Boston Celtics: Charlotte Bobcats
Pressey finished with two points, three steals and a rebound to go along with those eight helpers. He was plus-14 in plus/minus, combining with Gerald Wallace, Courtney Lee, Kris Humphries and Vitor Faverani to provide sustained bench output on a night in which Boston's second unit carried the team.
Half of Pressey's assists came in the fourth quarter on Monday and two of those set up Lee 3-pointers as Boston's lead hovered around double digits for much of the frame.
In his last seven appearances for the Celtics, Pressey has posted 21 assists against a mere four turnovers in 86 minutes of floor time. As Boston navigates the early part of the 2013-14 season without a pure veteran point guard as Rajon Rondo rehabs from ACL surgery, 22-year-old Pressey has been a calming influence. That's unusual for a rookie, particularly one that every team in the league essentially passed on twice in June.
For the season, Boston's offensive rating (points per 100 possessions) is 99 when Pressey is on the floor -- that's nearly three points higher than the team's season average (96.3) and 4 ½ points better than when he's on the bench (95.5). Likewise, Boston's defensive rating is 98.5 with Pressey on the floor, which is 3.3 points lower than the team's season average (101.8) and 4.3 points lower than when he's off the court (102.8). Not surprisingly, Boston's assist-to-turnover ratio bloats from .96 without him to 1.3 when he's on the floor and the team turnover percent dives nearly three percent (to a crisp 15.6 percent).
For a Boston team that struggles to generate consistent offense (or simply generate quality opportunities without turning the ball over), Pressey's impact is undeniable. He endured an up-and-down preseason and was prone to spikes in his turnovers, but his regular-season play has been incredibly steady. And while he still struggles to generate his own offense, his playmaking talents are helping the Celtics generate much-needed bench scoring.
The knock on Pressey coming out of Missouri was an inability to keep opponents honest because of his offensive struggles. Through 13 appearances, Pressey is shooting just 26.2 percent from the floor. What's more, he's averaging a mere 0.583 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports data, which ranks him in the sixth percentile in the league. Of all players with at least 60 offensive possessions this season, Pressey ranks dead last out of 251 qualifiers.
But maybe that only speaks volumes to his impact as a facilitator. Pressey is averaging a mere 2.4 assists per game, but according to the league's new SportVU player tracking data, through Sunday's games, Pressey was averaging 15.2 points generated by assists per 48 minutes. That's second on the Celtics behind only Jordan Crawford (17.8) and that number will go up a bit after Monday's outing.
Defensively, Pressey came out of college with a reputation for being a pest. The early numbers at the pro level haven't been great, but Pressey showed on Monday night how those quick hands can make an impact with three steals (two of which led to layups the other way; he missed a layup of his own on one of the swipes). As coach Brad Stevens noted after Monday's game, "Phil Pressey’s pressure might have been one of the key factors in changing the game."
Pressey's role will get a bit murkier when Rondo is able to return. The addition of the All-Star point guard will thin available backcourt minutes, with Crawford likely to slide to the top backup point guard role. All of which makes these early-season reps all the more important for Pressey. His contract is not guaranteed beyond this season, but Boston has him under its control for three more seasons at pocket change and he's exactly the sort of young depth ball-handler that the team has sorely lacked in recent seasons.
One thing is certain: The 5-foot-11 Pressey doesn't lack for confidence and Stevens has often noted how he plays with a chip on his shoulder. There's plenty of room for growth in his game, and Boston must nurture his development. But the spark and security he's providing as a rookie is certainly beyond his years.
THE NITTY GRITTY
Maybe it shouldn't surprise us that Gerald Wallace felt particularly comfortable in Charlotte. Back in his old stomping grounds (Wallace played 5+ seasons in Charlotte, leading the expansion Bobcats to the postseason), he scored a season-high 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting to go along with four rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block over 35:44. Jordan Crawford scored a team-high 21 points (4-of-6 beyond the 3-point arc), while Brandon Bass added 16 points and five rebounds while staying in the starting lineup. Kemba Walker (28 points on 11-of-17 shooting) and Gerald Henderson (20 points) paced the Bobcats.
The Celtics were up 10 in the third quarter before the Bobcats rallied to tie the game late in the frame. Unfazed, Boston embarked on an 11-0 burst during a 3:24 stretch spanning into the fourth quarter. Early in that final frame, Jeff Green had a driving layup, Courtney Lee hit a 3-pointer, and Kris Humphries had consecutive buckets to put Boston out front 77-66 with 9:15 to play. Phil Pressey (team-high eight assists off the bench) sparked the second-unit's efforts with his playmaking abilities.
Jared Sullinger had five points and a team-high eight rebounds, but his biggest contribution might have been on defense pushing around Al Jefferson and never letting the Boston draftee get too comfortable. Jefferson finished with 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting and had only three rebounds. ... Kelly Olynyk (sprained ankle) Keith Bogans (illness) remained out for Boston. ... MarShon Brooks was the only healthy DNP. ... Avery Bradley finished 1-for-6 for two points over a mere 8:42, sitting much of the second half in part because of foul trouble. But the inspired play of Pressey and Crawford allowed Bradley to take it easy on a night when he struggled. ... Lee was a team-best plus-18 in plus-minus while scoring 11 points over 15 minutes, and Humphries (plus-17 over 16:20) was right behind him.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics have now won two straight, finishing strong during a stretch of five games in five cities over seven nights. Boston heads home for Thanksgiving, but it has a pair of games sandwiched around the holiday with visits from Memphis (Wednesday) and Cleveland (Friday). Regardless, a daunting November schedule is winding down and the team will have additional practice time and fewer games as December arrives. It's a chance to build off a dizzying streak-filled start to the 2013-14 season.
- A DEFENSIVE BATTLE?: Well, it's a matchup of two of the worst offenses in the league. The Bobcats rank 27th in offensive rating (95.1 points per 100 possessions) and 28th in scoring average (89.6 points per game). Charlotte is last in the league in both field goal percentage (40.9 percent) and free throw percentage (69 percent). The flip side: Charlotte ranks fifth overall in defensive rating (97.9) and fourth in points allowed per game (91.6).
- LIMITING SECOND CHANCES, TURNOVERS: The Bobcats may not be a particularly good offensive team, but here's how they are winning games: Play serviceable defense, rebound the basketball (fifth in defensive rebound percentage), and take care of the basketball on offense (sixth in turnover percentage). Boston has played some inspired defense as well, but they have 10 losses in part because of turnover woes and an inability to limit second-chance opportunities.
- WIM: WANT IT MORE: The Bobcats were quicker to the ball and simply hungrier when the two teams met in Boston earlier this month. Charlotte set the tone early and Boston only played in spurts. The Celtics played gritty down the stretch in Atlanta, making all the hustle plays to aid a rally from a 12-point deficit. They'll need more of that scrappiness against the Bobcats.
- WHAT ELSE?: This is the second of three meetings this season. The Bobcats posted an 89-83 win in Boston earlier this month. ... Green skies ahead: The Celtics play 11 of their next 15 games in Boston to close out the 2013 calendar year. ... With Kelly Olynyk out with the sprained right ankle, there's a chance here for a big -- Vitor Faverani or Kris Humphries -- to state their case for more consistent playing time. Faverani seems to be trending back in the right direction.
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Day-after-game workouts for the Celtics often have been light, particularly with the team navigating a minefield of an early-season schedule that features 19 games over the first 31 days of the season.
But even with a back-to-back looming to close out this four-game week, those three letters seemed to send a bit of a message to the Celtics players: You weren't ready on Wednesday night; come ready to work harder on Thursday.
An overconfident Celtics team, riding high on a four-game winning streak, too-cooled its way through Wednesday's visit from the Bobcats and endured a not-easy-on-the-eyes 89-83 defeat at TD Garden.
The loss provided a sobering reminder of how things tend to work with young teams: Fail to show up with the proper focus and energy level, and you can get beaten by anybody.
For Boston's divided fan base, Team Tank can rejoice at a bad loss to a below-average team (especially after watching all that college talent on Tuesday night), while Team Overachieve can cling to the idea that Boston played some atrocious basketball and still gave itself a chance to win in the final minute. But for the players, this was a somewhat friendly reminder that they are not nearly talented enough to just show up for games.
The buzzword on Wednesday was "lackadaisical" with former Bobcat Gerald Wallace suggesting his Celtics were a little too cheeky.
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Here's the nitty gritty: Sullinger has been a plus/minus beast for Boston since he slid into its lap in the 2012 draft. In the 138 minutes he's played this season, Boston is plus-30 and owns glossy ratings (points per 100 possessions) on both offense (107.4) and defense (98.9). In the 294 minutes that Sullinger has been off the floor, Boston is minus-38 and its ratings sputter on offense (94.4) and defense (100.8).
Sullinger's impact is impossible to ignore; good things happen when he's on the court. The team rebounds better, it defends better, it passes better. The second-year forward is an extremely important part of any success this team will enjoy this season. To bottom line it: The Celtics are 0-2 in the games he's missed this season and 4-3 when he's played.
Sullinger missed Wednesday's game when a bone bruise on his right knee left him unable to dress. He remains day-to-day while waiting for the pain to subside after Orlando's Mo Harkless bumped the knee while Sullinger took a charge in the first half of Monday's win over the Magic.
Celtics players acknowledged that not having Sullinger hurt the team on Wednesday.
"He’s our post-up threat," Gerald Wallace said. "He puts pressure on the defense by getting in the blocks, posting up -- I don’t think we had a lot of post-ups other than Jeff Green posting up. With him out, that really makes us a perimeter-oriented team."
That perimeter-oriented team shot 37.7 percent overall and a mere 29 percent outside the paint.
Asked how much the team missed Sullinger, Green added, "A lot. Another big to put on Al [Jefferson], to put on the boards. He’s a big key to what we’re trying to do. It’s tough without him, but when a guy goes down, somebody has to step up in any kind of way."
Kris Humphries was supposed to take Sullinger's minutes, but was ineffective. He registered just one point and zero rebounds over 9:47. The Celtics instead leaned hard on rookie center Vitor Faverani, who provided a boost on the glass (nine rebounds) and protected the rim. Faverani was a team-best plus-10 in plus/minus, but struggled with his shot (7 points on 2-of-8 shooting). Kelly Olynyk grabbed a team-high 11 rebounds, but never got going offensively (6 points on 1-of-4 shooting) and was a team-worst minus-11.
"Any time one of your better players is out, that hurts," coach Brad Stevens said. "But it’s not an excuse. You’ve got 10 guys that played in the game and it’s a great opportunity for guys to take advantage when a teammate needs you to step in and fill the shoes. Hopefully we can do that in the future. I’ve always been big on that next-man-up concept, and certainly can’t use it as an excuse if we don’t have success when he’s out."
A few more quick hits from a burn-the-tape game:
- SUMMING UP THE NIGHT IN ONE PLAY: Midway through the fourth quarter, Boston finally rallied within a possession. Ramon Sessions came off a pick-and-roll and, encountering traffic, he tried to kick the ball back out to the top of the arc. Olynyk tipped it and the ball shot straight up. Despite having three white jerseys in the neighborhood, the ball bounced onto the floor and Brandon Bass couldn't scoop it up as Sessions swooped in to corral it. Even as Boston thwarted another drive, the Bobcats were able to swing the ball back to Anthony Tolliver on the right wing in front of the Boston bench. With Crawford caught straying a bit too far, Tolliver knocked down one of three 3-pointers on the night with less than a second on the shot clock. The inability to get that initial 50/50 ball was the sort of play that killed Boston all night.
- CRAWFORD PROVIDES AN OFFENSIVE JOLT: After a sluggish first half, Jordan Crawford tried to give Boston a spark by attacking the basket (and trying to exploit a matchup with Kemba Walker). He finished with 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting with six assists, five rebounds and two steals over a team-high 35:22. "I felt we were a little slow and I felt like the way for us to open up the offense a little bit was for me to attack," Crawford said. "I just tried to do that a little bit and open it up for my teammates."
- EYE ON THE COLLEGE GAME?: Stevens was asked if he watched any of the star-studded collegiate games on Tuesday night. He offered, "I did not watch very much last night, maybe for a couple of minutes here or there." When the conversation swung to whether he missed the college game after Butler University opened up this past weekend, Stevens noted, "I told my wife this morning, the only thing I miss from the college game is the people that I was around every day. Otherwise, this is a unique new challenge. Basketball is basketball in a lot of ways, but certainly the thing you miss are the people."
THE NITTY GRITTY
No way to sugarcoat this one: It wasn't a pretty game as the teams combined to shoot 37.1 percent from the floor (think Friday's rock fight in Orlando). The Bobcats started fast, shooting 61.1 percent (11-of-18) in the first quarter while building a double-digit lead little more than five minutes in and never trailed. Old friend Al Jefferson, who had been 0-for-11 against the team that drafted him, scored a game-high 22 points on 8-of-17 shooting with 11 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks over 33 minutes. Boston got a team-high 19 points from Jeff Green, while Kelly Olynyk added six points and a team-high 11 rebounds. Jordan Crawford spearheaded the offense, finishing with 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting with 6 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals over 35:22. Gerald Wallace came off the bench to provide 10 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 assists over 20 minutes against one of his former squads.
Despite trailing by as much as 16, the Celtics rallied, but couldn't quite get over the hump each time they made a second-half charge. With 8:21 to go, Boston finally made it a one-possession game, but Olynyk got whistled for a charge and Green missed two free throws soon. Charlotte was still up three when Green got whistled for a charge of his own and Anthony Tolliver hit a late-clock 3-pointer with 5:37 to play that put Charlotte up 81-75.
CELTICS GO DOWN SWINGING
Down 8 with 2:17 to go, Boston wouldn't roll over. With shades of the Miami rally, the Celtics kept charging and Jordan Crawford's three-point play with 32 seconds to play made it a two-point game. But Jefferson turned his 10th rebound of the game into a second-chance layup that put the Bobcats out front 87-83 with 17.7 seconds to go.
NAPOLI'S BEARD VISITS GARDEN
Fresh off a World Series victory, Mike Napoli sat courtside for Wednesday's game. He received a standing ovation when put on the JumboTron in the first quarter, then won the Legal Seafoods Fan of the Game (getting $100 gift card for having the best beard in the crowd). Napoli returned to his seat after halftime wearing more layers than he departed with, quite the change of pace for his post-Series adventures.
Even with Jared Sullinger (knee) scratched, Kris Humphries played only 9:47, missing the only shot he took while finishing with 1 point and 0 rebounds. ... Vitor Faverani got an uptick in frontcourt minutes instead and stayed on the court due to his rebounding (9 boards). He struggled with his shot, finishing 2-of-8 shooting with seven points, but he was a plus-10 overall. ... Keith Bogans and MarShon Brooks were again healthy DNPs.
WHAT IT MEANS
Boston's four-game winning streak ended as the team fell to 4-5 (and, for those early-season standings watchers, second place in the Atlantic Division). The Celtics wrap up a three-game homestand on Friday with a visit from the Portland Trail Blazers. The second night of a back-to-back looms Saturday in Minnesota to open a three-game road trip that also takes Boston to Houston and San Antonio.
Sullinger suffered a bone bruise taking a charge from Orlando's Mo Harkless in the second quarter of Monday's win over the Magic. He sat out practice Tuesday while getting an MRI. Sullinger warmed up before Wednesday's game, but he simply is not at full strength.
"It’s still day-to-day; We didn’t even know officially [Sullinger would be out] until five minutes ago," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said while addressing reporters 95 minutes before tip-off. "He’s got the bruised knee [and] obviously isn’t feeling 100 percent running and jumping off it. It’s a great opportunity for somebody else to step up."
Stevens said Kris Humphries will fill Sullinger's minutes. Humphries has played well in small burst this season, including while filling in for Sullinger on opening night when he was suspended for the first game of the year in Toronto.
Asked before the game if it was difficult waiting for his number to be called, Humphries said, "I think it’s tough for anybody. ... [But] it’s a team effort. It’s not about me. It’s about everyone staying ready and contributing, being ready when [your] time is called to help the team."
- GUESS WHAT DAY IT IS: If Jared Sullinger can't go because of a bone bruise on his right knee (he's listed as day-to-day), it could be Hump Day. Kris Humphries has been excellent in short bursts this season as he's plus-27 in plus/minus over 46 minutes (only Sullinger is better overall at plus-30). What's more, Humphries has been the team's best rebounder (17.7 total rebound percentage; 25 defensive rebound percentage). After filling in while Sullinger was suspended on opening night in Toronto, Humphries could get another opportunity due to Sullinger's injury (or any limitation because of the bone bruise).
- EYES ON C'S DEFENSE: Masked by some excellent offensive efforts the past two games has been the fact that Boston's defense hasn't been quite as crisp. Fortunately for the Celtics, the Bobcats are one of the worst offenses in the league (28th in rating; 29th in effective field goal percentage). It's on Boston's perimeter defenders to keep the guards in front of them and prevent dribble penetration where Charlotte can create some havoc.
- WHERE DO CELTS GO FROM HERE? The Celtics have won four straight to pull back to .500. Can this team keep that momentum going against Charlotte? Said Gerald Wallace, "The one thing about it is it's 82 games, so you know you have time to get yourself together if you continue to work hard, continue to improve everything. It's early in the season. The first month is usually the warm-up period, so teams are still trying to figure out their identity and figure out what they want to do as a team and what their expectations are." The more Boston wins, the more its own expectations might shift this season.
- WHAT ELSE? Jordan Crawford has been the toast of the town coming off his double-double against the Magic. How will he respond to all the increased attention for his steadiness at the point guard position? Stevens has implored him to stay focused at the task at hand. ... What has floated more under the radar is the jolt that Phil Pressey is giving the second-unit offense. ... The Celtics need to keep Michael Kidd-Gilchrist out of transition. He's been a terrible spot-up shooter, but thrives attacking in transition. ... Boston has limited its turnovers with Crawford at point guard and that will help them again considering this is a Bobcats team that has taken good care of the ball this season.
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But following the Celtics' 100-98 double overtime victory over LeBron James and the Miami Heat back in January, that indeed was the case. The Celtics knew James could have wreaked even more havoc on them, but they managed to prevent him from completely taking over the game.
The main face of Boston's defensive effort against James in that game was Jeff Green, who embraced the challenge of checking arguably the NBA's best player and did a commendable job of forcing James into jump shots and denying him clear paths to the basket. Of the 31 shots James took in that game, 19 came outside of the lane, and he took just five free throws.
With Miami storming into Boston on Monday, the Celtics will once again look to Green to help keep James in line.
"It's always a challenge," Green said at Sunday's practice. "He's one of the best players. It's always a challenge guarding him and I take on the challenge of guarding him. I enjoy it."
But Green knows he won't be able to stop James all by himself. He can be the first line of defense and work to cut off James' lanes to the basket, but he'll need his teammates working and communicating behind him to help bolster the attack. Communication on defense could be thrown into even greater focus on Monday if Kevin Garnett -- Boston's best talker on defense -- is still out with a strained left adductor. Doc Rivers said at Sunday's practice that KG is "50/50 at best" for Monday night's game.
"I can't do it alone," Green said. "He's going to get past me sometimes, but that's why you count on your teammates to be there."
"If he’s healthy, he’ll play," said Rivers. "And if he’s not, he will not."
Now the question is whether Garnett will be ready for Monday's game against the streaking Heat. Whether by design or happenstance, the Celtics' locker room had every angle covered.
Paul Pierce is planning as if Garnett will not play. "We don’t expect him to be back, right now," said Pierce. "And that’s the mindset we have to take. If he’s back, that’s just an added bonus for us to play Miami. Right now, as of today, we have to get it in our mind that this is the team that we’re going to see versus Miami, and we all gotta be ready to step up."
Brandon Bass is planning as if Garnett will play. "He'll be able to go," said Bass. "We're looking forward to him going, but if not, everybody's got to step up."
Taking a spot somewhere in between, Jason Terry offered: "I have no idea what [Garnett's] status will be, but whoever's in a white and green uniform will be ready to go."
Read on for a handful of other notes from Saturday's game:
THE NITTY GRITTY
After an embarrassing loss Tuesday in Charlotte, the Kevin Garnett-less Celtics atoned with a breezy triumph against the cellar-dwelling Bobcats. Boston's entire starting five landed in double figures for scoring as the five-man unit of Avery Bradley (13 points), Courtney Lee (12), Brandon Bass (10), Jeff Green (10), and Paul Pierce (14) combined to finish 23-of-44 shooting (52.3 percent). Jason Terry added a team-high 15 points to highlight a bench that got plenty of run (Shavlik Randolph played 15:23 with six points and a team-high eight rebounds). Boston finished a scorching 10-of-15 beyond the 3-point arc. Jannero Pargo scored a team-high 18 points for the Bobcats, while Gerald Henderson -- who had a career night on Tuesday -- finished with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
It was a two-possession game with under seven minutes to play in the third quarter, but an 11-2 burst for Boston put some space between the teams. Lee registered three straight jumpers for the Celtics, including a 3-pointer with 4:58 to go that had Boston out front 70-55. A couple 3-pointers by Terry to close out the frame kept the Celtics comfortably ahead (83-66). The lead ballooned as high as 26 before getting whittled down a bit late in the fourth quarter.
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics improved to 2-0 without Garnett and have posted lopsided wins over both Phoenix and Charlotte without him (not exactly the muscle of the league). Now the Celtics have to hope that Garnett's adductor muscle heals up in time for what's likely to be a streak-happy showdown with the Miami Heat on Monday. Boston has won 11 straight at home, while, with a win on Sunday in Toronto, the Heat will own a 22-game winning streak when they visit. That would match the second-longest streak in league history. Ironically, Boston snapped Houston's 22-game winning streak on March 18, 2008, exactly five years to the day of Monday's game with Miami.
BOSTON -- Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett will sit out Saturday's visit from the Charlotte Bobcats due to a left adductor strain. Jeff Green starts in his place.
The Celtics have considered giving Garnett games off over the final weeks of the regular season, but this is not rest-related, according to coach Doc Rivers.
"Kevin’s not playing tonight -- not because it’s a night off; he wasn't moving well yesterday in practice or today [at shootaround]. So we’re sitting him."
Rivers didn't elaborate much on the issue and wasn't certain of Garnett's availability moving forward, including Monday's visit from the East-leading Miami Heat.
"I don’t know," said Rivers. "Honestly, I haven’t looked that far ahead. I have no idea."
The Celtics rested Paul Pierce in Tuesday's visit to Charlotte and absorbed a 26-point loss. While Rivers said he'll play recently added big men D.J. White and Shavlik Randolph, he's hoping Boston's depleted frontcourt depth won't be an issue against a Bobcats team that has hurt the Celtics on the glass while beating Boston twice this season.
"[Boston's small lineups have] been awful against them," said Rivers. "Really, they stay big against us and they hurt us, but I look at it, I’m putting my five best out on the floor and seeing what we can do, if we can create a pace that will benefit us."
Later Rivers added: "Honestly, in the three games [this season], the one thing they’ve done consistently is beat us off the dribble. All of them, Gerald Henderson and all their guards, even their bigs are beating us off the dribble. The second thing is their rebounding, offensive rebounding has hurt us, and usually those two things do go hand-in-hand. If you can’t keep the ball in front of you, then your bigs are in help the entire game, and their bigs are free to rebound. Our guards have to player better."
* PLENTY OF MOTIVATION: The only positive takeaway from absorbing a 26-point loss to the worst team in basketball four days ago? The Boston Celtics won't get caught looking past the Bobcats on Saturday night. Even with a Monday-night showdown looming against the East-leading Miami Heat (and their 21-game winning streak), Boston will have plenty of motivation against a team that likely won't even reach 21 wins this season. Hop HERE for more on a Celtics squad eager to atone for a lifeless effort in Charlotte on Tuesday.
* HENDERSON IN FOCUS: Gerald Henderson erupted for a career-high 35 points in Tuesday's win over Boston. He'll have a bull's-eye on his back this time around. Henderson has been a fairly efficient scorer this season, averaging 0.939 points per play and ranking in the 66th percentile among all league players, according to Synergy Sports data. Henderson has been a terrific spot-up shooter (1.116 points per play) and generates a lot of opportunities in transition (16.6 percent of his plays come that way), but it's likely the antennas will be up for Boston's backcourt of Avery Bradley and Courtney Lee.
* REST STOP: The Celtics will be coming off consecutive days off, while the Bobcats lost Friday night in Toronto (Charlotte has lost 11 of its last 12 overall). Boston has actually been fairly mediocre coming off two days' rest, posting a mere 4-5 record this season (by comparison, they are 6-0 after three days' rest). Charlotte is 3-14 playing on no day's rest.
* HOME SWEET HOME: The Celtics have won 10 straight at TD Garden. You'd have to go back to Jan. 24 to find their last loss there (against the Knicks). The Celtics own a defensive rating (points per 100 possessions) of a minuscule 94.5 in 32 home games this season (it jumps up to a staggering 104.3 on the road). This is Boston's ninth Saturday game of the season (the Celtics are 5-3 overall, including 2-0 at home.
Just four days ago, playing without a resting Paul Pierce, Boston was blown out by 26 points, good for its second-worst loss of the season. Charlotte has the worst record in the NBA (14-50), so the Celtics were left scratching their heads, not being able to pinpoint why they performed so poorly, even without their captain.
"We came out and we didn't play the way we usually played," Courtney Lee said prior to Friday's practice. "I don't know for what reason, but we weren't executing, we weren't getting back on defense, and that's not us."
All they know now is they're not going to let it happen again on Saturday.
"Of course there's extra motivation," Lee said. "We lost to them pretty bad at their spot, they were laughing, they enjoyed it, so we've got to make sure we take care of home court and we'll return that favor to them."
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