The Charlotte Bobcats have had a way of making the Boston Celtics look good this season, but it's going to be mighty tough for coach Doc Rivers to find fault with much of anything following Tuesday night's 108-90 triumph over Charlotte at the Time Warner Cable Arena.
Boston walked off the floor with the best record in the Atlantic Division (tied with Orlando at 14-4) and playing its most inspired ball since the start of the season. The Celtics continue a four-game road trip Thursday in San Antonio looking to match the six-game winning streak they opened the 2009-10 season with.
And they'll do it oozing confidence. The Celtics were dominant at both ends of the floor Tuesday night, setting the tone early on the defensive end, while showcasing an inside/outside attack for which Charlotte has no answer. Sure, they did it against a Bobcats team they blew out by 33 points at the Garden earlier this season, but Charlotte was riding a four-game winning streak after the recent addition of Stephen Jackson.
Some of the highlights from Tuesday's game:
Disappearing act: Jackson, Charlotte's big-splash acquisition in a recent swap with Golden State, labored through 4-of-13 shooting and finished with 11 points, while his plus/minus was a team-worst minus-21 (shared by Raymond Felton). Gerald Wallace, who put up back-to-back 31-point efforts in wins over Toronto and Cleveland, finished 6 of 12 from the field for 14 points.
Defense does it: While the Celtics have allowed opponents to put up some big numbers this season, they've been downright Scrooge-like against Charlotte. After giving up 31 first-half points in the first meeting (and just 59 points overall), the Celtics limited the Bobcats to 39 first-half points and led by 23 at the intermission Tuesday. Charlotte shot 40.5 percent overall and made just 2 of 11 attempts from beyond the arc."In the first quarter, and maybe the whole first half, our defense was as good as it has been all year," said Rivers.Before the four-game road trip began, Rivers pleaded with his team to bring defensive intensity at the start of games to prevent the home team from getting any momentum early. Charlotte seemed to be staring at a double-digit deficit from the opening tip.
"It was something we talked about before going on the trip and we've done it in the two games so far," said Rivers. "At home, we were getting in the habit of slow starts and battling back -- winning some of them. The last two games we've gotten off to great starts and that's important on the road."
Ball movement: The Celtics finished with a 24-13 advantage in assists. That number doesn't quite tell the whole story, as Boston did a phenomenal job making the extra pass -- almost passing too much, according to Rivers. Kevin Garnett (five assists) in particular did a great job finding teammates alone near the basket. Rajon Rondo had a team-high nine assists."Offensively, we were extremely unselfish, almost to the point of over-passing," said Rivers. "One of the things I told our coaches was that I'd rather have that problem than the other way around."Allen, who had five assists himself, finished with a team-high 27 points, including 5 of 6 shooting from beyond the arc, and a team-best plus-20 in plus/minus.
Perk's a beast: Rivers confirmed as much, using that exact (and familiar) reference during his postgame chat with reporters. Kendrick Perkins registered 21 points on 9-of-10 shooting with a game-high 12 rebounds in a monster effort."We're getting him the ball and we're getting to him in his spot," said Rivers. "I keep telling him, if he's the best pick setter, he's going to get the ball on the post. He's doing that, setting great picks, and he gets in deep because [the defense has] to help. If you set picks for Ray and Paul [Pierce], you have to help, and that allows Perk to roll to the paint and he's got great catches."
Loose balls: Boston's starters combined to shoot 63.9 percent (26 of 41 overall, 7 of 9 3-pointers) with 80 points, 27 rebounds and 21 assists ... Rasheed Wallace picked up his NBA-leading eighth technical foul for jawing at referee Derek Richardson in the second quarter ... Gerald Henderson, the son of the former Celtics standout with the same name, was the lone bright spot for the Bobcats with a plus-13 over 13 minutes off the bench. Maybe he should have stayed on the floor longer ... Rondo hasn't missed a free throw in four games -- then again, he's only had four attempts in that span -- raising his free-throw percentage to 38.5 percent.