The champs are coming to Charlotte, again. Their last trip to the Queen City resulted in a loss for the Bobcats, 89-84 Celtics:
Boxscore from 11/29 Game Versus Boston. This is a new year, a new Charlotte team, and a different feel coming from the men in green. In the teams' first meeting, Boston came in at 15-2 and showing no signs of a championship hangover. A little over a month later, and they are starting to show signs of mortality, going 2-4 over their last 6, including losses to the Knicks and Warriors. Possible upset brewing in CLT? Well, maybe, but the Bobcats are only 3-4 in their last 7, including losses to…you guessed it, the Warriors and Knicks. What a crazy, random happenstance.
Primary factors in the early season loss: Turnovers and Kendrick Perkins. Charlotte had 21 turnovers for the game, and while Raymond led in quantity with 6, he had more of an excuse than some others – the ball was in his hands quite a bit, with 27 possessions used by Raymond (not necessarily a good thing that night, as he shot 2-15); but at least he was not giving the ball away every other time he touched it…like some others. Each of the other starters contributed 2 turnovers a piece, with Emeka giving the ball up twice with only 7 possessions used (3 fga, 4 fta, and the 2 turnovers), and Sean nearly matching Emaka with 2 giveaways on 8 possessions used. The other primary contributor of wasted possessions would be the rookie point, D.J. Augustin with 5 turnovers on 16 possessions used. Even worse for the Bobcats, the majority of their wasted chances were not dead ball giveaways; no, the Celtics had 13 steals on the night, and that generally leads to easier opportunities at the other end of the court. Just as the Bobcats turnovers were a team effort, so were the Celtics steals – no Celtic had more than 3 steals, with 7 players having at least 1. Outside of the turnovers, the Bobcats had a solid night offensively (lipstick on a pig, I know), shooting 47.8% from the field, making 5 of 13 from deep (38.5% – solid), and grabbing 8 offensive rebounds (26% of available). Fewer turnovers tonight, and the Bobcats might improve on that 97.7 offensive efficiency from round 1.
With the turnovers discussed, that leaves the other factor I mentioned: Kendrick Perkins. Back in November, Perkins had 15 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 assist, and 1 steal – a very nice, well-rounded stat sheet. The problem for the Bobcats: They had held Boston's big 3 to 19, 15, and 10 points (Pierce, Allen, and KG respectively), but the Celtics wound up with 3 other double digit scorers, with Perkins leading the way at 15. As Kendrick is averaging just under 9 per game for the season, and 8.5 rebounds, his relatively big game was just enough to push the Celtics over the top in the surprisingly tight affair. When the Bobcats had done such a solid job on the core of the Celtics, it is tough to think that they lost because they let Boston's fifth option on offense push them over the top (Kendrick has topped those 15 points only 3 times this season).
Last season, the Bobcats beat the Celtics once and also lost once on a buzzer beater by Ray Allen set up by a bad turnover from the Bobcats (for completeness, they also lost by 8 and 23 in the other 2 games, but I want to be optimistic). Competitiveness against the best is a start – but we all want to see the Bobcats turn those close games into a few more wins. And there are few teams I would like to see them beat more than the Celtics…and KG. Why? Here is your answer:
D.J., as the smallest Bobcat, be prepared for KG to target you – that seems to be his M.O. this year. The rest of the squad – continue the assault on the defending champs aura of invincibility that began in Golden State and continued in New York.