The Boston Celtics have thrived with star point guard Rajon
Rondo sidelined and are in contention for one of the top four
playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Surprisingly, one of the
few teams they couldn’t beat without him were the NBA-worst
Boston visits Charlotte on Tuesday night looking to avenge its
loss there last month as it tries to get back on track after its
five-game winning streak was snapped.
The Celtics (34-28) lost 91-79 at Oklahoma City on Sunday, but
they’re 14-5 since Rondo’s season came to an end because of a torn
ACL. Boston is in sixth place in the East and within striking
distance of the fourth seed.
“We’re showing that we can compete against pretty much anyone,
but we have to bring our A-game most of the time, and that involves
not turning the ball over and not fouling as much,” said forward
Paul Pierce, who scored a team-high 20 points.
Jeff Green’s improved production has helped matters, as the
reserve forward has averaged 14.3 points in the last 19 games after
scoring 9.6 per contest in his first 43.
Rondo’s absence is still glaring at times, however, such as in
Sunday’s defeat. Boston shot 25.0 percent in the second half,
scoring 34 points, and committed 19 turnovers overall.
“We were bad all game offensively,” coach Doc Rivers said. ”We
were forcing things and offensively the ball stuck at times.”
That seemed to also be the case Feb. 11, when the Celtics shot
41.6 percent and lost 94-91 at Charlotte. Byron Mullens scored 25
points and collected a season-high 18 rebounds for the Bobcats.
Charlotte (7-24) has gone 1-11 since that win and is in the
midst of a 10-game losing streak. Mullens has played less than 18
minutes in four straight games after averaging 14.2 points in his
previous 13 contests.
“There’s an overview of what you’re trying to do, and when
you’re not eligible for the playoffs, then it’s about development,
it’s about a system, it’s about … having the attitude that you
have something at stake,” coach Mike Dunlap said. “These guys are
pros, and they understand that. You can’t fake it.”
Charlotte fell 104-87 to Washington on Saturday despite 29
points from Kemba Walker. He went 11 for 25, but had shot 29.1
percent in his six previous games.
Walker may have a difficult time turning things around Tuesday
as he’s averaged 12.2 points and 29.5 percent shooting in five
games against the Celtics.
Boston won 100-89 over the Bobcats at home Jan. 14 as Pierce
scored 19. Walker was 4 of 16 and scored 12 points.
Pierce needs 10 points to pass Charles Barkley for 20th place on
the career scoring list with 23,758.