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Game 23: Celtics vs. Bobcats

at Time Warner Cable Arena, 7 p.m. | CSN, WEEI (850 AM)

GAME PREVIEW (via Stats Inc.)

The Boston Celtics hadn't been challenged very often during the first eight games of their winning streak, but had to go down to the wire to push it to nine.

Based on their recent history against the Charlotte Bobcats, they shouldn't have much trouble extending it to 10.

The Celtics beat the Bobcats three times last season by an average of 25 points, dominance they'd love to see continue Saturday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.

Boston (18-4) won its eight games from Nov. 22-Dec. 8 by an average of 14.2 points, but hardly had an easy time Thursday in Philadelphia.

The Celtics have been remarkably efficient shooting the ball during the streak, making 52.6 percent, and they made their most significant attempt count against the 76ers. Kevin Garnett banked in a shot off Rajon Rondo's alley-oop pass with 1.4 seconds left to lift Boston to a 102-101 win.

"It was a gutsy win," Paul Pierce said. "It didn't seem like we had it all night. We couldn't get really consistent momentum in the game or get a consistent flow. But good teams find a way to win. There was good execution down the stretch."

The Celtics shot 55.9 percent against Philadelphia, but one reason for their consistently impressive percentage is the number of easy looks they're creating. Boston has averaged 48.4 points in the paint during the streak and is outscoring its opponents inside by 15.1 per game during that stretch.

Prior to the winning streak, the Celtics were averaging a 7.7-point edge in the paint.

Considering Kendrick Perkins is out until February and Shaquille O'Neal (leg) and Jermaine O'Neal (knee) are nursing injuries, Pierce thinks there's still plenty of room to improve.

"I keep saying that it's going to be scary when we get healthy," Pierce said. "If we continue to win with the bodies that we're putting out there -- I really can't wait for February and March when we're healthy."

Read the full preview HERE.

FORSBERG'S THREE THINGS TO WATCH

  • Harass the ball-handler: The Bobcats rank 29th in the league in turnovers, giving the ball away 16.9 times per game (only Minnesota is worse at 17.4 per game). That's a lot of lost opportunities for a team that doesn't put a lot of points on the board.

  • Keep 'em off the glass: If there's one thing Charlotte does particularly well, it's rebounding. Yes, the Bobcats are tied for 12th in the league at 41.7 rebounds per game, but they rank third in the league in defensive rebounding percentage (behind only Milwaukee and Orlando) and are second in overall rebounding differential (plus-4). By comparison, the Celtics are 11th in the league at plus-1.3 in overall rebounding differential and, without Shaquille O'Neal, the team will need to scrap around the glass.

  • Lean on the D: Charlotte is 3-13 when it fails to shoot at least 49 percent and is averaging just 95 points per game (in the bottom five in the league). That's not a great recipe for success going against a Celtics team that is holding opponents to 43.7 percent shooting (sixth best in the league).