Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Charlotte Bobcats

Preview: Boston Celtics vs. Charlotte Bobcats

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

BOSTON If you look at the record of the Boston Celtics' opponent tonight, the Charlotte Bobcats, you would think it was just another night in which the C's hosted a bad team.

But the Bobcats (15-21) are not your run-of-the-mill, below-.500 club.

For starters, they have a new coach in ex-Celtic Paul Silas.

Since Silas took over for Larry Brown, the Bobcats are 6-2.

In fact, if the playoffs were today, the Celtics and their Conference-best record of 29-9 would open against an eighth-seeded Charlotte club.

Not only are the Bobcats looking to run more, but they've also played a greater sense of mental toughness down the stretch in close games.

Prior to Silas' arrival, Charlotte was on the losing end of eight of their 12 games decided by five points or less.

Silas has coached the Bobcats in four such games, and has emerged victorious three times.

"They're playing well," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

Especially point guard D.J. Augustin.

The last time the C's saw him, he was scoreless with four turnovers as the Celtics crushed the Bobcats, 93-62, in Charlotte.

In the last eight games under Silas, Augustin has averaged 19.9 points and 7.1 assists while shooting 49.5 percent from the field and 47.7 percent from 3-point range.

As for the Celtics, one of their biggest concerns has to be keeping the Bobcats off the boards.

That challenge will become even more daunting with the litany of injuries that have hit the Celtics frontcourt.

Kevin Garnett is expected to miss his ninth straight game due to an injury to his lower right leg suffered at Detroit on Dec. 29. Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal continues to have problems with his left knee, and is out. The C's are contemplating him having surgery, which likely means he'll be out of the mix for an extended period of time. Boston center Semih Erden has a sore groin which may keep him out of tonight's game as well.

With all the injuries, the C's may lean more than ever on Shaquille O'Neal whose earl foul trouble has made him a non-factor in recent games.

In six games this month, O'Neal has averaged 7 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. At this rate, this would be the lowest-scoring and rebounding month in his illustrious Hall of Fame career.

Against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday, O'Neal had more fouls (four) than points (two) for the second time this season. Prior to becoming a Celtic, that had only happened once to O'Neal in his entire career.

One Celtics player who doesn't need to change a thing, is Ray Allen.

The C's second-leading scorer this season, Allen has shot at least 50 percent from the field in his last 10 games, the longest such stretch by a Celtics player since Kendrick Perkins set the franchise record last season when he shot 50 percent or better from the field in 24 consecutive games.

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn.

Ainge: Winning more important than All-Star bids

Ainge: Winning more important than All-Star bids

BOSTON -- When it comes to NBA awards and accolades, players in contention often try to play it cool when asked about whether they are deserving.
 
And then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, who gives a definitive response whenever the question about whether he should be an All-Star starter is raised.
 
We’ll find out later today if Thomas will in fact be named as a starter for the Eastern Conference All-Star team when the East and West starters are announced. 
 
“It’s a little bit refreshing in that he is open about it,” Danny Ainge said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show this morning. “But every player wants to be acknowledged by their fan base, by other players in the league, coaches. You come into the league and as a young player you want to earn the respect of your peers and then you want to get paid and then you want to be an All-Star; maybe that’s the wrong order; and then nothing more important than winning.
 
Ainge added, “Isaiah is having a great year. He’s talked a lot about it. At some point in his career, he’ll talk about the most important thing and that’s winning championships.”
 
Ainge pointed to when Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were all Celtics, there was no mistaking that winning came before anything else.
 
But where those guys were in their careers in terms of individual achievements and just age, were major factors in their focus being so deeply rooted in winning.
 
“Along the way they all want to win, but when you get to the point where Paul, Ray and KG were in their 30s, they didn’t care about any of that other stuff because they had it all, already,” Ainge said. “They had multiple All-Star games, they had big contracts, winning became the only thing that mattered.”
 
In other Celtics-related news, Ainge said that there’s no timetable for when Avery Bradley (right Achilles strain) will return to the floor. He has missed five of the last six games with the injury which includes last night’s loss to the New York Knicks which was a game in which the 6-foot-2 Bradley was a last-minute scratch from the lineup