Game Preview: Bobcats at Celtics
The Charlotte Bobcats are in position to finish as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, but it's not clear how big a priority that is for them.
In any case, the Bobcats can take a big step toward that goal with a sixth straight win to start their weekend.
Charlotte begins a back-to-back set against two of the NBA's worst teams with Friday night's road game against the Boston Celtics, who are trying to avoid their longest losing streak in seven years.
The Bobcats moved into a tie for sixth in the East with Washington by beating the Wizards 94-88 in overtime on the road Wednesday. Charlotte survived despite blowing a 20-point lead as Kemba Walker scored five of its seven points after regulation.
"To go from basically the worst team going to the six seed, I mean, it shows a lot," Walker said.
Charlotte holds the tiebreaker over Washington. Finishing sixth would result in avoiding a first-round matchup with Miami or Indiana, but star forward Al Jefferson didn't seem concerned by that.
"We getting better as a team, we're two games above .500," Jefferson said. "But does it really matter where we're at for seeding-wise? No, we're just happy to be in the mix."
Jefferson had 20 points and 18 rebounds Wednesday for his fifth straight double-double for the Bobcats, who last won six in a row March 5-14, 2010.
Charlotte has seen four of its last seven games go overtime, including victories on the first two stops of this three-game trip. The Bobcats, though, may not need to go past regulation this weekend.
Boston is seeking to avoid losing 10 straight for the first time since dropping a team-record 18 in a row in 2007. Charlotte returns home to face lowly Philadelphia on Saturday.
The Celtics couldn't hold a nine-point advantage with 5:44 remaining in Wednesday's 105-97 defeat to Atlanta, getting outscored 35-20 in the fourth quarter. They were outscored 30-16 over the last 12 minutes in their previous defeat, 115-111 to Detroit on Saturday.
"It's pretty much the same old story the last couple of games," point guard Rajon Rondo said. "When teams make a comeback on us, they turn up the pressure and we seem to fold."
Rondo was not available when these teams split two November meetings, with the visiting club winning each time.
This will mark the fifth game that Rondo and Walker will oppose each other, with Boston winning the first four. Rondo has averaged 13.5 points, 13.8 assists and 48.8 percent from the field with one triple-double in those games, while Walker is averaging 10.8 points, 4.0 assists and 26.1 shooting - all below his career averages.
Jefferson is headed to the postseason for the third time in a 10-year career that began when he was drafted 15th overall in 2004 by the Celtics. He had 22 points and 13 boards in an 89-83 victory Nov. 13 that marked his first in seven tries as a visitor to Boston.
"A long time coming," he said afterward. "Been so close many times."
Celtics power forward Jared Sullinger sat out that game with a knee injury. He was back for the Nov. 25 rematch, helping limit Jefferson to 14 points and a season-low three rebounds in Boston's 96-86 win.