious inactives for the C's in Charlotte (Marquis Daniels, Delonte West, Jermaine O'Neal), they'll also be without Shaquille O'Neal and Semih Erden. Shaq's Achilles is still sore, and Erden is battling an adductor strain.
The C's are really running out of bigs. Kendrick Perkins will need to play major minutes, obviously, and then Glen Davis will come off the bench and spend some time at the five. Luke Harangody also has an chance to contribute amid all the absences.
The C's will look for minutes anywhere they can find them.
5:30 p.m.: If the Celtics are looking for a little extra motivation not to overlook the struggling Bobcats, here's one little nudge — they could try to shut Phil Jackson up.
The Lakers' head coach took another little cheap shot at the C's in the media Monday, as he's wont to do.
"He is who he is," the Zen Master said of his power forward, Pau Gasol. "We're not going to make him into [Kevin] Garnett. He's not going to go around and punch guys in the [groin]. He's too nice of a guy."
If the C's come out focused and composed, they can bury the Bobcats and prove that a mean streak can be a good thing. The C's aren't exactly nice, but they don't exactly want to be.
8 a.m.: Hiding among all those NBA heavyweights is one less heralded opponent that the Celtics probably don't want to overlook.
On Friday night, the C's lost a close one to the Mavericks; on Sunday, they polished off the Magic for a 2-1 win in their season series. Up ahead later this week, they take on the oft-hyped Heat and Lakers.
But every game, no matter how "big" it's cracked up to be, counts just once in the standings. So while the C's give their all against the big, bad contenders on their February schedule, they also have to earn wins over teams that happen to be 21-29.
Like the Celtics, the Bobcats have a tendency to control the pace and win games with defense. In a mirror matchup of playing styles, the team with the greater effort will win.
The C's will have some difficulties. They're without Marquis Daniels, who suffered a painful spinal cord injury on Sunday; they'll likely be without Shaquille O'Neal's presence in the middle as well. They're also all tired as they finish out a back-to-back with a hard-earned win over Orlando. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen especially, who played over 40 minutes.
Winning's not supposed to be easy, and on Monday night, it won't be.