CHARLOTTE, N.C. When a team is out of the playoff race, each one of its games is more like a casting call for players hoping to catch on for next season.
So while facing those kinds of lowly teams might seem advantageous for a playoff-bound club like Boston that is looking to build up its win total, don't be so sure of that.
In Boston's 84-79 loss at Toronto on Friday, the Raptors had two starters, Allan Anderson and Ben Uzoh, who were both with the team on 10-day contracts. They were hungry, and they played well.
Anderson had 12 points and four assists while Uzoh had eight points, eight rebounds and five assists.
"I'll be honest, I didn't know any of them," said C's swingman Mickael Pietrus. "Sometimes you're going to have to deal with it."
Tonight, the Celtics take on another team at the bottom of the standings in the Charlotte Bobcats.
Several injuries have forced the Bobcats to play a litany of lineups, a trend that's sure to continue as this season winds down.
How the Celtics respond to that will indeed be a factor in tonight's game, one that the C's are likely to play without Paul Pierce (left big toe) and probably at least one other starter (Kevin Garnett, most likely). Here we'll examine a few other keys to tonight's game.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- When facing a team like the Bobcats, it's important for Boston to establish control of the game from the outset. That shouldn't be a problem against a Charlotte team that is next-to-last in the NBA in first-quarter points, with 21.7 per game. Meanwhile, the C's boost a defense that gives up 22.6 points in the first quarter. Only five teams in the league give up fewer points in the first quarter.
MATCHUP TO WATCH -- Brandon Bass vs. Byron Mullens: Bass' ability to defend and rebound at a high level, have been huge factors in Boston's success of late. In Mullens, he faces a player with the size of a true center, but with great range -- even past the 3-point line -- on his shot. It'll be important for Bass to use his quickness at both ends of the floor for the C's to win this matchup.
PLAYER TO WATCH -- If Kevin Garnett does not play, that will most likely mean Greg Stiemsma will start and Ryan Hollins will become the first (and only) big man off the bench. We have all seen what Stiemsma has done when given an opportunity to play a more meaningful role. It'll be interesting to see how Hollins handles this chance to play decent minutes.
STAT TO TRACK -- Charlotte has been a team where a sizable chunk of their scoring comes from their bench. So for Boston, it'll be important to not allow the Charlotte starters to catch fire. This season, the Bobcats starters average 54.2 points which ranks 29th in the NBA. Conversely, the C's first group has averaged 68.5 points which ranks seventh in the NBA.