Boston Celtics (18-4) at Charlotte Bobcats (8-14) Saturday, December 11 7:00 PM ET Game #23, Road Game #12 TV: CSNNE, SSO-CHA, NBA-LP 755/756 Radio: WEEI, WFNZ Time Warner Cable Arena
Referees: Dan Crawford, Curtis Blair, Matt Boland
This is the first of 4 meetings between these two teams. The Bobcats are 5-5 on their home court, but they are far from an easy win. None of those losses have been by greater than four points, and that includes games against Orlando, Utah, New York and San Antonio. The Bobcats have also shown they can beat quality opponents at home with their last three wins coming against Denver, Houston and Phoenix.
Even through the Celtics won the series with the Bobcats 3-0 last season and have never lost a season series to them, the Bobcats always play the Celtics tough. The Celtics definitely can't afford to take them for granted. The Bobcats are playing in the second of back to back games and had to travel home from Indiana overnight for this game. The Celtics had a day off between games. The Bobcats are 4-6 in their last 10 games and 5-5 on their home court. The Celtics are 9-1 in their last 10 games and 8-3 on the road. The Celtics are looking for their 10th straight win while the Bobcats are coming off a loss to Indiana.
Stephen Jackson leads the Bobcats in scoring at 18.6 points per game. Gerald Wallace is their leading rebounder at 8.1 rebounds per game. DJ Augustin leads them with 6.7 assists. On the Celtics side, Paul Pierce leads the team with 18.5 points per game while KG leads in rebounding at 9.6 and Rondo leads the league with 14.1 assists per game. This is definitely not a team the Celtics should underestimate. They are young and hungry and have a way of hanging around in games. The Celtics need to come out focused with the mindset of putting them away early.
Probable Starters PG.....SG......SF......PF......C
Rajon Rondo ...... Ray Allen ..... Paul Pierce........Kevin Garnett.....ShaquilleO'Neal
Boston Bench Mob
Kendrick Perkins (knee) out
Jermaine O'Neal (knee) out
Delonte West (wrist) out
Rajon Rondo (hamstring, feet) probable
Nate Robinson (foot) probable
Shaquille O'Neal (calf) day to day
Paul Pierce (flu) probable
Probable Starters PG......SG.....SF.....PF ..... C
DJ Augustin........Stephen Jackson....Gerald Wallace....... Boris Diaw .......Nazr Mohammed
Gerald Henderson (knee) out
Tyrus Thomas (Quad) day to day
Eduardo Najera (elbow) day to day
Ray Allen vs Stephen Jackson
Jackson is the Bobcats' leading scorer and much of the offense goes through him. Ray has been on a hot streak and hopefully will stay that way in this one. He needs to make Jackson work on defense and Ray needs to limit Jackson's effectiveness.
Paul Pierce vs Gerald Wallace
Wallace is very athletic and leads the Bobcats in rebounding. He has given the Celtics problems in the past and hopefully Pierce is over the flu because he will need his energy to stay with Wallace.
Kevin Garnett vs Boris Diaw
KG has a distinct height advantage in this matchup and hopefully can exploit that.
Keys to the Game Defense - The Celtics have been winning with their defense and need to continue to make defense a priority. The Bobcats are just 3-13 when they fail to top 49% in field goal percentage. The Celtics have to play defense for 48 minutes and not just in spurts. Rebound - When the Celtics out rebound their opponents, they usually win. Much of rebounding is effort and will and when the Celtics show that effort on the boards, it carries through to all the other areas of their game. Rebounding also prevents second chance points. Control the Tempo - Rondo is a master of controlling the tempo of a game. The Bobcats are going to want to run while the Celtics need to keep them in the half court and run on their own terms. Go to the Hoop During the win streak, the Celtics have been averaging 48.4 points per game in the paint. They have been outscoring their opponents by 15.1 points inside. The Celtics need to continue to pound the ball inside and not settle for outside shots.
Injuries and Focus
The Celtics have played through injuries during their 9 game win streak. Can they continue to win and play at a high level as the injuries and illnesses mount? The Bobcats, in spite of their record, are a tough team and always play the Celtics tough. If the Celtics lack focus in this game, the Bobcats will make them pay for it.