All night, the Bobcats found ways to overcome their own combustibility. First, it was the Kwame Brown getting nose to nose with Kendrick Perkins after taking a foul to the face. He got a technical foul for playing tough guy. Paul Pierce got one for trying to break it up. Not even two minutes later, Charlotte’s best player Stephen Jackson got into an argument with a referee that led to his ejection.
The Celtics had just come off a game where the Orlando Magic self-destructed, and they were more than happy to let Charlotte do the same.
But Charlotte wouldn’t go away.
Instead, Shaun Livingston and Gerald Henderson came off the bench and scored 18 points and 15 points respectively, pushing the Bobcats to a 94-89 win.
Eduarda Najera hit a wide open 3-pointer with 1:57 left that put the Bobcats up 89-83 and sent the Celtics reeling.
Livingston hit a pair of free throws with 35.4 seconds left that put the Bobcats up 90-87. With a chance to tie it, Paul Pierce had the ball, looking for Ray Allen, but Henderson wouldn't let Allen get an inch of breathing room along the perimeter. Pierce drove to the lane and couldn't get a lay-up to go. After Rajon Rondo's foul, Nazr Mohammed's went to the line and split his free throws, giving the Bobcats all the cushion they would need.
With Jermaine O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal, Delonte West, Marquis Daniels and Semih Erden all injured, the Celtics was playing shorthanded. They recalled rookie Avery Bradley, but didn’t play him and Luke Harangody played seven first half minutes never seeing the floor again.
Rondo logged 43 minutes, and after starting the game 4 for his first 5 he missed his next seven shots, finishing with 10 points and 14 assists. Ray Allen scored a game-high 25 points, drilling two 3s to pull within one of tying Reggie Miller for the all-time lead.
But by the final four minutes, the Celtics were forced to play the final four minutes desperate.
When Najera poked a ball out of Kevin Garnett’s hands and heaved the ball up court to Gerald Wallace, Pierce (22 points) had no choice but to either foul or give up a layup that would keep the momentum rushing Charlotte’s way. He shoved Wallace into cameraman row under along the baseline. Wallace laid there for a while, before gathering himself. It wasn’t flagrant. Wallace went to the free throw line and split the two attempts, putting the Bobcats up 82-79. They held tight to that lead the rest of the way.
Fourth quarter, 21.7 seconds, Bobcats 91-87: Gerald Henderson wouldn't let Ray Allen get an inch of breathing room along the perimeter. Paul Pierce drove to the lane and couldn't get a lay-up to go. After Rajon Rondo's foul, Nazr Mohammed's went to the line and split his free throws, giving the Bobcats a two-shot lead.
Fourth quarter, 7:53, Celtics 75-74: The Celtics are in a tight one. Shaun Livingston just hit a 15-foot jumper to pull the Bobcats within 1. Meanwhile, the Celtics have missed 6 of their first 8 shots with their starters starting the quarter on the bench. Ray Allen just re-entered the game, one 3 away from tying the all-time mark.
End of third quarter, Celtics 69-65: This is the part where the Celtics' defense slowly digests the Bobcats' offense. Charlotte missed 19 shots in the third quarter. Nineteen. They're shooting 38.3 percent.
Third quarter, 6:33, Celtics 65-57: Ray Allen knocked down his second 3 of the night, turned and walked slowly back on defense, clearly aware that he's now just one 3-pointer away from tying the record.
Third quarter, 9:05, Celtics 59-55: The second half starts with a technical foul. This time, Garnett gets the whistle for shoving Gerald Henderson on a looseball. The Celtics, however, have started the half on 9-3 burst, with Charlotte having a hard time finding good shots.
Halftime, Celtics 51, Bobcats 50: A nose-to-nose altercation led to a double-technical. A foul call led to an ejection, and in a powder keg of a game the Celtics are trailing a highly-combustible Bobcats team.
Rajon Rondo has 10 points. He started the night 4 of 5 from the floor but he's missed his last five shots. Ray Allen has a game-high 13 points. He drilled one more 3-pointer, pulling him to within two of tying Reggie Miller's all-time mark.
The Bobcats have turned it over 12 times already, but they're shooting 50 percent from the floor and they're winning the rebounding battle 23-15.
Stephen Jackson had a team-high 11 points before getting ejected. Shaun Livingston's made all four of his shots and 3 of his 4 free throws.
Second quarter, Celtics 48, Bobcats 48: The Bobcats are self-destructing, starting with Stephen Jackson, who was just tossed after getting two techs for arguing with officials over a foul on Kevin Garnett.
Second quarter, 3:25, Bobcats 44-42: Another day, another dust-up. This time it's Kendrick Perkins and Kwame Brown. Brown took foul to the face from Perkins, then got nose to nose with Perkins, earning a tech. Paul Pierce was hit for a tech trying to break things up. Paul Silas sat Brown down. Perkins got a personal foul but nothing more and is still on the floor.
Second quarter, 7:30, Celtics 36-35: All kinds of matchup issues here. Shaun Livingston (6-7) just banked one in over Nate Robinson. Rondo's guarding Gerald Henderson. Without their starters on the floor, the Celtics' lack of size shows.
Second quarter, 10:59, Celtics 29-25: Doc Rivers was close to sending Luke Harangody to the D-League but after Marquis' Daniel's injury, the Celtics are thin and Harngody's already played six minutes at power forward. He had caught four straight DNP-CD's before that.
End of first quarter, Celtics 29-25: Stephen Jackson has been a one man operation for Charlotte, scoring 11 first-quarter points, but the Celtics are shooting 60 percent.
Rondo's continuing to play aggressively taking five shots in the first and making four of them. He drew a foul on DJ Augustin with 36.6 seconds left and knocked down both free throws. He's got a team high 10 points, but has also managed to spread it around, dishing out five assists.