Game Preview: Bobcats at Celtics

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BOSTON – The Boston Celtics (19-17) will continue their season-long five-game homestand at 7:30 p.m. tonight when they host the struggling Charlotte Bobcats (9-27). As their records may indicate, these teams are trending in opposite directions.

The C’s are in the midst of a five-game winning streak that was continued Friday night with a 103-91 victory over the Houston Rockets. Four of Boston’s five wins during this streak have come against teams that are currently on pace to make the playoffs.

When the season began, Charlotte was dreaming about that “P” word for the first time in years. The Bobcats, who set an NBA record for lowest win percentage one season ago, were the talk of the NBA during the first few weeks of the season. They began 2012-13 with a 7-5 record and at one point won six out of eight games. That tremendous turnaround, however, was very brief.

Charlotte has been tumbling ever since November 24. The team lost 18 consecutive games following that date and has lost 20 of its past 22 games overall.

First-year head coach Mike Dunlap hasn’t allowed those losses to break his team. As Doc Rivers said on Sunday, the Bobcats are fighters and they will not back down.

“They play hard as hell,” said Rivers. “I mean listen, if you don’t play well against them, you’ll lose. They play extremely hard. It’s funny, I’ve talked to a couple of guys, because you’re talking to them and they just played them, the first thing that came out of their mouth: ‘If you’re not ready to play them they’re gonna knock you out.’ They come after you.”

The Celtics better heed those words of advice from their coach tonight. Rivers will do his best to prepare his team for a battle and the Celtics will do their best to continue their hot streak.

Lee

Courtney Lee is one of several Celtics who have shot lights-out this month.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

An Offensive Outage?

One of the reasons why Charlotte has been losing so consistently is that its offense is very top-heavy. There are six players on the roster averaging at least 10.8 points per game but no one else on the roster is averaging more than 6.7 PPG. Additionally, the Bobcats have the fourth-worst field goal percentage in the league at 42.5 percent.

All of these facts lead us to believe that there might be a major outage of offense for Charlotte tonight. The Bobcats are going up against what may be the hottest defensive team in the league. It would be somewhat of a surprise if the Bobcats break 90 points tonight.

Enjoy the Heart

Judging by Rivers’ comments about how hard the Bobcats play, tonight’s game should be entertaining. Charlotte is loaded with young, talented and energetic players who play their heart out each and every night.

This may not be the sexiest matchup out there, but there is a lot to be excited about. These are the types of teams that fans should enjoy watching. Three former UConn standouts will be returning to New England and there will be some big time prospects on the floor like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo. Oh, and there’s potential that the C’s could run away with their sixth straight win, too.

Trending Up

Boston’s defense has sparked the Celtics, particularly the ball-hawking of Avery Bradley, but the C’s are also on this winning streak because several players are trending up.

Brandon Bass is having his best shooting month of his season, and his next-best month isn't even close. He has hit 50 percent of his shots in January, while his next-best month was November, when he shot 43.9 percent from the field.

Courtney Lee is also shooting the ball like a marksman this month. Lee has hit 59.4 percent of his shots in January and 57.1 percent of his 3s. Couple those percentages with nearly two assists a night and 1.3 steals per game this month, and you’ve got a very impactful player off of the bench.

Speaking of impactful players off of the bench, has anyone been more impactful lately than Jared Sullinger? Sullinger has logged back-to-back double-doubles and is averaging a team-best 9.3 RPG during the month of January.

These three Celtics have been playing great as of late. It’s not a coincidence that Boston has been winning a lot of games of late, too. The hope is that both of those trends will continue tonight.