Celtics rout Bobcats with lockdown 'D'
It wasn’t the same at all.
The Charlotte Bobcats, more or less, were made of the same pieces - a Hall of Fame coach in Larry Brown, a relentless scorer in Gerald Wallace, and a pair of talented point guards in Raymond Felton and D.J. Augustin.
But last night they weren’t the same team that took the Celtics to overtime twice last season.
It was Augustin who said of the Celtics after the Bobcats stunned them last January, “If you don’t back down to them, they fold.’’ But on a night when the Celtics opened up the Garden for a campaign that’s been labeled by coaches and players as championship or bust by holding their opponents to the lowest-scoring output in the five-year history of the franchise, it was Brown who admitted after being dealt a 92-59 beating that the Bobcats consisted of “a lot of guys scared to death.’’
The Celtics were as intimidating as they had been the last two seasons. Perhaps more so, with the addition of the league’s misunderstood mascot for anger management, Rasheed Wallace.
But they didn’t impose themselves with words, they did it with defense.
From the time Kendrick Perkins swatted Felton not once but twice on equally listless baseline drives early in the first quarter, the tone was set. It took Charlotte nearly five minutes to score their first basket.
“I think we had eight turnovers in the first eight or nine minutes, and that led to a lot of their points,’’ Brown said. “Then we got back in the game, cut it to 5 with the ball, and then all hell broke loose.’’
The Celtics held the Bobcats to 3-of-15 shooting in the first quarter, 3-of-17 shooting in the third quarter, and 23-of-74 shooting for the night.
One of the statistics Celtics coach Doc Rivers has his assistants track is deflections, and he said, “It was as high as you could possibly get it at halftime, and I thought we carried it over.’’
Playing in just his second home game since injuring his knee last February, Kevin Garnett reveled in seeing the Celtics’ defense suffocate another team.
“We work on it every single day,’’ said Garnett, who had 10 points and seven rebounds in 26 minutes. “When you shut a team down, that’s hard work and effort.’’
The Celtics went into the locker room up, 42-31, and halfway through the third quarter the Bobcats were still stuck on 31, thanks to another scoring drought that lasted 6:08.
Meanwhile, a Celtics offense that wasn’t perfect (43.4 percent from the floor, 11 of 29 from 3-point range), was at the very least opportunistic, scoring points off fast breaks (16), second chances (12), and taking advantage of the Bobcats’ 21 turnovers by turning them into 27 points.
“When we’re talking on defense we always stress high hands and we were able to get in the passing lanes, force turnovers, and get out on the break,’’ said captain Paul Pierce. “It makes things easier when you’re doing those things.
“When you feel like you’re forcing turnovers it gets contagious and guys are everywhere and you just know that the guys are going to be there. Everybody’s helping one another. It’s great to watch.’’
Pierce scored 10 of his 15 points while the Bobcats were in their third-quarter haze, helping the Celtics run the lead to as many as 30 points. On a night when he missed 11 of 17 shots, Ray Allen still led all scorers with 18 points, going 4 for 10 from 3-point range.
Gerald Wallace, whose frustrations seeped through in the third quarter when he drew one of Charlotte’s two technicals, was the Bobcats’ lone double-digit scorer with 10 points. Rasheed Wallace scored 9 points in his Celtics home debut, drilling a 3-pointer on his first shot.
Rivers was pleased with his defense, but couldn’t help but notice the inconsistent offense.
“I just thought in the first half, the defense was good and the offense didn’t match,’’ he said. “And I thought in the second half we had balance. We had great defense and the offense was great too, and you win the game with balance.’’
The Celtics’ starters spent much of the fourth quarter on the bench. After going toe-to-toe in a 95-89 win in Cleveland Tuesday, it was a welcome break for Pierce.
“The more rest the better,’’ Pierce said. “That means we’re playing well. Especially for the starters. It’s a tough schedule coming up. So to have games like this in a back-to-back, especially after going into Cleveland, getting a tough win, it’s pretty great.’’