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Celtics 93, Bobcats 62

Cold-shooting Celtics grind out ugly win

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / December 12, 2010

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When he looked at the halftime numbers, a part of Doc Rivers legitimately wanted to be upset.

The 38.9 percent shooting from the field.

The 2-of-9 shooting from 3-point range.

The fact that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were a combined 1 for 11 from the field.

At points, it was frustrating to watch.

The clock was at 9:27 in the second quarter when Glen Davis wormed his way behind the Bobcats’ defense for a reverse layup that made it 24-21. Neither team scored again until Pierce knocked down a pair of free throws with 6:35 left.

“It felt like we were stuck on 24 for an hour,’’ Rivers said. “That’s what it felt like.’’

Before he could work himself up, though, a couple of his assistant coaches gave him a reminder.

“They’re doing what you asked them to do: play defense.’’

Over the course of three weeks, the Celtics had strung together more wins than any other team in the Eastern Conference, but they were coming off a game in which they let the Philadelphia 76ers drain nine 3-pointers and score 101 points, and somehow lived to tell the tale.

“Even though we’re winning you could just see things sneaking in,’’ Rivers said.

He preached about the defensive slippage before last night’s game, and the Celtics responded by holding the Bobcats to 32 points on 37 percent shooting from the floor and 0 for 7 shooting from 3-point range in the first half.

And when he looked at those numbers, Rivers said, “I didn’t say another word.’’

Yes, it was an eyesore to an extent, but of all the ways they’ve strung together wins over the past three weeks, the Celtics would eventually have to win ugly.

Last night, they came into Time Warner Cable Arena with their offense all but absent and still performed a routine operation, carving up the Bobcats, 93-62, using their defense as the knife and scalpel.

The Celtics extended their winning streak to 10 games, the second longest tear in the league behind the Dallas Mavericks’ 12. They did it despite shooting icicles most of the night.

The Celtics shot a season-low 43.7 percent, and still pulled out their eighth double-digit win of the season.

“It was a horrible shooting night for us,’’ said Rajon Rondo, “But we still had a double-digit lead mostly throughout the game, and we stuck with it. We didn’t give up the lead. Usually we blow a lead here and there, but tonight our defense held up for us.’’

Kevin Garnett had 13 points and 11 rebounds for his 11th double-double of the season. Given the way he’s sprayed the ball around all season, Rondo’s eight assists were abnormally low. Allen led the Celtics with 16 points, but missed 7 of his 11 shots from the floor.

It was a given that both teams were shooting poorly. The battle, Allen said, was to “just make them shoot poorly more.’’

Charlotte coach Larry Brown was already nihilistic about the Bobcats after watching them heave up threes and otherwise run around like kids in a chaotic fire drill — his words — in a loss to Indiana Friday night.

Last night, Charlotte was held to an unsightly season-low 33.8 percent shooting (also the worst any team has shot against the Celtics all season). Tellingly, Nazr Mohammed, the journeyman center who on most nights is inconsequential, was the Bobcats’ most productive player (14 points on 7-of-11 shooting). Gerald Wallace missed 13 of his 15 shots. D.J. Augustin clanged all eight of his attempts.

On a night when neither team had it, the Celtics were just waiting for a breaking point.

“You just figure something’s going to give and just stick to your defensive principles,’’ Allen said. “You have a tendency to worry about your offense, but if you go down on the defensive end and say, we’ll just try to score off our stops and try to create turnovers and get the ball and get some layups.

“It’s almost like the Baltimore Ravens when they won the Super Bowl a couple years back. Sometimes you’ve got to use your defense to score.’’

If that was the case, then Semih Erden, starting his second straight game in place of Shaquille O’Neal (sore right calf) was Trent Dilfer, playing almost 41 minutes, with specific orders to simply not mess up.

“He’s probably passed out back there,’’ Rivers said.

Over the course of 82 games, the wins are going to come different ways, but defense has to be a constant.

“That’s what it’s going to be every night,’’ Pierce said. “It’s going to be defense regardless of offense and that’s what we’re going to hang our hat on.’’

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