Even with a shaky (at times) start, the Celtics have now tied Orlando for first place in the Eastern Conference at 14-4.
The Celtics stretched their winning streak to 5 and stopped the Charlotte streak at 4 as the ball moved freely around the offense and the Boston combine put on a passing clinic with 24 assists on 36 made baskets.
Even that number doesn’t reveal how well they passed the ball in this one. Just amazing ball movement all night. They made it look easy and almost effortless.
Ray Allen vs. Stephen Jackson. It was supposed to be the weak match up. It was…for the Bobcats, as Ray Allen outplayed recently acquired Jackson all night.
In the first quarter, Ray Allen hit consecutive book end three pointers from the corners and you knew he was going to have a good night shooting. With 18 points by half time, Ray led the Celtics to a 62-39 break, and this one was over.
The lead reached as high as 28 points as Ray, Kevin Garnett, and Kendrick Perkins starred in the 108-90 rout of the normally stingy Bobcats ( Best points allowed defense in the NBA at 87.9) . Rajon Rondo ended up with 9 assists on a night the ball moved like a hot potato around the offense. There were more quick hitting three pass or four pass scoring combos than I’ve seen in a while.
Paul Pierce appeared content to play a lower key role as a facilitator all night, registering his first single digit (8 points) game of the year. He also did a credible defensive job on Gerald Wallace as Wallace had his worst game of the season with 5 points.
Ray took game honors with 27 points on 6 of 9 shooting, 5 of 6 three pointers, a perfect 10 for 10 free throws, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal, and a block in front of a cadre of hometown friends and family who were up from Dalzell, North Carolina.
So far this season, the Celtics own the Charlotte Bobcats as they rolled from the opening gun, opening up a 24-10 first quarter lead and were never really challenged the rest of the way. The Celtics defense was active from the start. The Bobcats had a single assist in the first quarter.
Perkins shooting 81%
Kendrick Perkins continued his torrid play of late with 15 first half points on 6 of 7 shooting, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks. He finished with a season high 21 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 3 turnovers. Kendrick is now 21 of 24 shooting over the last three games, and 31 of 38 over the last five games for an incredible 81% rate.
He is fitting into the offense perfectly and making every scoring opportunity count. Is this a sign of things to come as both Rondo and Perkins begin to emerge as the youthful, energetic representatives of the starting five?
Things are coming easier and Kendrick is making quick and decisive moves. But he isn’t rushing things. He seems to be settling down into a consistent low post option now.
Kevin Garnett continues to play well and without obvious discomfort. His defense was active and impacted the game in a huge way early on as the Celtics built their lead. His shooting also continues to look good as he had 16 points an 5-8 shooting. More important, he is going down on the blocks more, getting 6 trips to the foul line
Celtics Defense Smothers Bobcats
The Boston Celtics shut down the mid range and inside game of the Charlotte Bobcats. The only thing left was the three point arc and the ‘Cats were 1 of 6 from there. There aren’t any other places on the court and that means the Charlotte team shot just .310 for the first half. The dominant half time lead turned into a laugher in the second half for a team that is looking more like the Beantown Ballers of the past two years.
The Charlotte team was off most of the night as they were contested inside and out and they missed layups and some rare open shots as well.
The Celtics beat the Bobcats by 33 points earlier in the year. The Cs made this look like the same song, though the Bobcats came in riding a 4 game winning streak sparked by their major acquisition of talented but controversial Stephen Jackson.
Beef With Garnett Energizes Nazr Mohammed
The game got chippy as Garnett and Nazr Mohammed got into it in the first half after Garnett was called for an offensive foul when the two made contact in the middle as KG was about to shoot and Nazr went down. Garnett was loudly verbalizing his displeasure with the call to the ref, when Mohammed jumped up and went to Garnett to voice his own objection. Garnett angrily waved him off and pushed his arm away. This incensed Nazr and the two had to be separated, though KG just put his hands up in the air to show that he wasn’t instigating any contact. Nazr tried to push aside both a referee and a team mate before he was calmed down.
Mohammed went to score 16 points in 19 minutes for one of his best games of the season. Maybe the rest of the Bobcats should have gotten angry.
Tyson Chandler and Rondo had words in the second half of a game that was otherwise not competitive.
The other Bobcat offensive force and the league’s leading rebounder, Gerald Wallace, got 2 quick fouls in the first quarter and finished shooting 1 for 6 while being blocked 3 times in by far his worst game of season.
Raymond Felton continued to show improved play with 14 points, 5 assists and only one turnover.
The Celtics Bench
The bench did its job by maintaining most of the lead in the second half. There was a spot when the starters had to return in the middle of the 4th quarter, when a 28 point lead had shrunk to 19. But Charlotte got it down to 15 due to 2 turnovers by Rondo and one by Perkins, before Marquis Daniels made a jump shot off a Rondo pass and Perkins made a reverse layup to restore order.
Eddie House added 12 points, with most coming after the game was well in hand. He did have a few good defensive plays and strategic fouls.
Rasheed Wallace scored 7 points in 16 minutes on 2 of 7 shooting, with 2 rebounds, an assist and 2 blocked shots. Yes, he did get another tech for saying almost nothing that would get anyone else a tech. After that, the foul shot was missed and Wallace twice yelled “Ball don’t lie!” from the bench. I knew you wanted to know that.
Shelden Williams continues to play pretty well. In 21 minutes, he blocked 2 shots, while adding 5 points and 2 rebounds. He did get blocked twice. He demonstrated a willingness to try to score off the dribble, resulting in his only basket of the night on a drive to the middle.
Marquis Daniels had 4 points, 4 rebounds, an assist, a steal and 2 turnovers in 21 plus minutes.
Doc emptied his bench in the final 2 minutes as Lester Hudson made a nice block on a baseline driving attempt, split the defense for a nice pass, assisted on a House three and had a rebound and a turnover. Hudson looks good in limited play.
So the Celtics looked impressive in their fifth straight win. the Bobcats are short of reliable jump shooters so packing it the middle was a strategy that would work if they could contain Jackson which they did. The Celtics had 9 blocks in the game.
Jackson went 4 -13 for 11 points and had just 2 assists, which ties his season low.
There were no significant stat aberrations to mention. The Cs turned the ball over 17 times to the Bobcats 11, but it was not a factor.
Next up: San Antonio Spurs on Thursday