Game Preview: Bobcats at Celtics
A change at point guard has provided an immediate spark for the Boston Celtics.
While the Charlotte Bobcats have their coach back, they're still trying to figure out how to play around their marquee offseason addition.
Boston will look to extend its winning streak to five Wednesday night when it hosts Charlotte.
As many expected, the Celtics started in slow fashion under first-year coach Brad Stevens by losing their first four games. But since Stevens inserted Jordan Crawford into the starting lineup at point guard and shifted Avery Bradley off the ball, they haven't lost.
Boston is averaging 104.8 points during the win streak and shooting 55.7 percent in the last two games, including 15 of 33 from 3-point range. Stevens' team averaged 87.5 points through the first four contests.
Bradley scored a season-high 24 in a 120-105 home win over Orlando on Monday, Boston's second victory over the Magic in four days. Crawford had 16 points and 10 assists for just the fourth double-digit assist game of his career.
The Celtics have also drastically reduced their turnovers, committing 13.8 per game during their run after averaging 21.0 in the first four contests. Crawford owns a 4.6 assist-to-turnover ratio in his four starts.
"Yeah, they're playing really well together," Stevens said.
Boston got plenty of balance Monday with Kelly Olynyk and Jeff Green scoring 16 each. The Celtics were 51 for 85 from the floor (60.0 percent) against a team that entered with the league's second-best field-goal percentage defense. Bradley was 10 for 15, taking advantage of the space provided for open jumpers.
"One of those days," Stevens said. "You know you're going to get jump shots because that's what they force you into. Normally, those are inefficient shots."
The Bobcats saw the return of coach Steve Clifford on Monday, three days after he had two stents placed in his heart, and lost 103-94 at home to Atlanta for their second straight defeat.
Al Jefferson had 10 points and seven rebounds in nearly 28 minutes after missing five games with a sprained ankle. The prized free-agent signing also missed significant preseason action due to the injury, limiting the time his teammates have had to adapt to playing with him.
"It's just a different style of play playing through Al," said forward Josh McRoberts, who scored a team-high 19. "You try to work through growing pains. ... There are probably guys in here who have never played with a low-post scorer in their entire careers, whether college or NBA.
"So it's definitely a change having one of the best low-post players in the world down there in the block. We have to adjust and play through him."
Though his production isn't up to par yet, Jefferson is the only Bobcat that plays regular minutes with a plus-minus rating better than minus-10. He owns a zero rating.
"He's not in great shape yet, and he played more minutes than I thought he would simply because we are better when he's on the floor," Clifford said.
Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson is averaging 20.0 points on 52.9 percent shooting over his last six games against the Celtics, who are 13-3 all-time at home in the series.