By A.Sherrod Blakely
CHARLOTTE, N.C. Even before the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers knew something wasn't right.
His team didn't have nearly as much focus or attention to detail as it displayed just 24 hours earlier.
It really shouldn't have been that big a surprise, when you consider how the Celtics have been all season in back-to-back games.
Great focus the first night, little to no focus the next.
Monday was another example of that as the Celtics suffered a 94-89 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats, less than 24 hours removed from an impressive win over Orlando.
"What do we have, 13 losses?" said Rivers. "I know seven of them have come on back-to-backs. It's the same script on five of them, where we win a decent game the day before and come out and just play . . . you could see it in the first half; we came out, kind of goofing around. Then all of a sudden you try to win it in the fourth? You don't have anything left."
When it comes to back-to-back games, the Celtics' play has truly been like night and day.
In the first game of back-to-backs, the C's are 12-1.
On the back end, they're just 6-7 following Monday's loss.
At no point in the Monday's game did the C's exert full control over the situation, which, in a sense, gave Charlotte every reason to believe it could win.
Give the Bobcats credit.
Down the stretch, they made all the big shots, all the big plays, and to a man, they deserved to win.
But the C's can't help but feel this was yet another game that they gave away.
"I can't even look at the other team and say what they did well," said Boston's Ray Allen, who led all scorers with 25 points. "We didn't play up to the standards we need to put out there."
Making it even more surprising was the Bobcats spent the bulk of the game without their leader, Stephen Jackson.
After being called for fouling Kevin Garnett in the second quarter, Jackson voiced his displeasure with the call to an official.
Tech number one.
Jackson wasn't done . . . until his repeated chatter to the same official resulted in a second technical and the automatic ejection that came with it.
His departure did little for either team.
"It don't matter who's on the floor," Garnett said. "At some point, especially when you're home, your best player goes out . . . the team rallies around that, the energy in the building was very solid, very alive. So at some point, you had to anticipate them being energetic about that."
It was a much-needed victory for the Bobcats (22-29), who came into the game having lost four of their previous five games.
"It's probably the biggest win of the season so far," said Bobcats coach and former Celtic Paul Silas. "You're talking about a great team and we needed it. This is just a wonderful victory for us and I think it's something that can compel us to do even better."
For the C's, it should be a wake-up call that their focus has to amped up considerably in back-to-back games for them to have the kind of finish to this season that they want.
"Every year, we have some type of dilemma," Garnett said. "We have different dilemmas each year. I guess this year it's back-to-backs."