What’s the last thing that you’d want to do after playing a basketball game that went for three overtime periods?
Right, catch a plane to Charlotte to play a game the very next night. Well, at least it’s against the Bobcats, the worst team in the league…
…oh, oh! The trap.
The Bobcats were lurking in the weeds, just waiting for the game to start, then they would attack – and attack they did. Taking advantage of the tired Celtics, the Bobcats were relentless. It seemed as if Charlotte recognized early that the Celtics were flat-footed and decided to drive the lane at every opportunity…
…because if they didn’t hit the runner or the layup, there was always the probability that a foul would be called and my lawd, there was a bunch of them. So many in fact that the game had a very choppy feel to it.
“I thought all game we just never got back and matched up.” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, matter-of-factly, “And they knew that. You could see they were really trying to push the pace, and they scored, I think, 12 points after made baskets where they pushed it up and we just didn’t match up.”
Byron Mullens led the Bobcats with a game-high 25 points and a whopping 18 rebounds and Ramon Sessions went for 19, including the dagger from the top of the key as the Cats squeaked by the weary Celtics 94-91 in Charlotte on Monday night.
Kemba Walker checked in with 18 and 6 for the victors and Gerald Henderson chipped in 16 as Charlotte ended a seven game losing streak and improved their bottom feeding record to 12-39, while putting an end to the Celtics’ season high seven game winning streak.
Kevin Garnett scored 16 and yanked down 13 boards and Paul Pierce went 13 and 8 – but both were noticeably struggling from the field as Garnett fell flat-footed and Pierce’s shot was just flat. Pierce did dish out 8 helpers, mostly because the Boston offense went through him the entire night…
…and the Captain responded with a veteran yeoman’s effort, but it just wasn’t enough to carry the tired Celtics.
Jeff Green came off the bench and scored a team-high 18 points and Jason Terry 12, but they lost a big part of their second unit when Leandro Barbosa went down with what appeared to be a serious knee injury, carried from the floor to the locker room by the team trainer and Fab Melo. If the injury turns out to be as bad as it looked, the Celtics may be forced to make a personnel move because it leaves Boston very thin in guard depth.
“L.B. was really starting to play great for us, so let’s just hope he’s OK,” Rivers told reporters in Charlotte. “It doesn’t look great, but we’ll see. We’ll know more tomorrow.”
The contest had the feel of a cat and mouse game from the start, as if Charlotte knew they would eventually come out on top and just toyed with the exhausted Celtics – and not even a Jason Terry trey and a pair of Garnett’s patented fade aways could hold off the hungry Cats.
After the second of consecutive Garnett buckets and with less than three minutes to play gave Boston a four point lead, the Celtics would wear down to nothing, allowing a big Henderson three from the parking lot and the Sessions dagger from 18 feet, then Walker hit two big free throws to provide the final three point margin.
Mullens, the third year 7-footer was too much for Garnett, essentially doing the same thing to KG on Monday night that the pesky Danilo Gallinari had done to him in the triple overtime game on Sunday night: run him all over the floor. The Ohio State product was physical with him under the basket and spread him thin by hitting 4 of 5 treys, and was the big difference maker for the Bobcats.
The Bobcats had lost seven straight, not being really all that competitive during the streak, but took advantage of a Celtics squad that had just endured a grueling three overtime marathon with Western Conference power Denver Nuggets the night before – so Charlotte fans shouldn’t really get too excited and Celtics’ fans really shouldn’t get too down, because this was bound to happen.
As the Celtics came off the floor after the final buzzer, Doc greeted them as he traditionally does after a win, with handshakes and a few words – because he knew what an effort his charges expended, and that they left everything on the floor, a classy move by Rivers.
Regardless, the Cats now take off to Indianapolis for a Wednesday night contest with the Pacers then have almost a week off before traveling to Orlando next Tuesday while the 27-24 Celtics return home to host the Chicago Bulls before taking the All Star break to get some rest in preparation for a trip to Denver and a rematch with the Nuggets.
A rematch in Denver? Yeah, the Celtics better get plenty of rest…