Game Preview: Celtics at Bobcats

Make your picks now in Celtics 3-Point Play

BOSTON – Three games, three cities and three opponents. That’s what the Boston Celtics (35-25) will have faced once tonight’s 6 p.m. matchup with the Bobcats (7-51) in Charlotte comes to a close.

The Celtics began their three-games-in-three-nights trek Friday night in Toronto before moving on to New Jersey last night. In the midst of those two games, Boston seemed to lose its way for a game and a half. The good news, however, is that they rediscovered their groove in the third quarter of last night’s win over the Nets.

Boston put the clamps down on New Jersey in the second half and limited the Nets to just 23.4 percent shooting over the final 24 minutes of the contest. That defense, combined with a solid performance at the offensive end of the court, helped the Celtics blow the game open and log a 94-82 victory.

"We came out a lot more aggressive," Kevin Garnett said after the win. "We ran our system and our things and defensively we slowed them down a bit and never looked back."

Now the Celtics are looking forward with a 1-1 record through the first two legs of this trip. There’s no doubt that they should be able to advance that record to 2-1 tonight. Charlotte is by far the worst team in the league and will take an incredible 15-game losing streak into tonight’s contest.

The Bobcats last played on Friday and were obliterated by the Miami Heat, 105-82. Derrick Brown scored 21 points and grabbed nine rebounds in that game, but he was one of six Bobcats players who finished with a plus/minus rating of at least minus-12. All 10 of Charlotte’s healthy players appeared in the game and all 10 of them finished with a negative number in that category.

If Boston has its way, that will be the case again tonight. However, expecting a 30-point blowout on the third night of a back-to-back-to-back might be a bit much to ask for.

The Celtics are heading into the final game of this stretch and no one knows how Doc Rivers is going to handle his rotation. He was able to limit his starters’ playing time last night, as Avery Bradley was the only starter who logged more than 33 minutes of playing time. Still, though, this is the team’s third game in three nights, and no one knows how the bodies of Garnett, Paul Pierce and Co. will respond in this situation.

What we do know is that Boston’s two aging vets were pretty impressive on the floor less than 24 hours ago. Garnett recorded game highs of 21 points and 12 rebounds against the Nets and drilled eight of his 16 shot attempts. Pierce, meanwhile, piled up 17 points, five rebounds and four assists.

Neither Garnett nor Pierce played much more than 31 minutes on Saturday, and they can probably expect to see even less action tonight. Rivers hasn’t shared his plan for his rotation, but one would have to assume that he’ll need to rely on his bench players much more tonight than he did in the first two games of this trip.

No matter how Rivers rotates his players, they should be able to snag another victory over this hapless Charlotte team. Two games are already in the books of this back-to-back-to-back, and Boston couldn’t have dreamed up a better opponent to take on in the final game of that stretch tonight.

Nothing Easy

In the words of our good friend Zaza Pachulia, “Nothing easy!” Winning tonight’s game, despite the fact that it’s against the worst team in the league, will not be an easy task for the Celtics to conquer.

There are several factors surrounding this game that make it difficult for Boston to win. First off, as we’ve already covered, the team will be playing for the third time in three nights. Secondly, and more unexpectedly, the Celtics haven’t exactly handled this Bobcats team with ease this season.

Boston is 2-0 against Charlotte in 2011-12, but the average margin of victory has only been 8.5 PPG. Yes, the Celtics did build up 18-point leads in both of those contests, but the Bobcats played even with the C’s for the majority of those two games. In fact, there has been only one quarter of the eight these teams have played against each other in which Boston has outscored Charlotte by more than five points. The Bobcats played even with the Celtics in two other quarters and outscored Boston in another one.

To put it simply, the Celtics certainly shouldn’t expect a win to come easily tonight.

Ride the Big Ticket

Garnett might be playing in his third game in three nights, but he must be licking his chops heading into this contest. The Big Ticket has dominated the Bobcats this season to the tune of 23.0 PPG on 57.1 percent shooting.

KG is coming off of a monster performance in New Jersey and should be able to keep the ball rolling tonight. Charlotte doesn’t have anyone who can match up with Garnett on the perimeter, as the Bobcats’ starting center, Bismack Biyombo, is more of an interior shot blocker. Biyombo is also an inexperienced 19-year-old rookie.

Although Garnett is likely to see less than 30 minutes of action tonight, he might spend all of his playing time lighting up the Bobcats. If the Celtics know what they’re doing, they’ll ride KG throughout tonight’s game in the same manner they did last night in New Jersey.

A Low-Scoring Affair

Boston might struggle to put the ball in the basket tonight while playing on an empty tank, but that shouldn’t prevent the Celtics from competing in this game. Charlotte’s offense is terrible, as the team has scored more than 90 points just five times during this 15-game losing streak.

The Bobcats average just 88.0 PPG this season, which ranks last in the NBA. They have essentially been right on that number in two games against Boston this season, as Charlotte has averaged 89.0 PPG in these teams’ two meetings.

Charlotte’s ugly offense likely won’t fare well against the best defense in the league. The Celtics have been on a tear defensively and have limited nine of their past 11 opponents to less than 90 points. Boston will likely add to that number tonight, but the question remains as to if it will be able to score enough of its own points to put another tally in the win column.