CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Celtics were impressed with the Charlotte Bobcats, the combination of Gerald Wallace's offense and the Bobcats' defense keeping them in contention until the final minute of the Celtics' 89-84 victory last night.
"I expected that," Celtic center Kendrick Perkins said. "The Bobcats are tough, they don't get enough credit. Once they hit their stride, they've got the personnel, they are well-coached, they've just got to get it together. I've got them picked to make the playoffs."
Wallace (23 points) converted difficult shots down the stretch, driving on Kevin Garnett to tie the score, 77-77, with 3:34 to play and hitting a reverse layup to cut the Charlotte deficit to 83-82 with 1:27 left.
But the Celtics pulled away as Paul Pierce converted a foul shot with 1:13 to go then found Garnett for a 17-footer 33 seconds later, and Ray Allen hit two foul shots with 24 seconds remaining.
"You never want to go down the stretch and have to make big shots, that's tough," Perkins said.
From teacher to foe
Larry Brown has returned to the area where his professional coaching career started. Brown, now leading the Bobcats, guided the Carolina Cougars in the American Basketball Association for two seasons (1972-74). But Brown nearly became a Celtics assistant two years ago.
"It was very close," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "He said yes. That's about as close as you can get. But, like I jokingly said, it was a Larry yes, not a sign-on-the-document yes. I knew what was going on, though. His wife's parents were not doing well. He knew it was a tough decision. He said yes but he may not be able to do it. He just thought at the end of the day he needed to be at home.
"He would be a great guy to lean on, he would have been great. I would have loved him. He is overqualified, that's why I would have loved him. He's a great mind, and the more you're around him, the more you understand that."
Rivers said he was reminded of Brown, who was his coach with the Los Angeles Clippers in 1991-92, while conducting a walkthrough with the Celtics at their hotel while preparing for last night's game.
"The key, just playing for him, is his attention to detail," Rivers said. "I remember going over out-of-bounds screening, you wanted to pass out. He just kept adjusting this guy's shoulders and, as a player, you say, 'What is the big deal here?' And, I swear, three or four games later, the guy's shoulder was in the right place and he nicked a guy a little bit, and it's what got us open. And you see that once, and see it again later, and you see it again. If I've taken anything from him, it's that attention to detail.
"[Yesterday], we walked through something in the ballroom and I can hear them sighing - but you have to do it, and he [Brown] taught me that."
Brown, 68, born in Brooklyn, played at the University of North Carolina and for five years in the ABA (he was a three-time All-Star). He has coached nine NBA teams, many times involved in rebuilding projects.
"He loves coaching, he really does," Rivers said. "I think he loved the Detroit Pistons and winning a title , too. He loves to golf, he loves his family, but he's not a guy to ever sit around and just do that. He wants to teach more than coach.
"I really think if he could get a guy to do the games and he could be in charge of all the practices, he would probably just do that."
Watching, not waiting
Brown coached Stephon Marbury in New York and worked for current Knicks general manager Donnie Walsh in Indiana, but said the Bobcats are unlikely to add Marbury, whose situation with the Knicks has become tenuous.
"I'm not involved in that situation," Brown said. "I feel bad for everybody. I'm real close to Donnie and I just hope it gets resolved and [Marbury] can play somewhere and the Knicks can move on.
"At this stage of his career, I hope he can go somewhere where he has a chance to win. We're trying to build something here and the Knicks are trying to build something. I'm sure he'll land on his feet."
The Celtics are 5-1 in the second of back-to-back situations and Charlotte is 0-2. The Celtics were coming off an easy 102-78 home victory over Philadelphia, while the Bobcats needed overtime to win in Indiana, 115-108. Both teams arrived in Charlotte at about 2:30 a.m. yesterday. "That's a lot of back-to-backs, but we're grinding them out," Pierce said. "It's a tough schedule early with all these back-to-backs, but it's going to pay off later in the season and get us ready for the playoffs." . . . Last season, the Celtics had an 8-0 record in the second game of back-to-back dates. . . . The Celtics have an 82-18 regular-season record since Allen and Garnett joined the team . . . Gabe Pruitt (illness) missed the trip and Sam Cassell was activated for the second successive game, although Cassell was not in the plans to play - and didn't. "He knows just what Gabe knows and everybody else knows," Rivers said. "But we don't want to break up our rotation if we don't have to." . . . Celtic draft choices J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker made their D League debuts for Utah Friday. Last night, Walker scored a game-high 26 and Giddens added 15, but the Flash fell to Rio Grande Valley, 106-98. "They're doing what they should be doing," Rivers said. "They have been in camp since October, and this is good for their confidence." . . . Former Boston College star Jared Dudley came in averaging 6.6 points per game for the Bobcats. "He's been terrific," Brown said. "You can tell he's been well-coached. He's a great teammate. I had to play him at the '4' but you can just plug him in where you need him." Dudley played three-plus minutes, but had nothing to show for it on the scoresheet. . . . George Hauptfuehrer, a Harvard graduate who was a Celtics' draft choice in 1948, and his son, George, Jr., a Princeton teammate of Celtic assistant Armond Hill, sat next to the Celtics' bench.
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.