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.

Thomas strains right groin, says he'll 'be fine for Wednesday'

Thomas strains right groin, says he'll 'be fine for Wednesday'

The bumps and bruises continue to pile up for Isaiah Thomas, adding a new one to the group during Boston’s 107-106 loss at Houston. 
 
The 5-foot-9 guard said he strained his right groin in the second quarter, but added that the injury won’t force him to miss any games. 
 
“I’ll be alright,” Thomas told reporters after the loss. “I’ll get treatment. I’ll be fine for Wednesday (against Orlando).”
 
The injury appeared to have happened shortly after Houston’s Trevor Ariza hit a 3-pointer that put the Rockets ahead 55-45.
 
At the time it didn’t seem all that serious as Thomas, who had 20 points on the night, came down and drained a 3-pointer. 
 
But after the game, Thomas acknowledged his groin did bother him during the game in which he played 33-plus minutes. 
 
“A few drives I didn’t have the lift,” said Thomas, who finished with 20 points. “It is what it is. I’ll figure it out.”
 
Thomas, who played in all 82 regular season games last season in addition to each of Boston’s 21 games this season, has dealt with an assortment of injuries including but not limited to, a swollen middle finger injury on his left (shooting) hand. 
 
Thomas, an All-Star last season for the first time, has played at an elite level that should once again position him to be represent the Eastern Conference. 
 
Following Monday’s game, Thomas is averaging a career-high 26.0 points per game which ranks ninth in the NBA along with 6.1 assists. 

Smart: 'Can’t blame the officials for the outcome of the game'

Smart: 'Can’t blame the officials for the outcome of the game'

The fact that the James Harden of the Houston Rockets went to the free throw line 18 times which was more than the entire Celtics roster (12 free throw attempts total) certainly fired up conspiracy theorists among Celtics Nation. 
 
But what seemed to draw the most ire was what appeared to be a 3-pointer by Avery Bradley late in the fourth quarter that was initially called a long two-pointer. 
 
And after it was reviewed by the good folks in Secaucus, N.J., they allowed the ruling to stand because there wasn’t enough proof in the many replay angles for them to overturn the original call. 
 
The missed lay-ups by Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas in the closing seconds stand out, obviously. 
 
But the 3-pointer that wasn’t a 3-pointer was one of the more talked-about topics in the Celtics locker room afterwards. 
 
“From the angle we saw, it was a three,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told reporters after the game. “We definitely thought it was.”
 
Said Jae Crowder: “I thought it was a three. Nothing we can do about it now.”
 
It was that kind of game for the Celtics, one in which plays that could go either way more often than not, went against them. 
 
And while Bradley’s questionable two-pointer certainly was a factor in the game’s outcome, as was the free throw discrepancy and the late-game misses, ultimately the blame for Monday’s loss falls upon the Celtics players who were still in position to win despite all those setbacks.

They simply didn't get it done, when it mattered.
 
Smart, who had 13 points off the Celtics bench, understands that fans like to blame the officials when a game ends like Monday’s loss to Houston. 
 
“Officials, they did their job,” Smart said. “You can’t blame the officials for the outcome of the game. We made some costly plays down the stretch. Give credit to the Rockets. They made plays and executed down the stretch.”