Celtics Hoping Practice Makes Perfect as they Host the Bobcats

Charlotte Bobcats (28-42) at Boston Celtics (50-20)
Friday, March 25
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #71 Home Game #37
TV:  CSN-NE, SSO-CHA, SNET1,  NBA-LP 753/754
Radio:  WEEI,  WPNZ
TD Garden  
Referees:   David Jones, Kane Fitzgerald,  Michael Smith 
This is the 4th and final meeting between these two teams.  The Celtics split the games in Charlotte, winnint the first game 93-62 and lost the second 89-94.  They won the first game in Boston 99-94 without KG, who was out with the calf strain. 

The Bobcats made their own big trades at the deadline, sending fan favorite and last original Bobcat, Gerald Wallace to Portland for  Joel Przybilla,  Dante Cunningham,  Sean Marks and draft picks.   They also traded Nazr Mohammed for DJ White and Mo Peterson.  They were the 8th seed at the trade deadline but since have dropped 3 games behind  Indiana for the 8th spot.   The Celtics have now dropped a full game behind Chicago for the top seed.  Chicago hosts the Grizzlies on Friday and since the Bulls have been playing so well, it is doubtful that they will have a mental lapse like the Celtics did against Memphis. 

The all time record between the Celtics and Bobcats is 6-18 and at home, the Celtics are 10-2 against them.  The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games while the Bobcats are 2-8 in their last 10.  The Celtics are 29-7 at home and undefeated against Eastern Conference foes.  The Bobcats are 11-25 on the road.
Both teams are trying to find chemistry after trading key players.  Both teams have also been battling injuries.  Stephen Jackson is listed as day to day with a hamstring injury and without him, the Bobcats have struggled even more.  Joel Przybilla and Tyrus Thomas are both listed as day to day as well.   The Celtics are still without both O'Neals and Wafer and Troy Murphy is listed as day to day (which might not be a bad thing the way he has played). 

The Celtics were saying all the right things after their loss to the Grizzlies.  Hopefully they can do the right things in this game.  They have 12 games to get it right before the playoffs and so every game is important. They finally had a practice on Thursday and reports are that it was very intense.  Let's hope that getting a practice in will help to get them back on track.   This is another game that the Celtics should win but as with most games lately, whether they do or not is anyone's guess.  

Probable Starters
Rajon Rondo.....Ray Allen ..... Paul Pierce.....Glen Davis..... Nenad Krstic

Boston Bench Mob
Glen Davis
Jeff Green
Delonte West
Sasha Pavlovic
Carlos Arroyo
Avery Bradley


Von Wafer (calf)  day to day
Jermaine O'Neal (knee)  out
Shaquille O'Neal (Achilles) out
Troy Murphy (ankle) day to day

Probable Starters
PG......SG.....SF.....PF ..... C
DJ Augustin........Gerald Henderson....Dante Cunningham........Boris Diaw........Kwame Brown

Bobcats Bench

Shawn Livingston
Dominic McGuire
Eduardo Najera
Matt Carroll
DJ White
Garrett Temple

DeSagana Diop (Achilles) out
Joel Pryzbilla (knee)  day to day
Stephen Jackson (hamstring)  day to day
Tyrus Thomas (ribs)  day to day

Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs DJ Augustin
As Rondo goes, so go the Celtics.  We have seen that time and again this season, especially lately when Rondo has been struggling.     When Rondo is aggressive in running the team and playing his game, the Celtics as a team are more aggressive and tend to play well.  When Rondo is passive, the Celtics tend to be also and that is when they get beaten by teams that they should beat.  Augustin has benefited from the coaching change more than any other Bobcat and has emerged as a very good point guard.  He will challenge Rondo and Rondo needs to have his head in the game. 

KG has been playing very well and acknowledged the need for the Celtics to begin playing with some urgency and intensity after their loss to the Grizzlies.  In the Bobcats last game coach Paul Silas pulled Diaw in the 3rd quarter after he passed on a shot in the lane and passed it back out resulting in a turnover.  Diaw played 24 minutes without taking a shot and Silas was very upset with Diaw and said that he felt his power forward had quit.  Diaw will more than likely come out shooting in this game to redeem himself with the coach.  KG should come out strong  after the loss on Wednesday and Thursday's intense practice and hopefully will be able to lead the Celtics by example to be more aggressive in this game.  He should be able to get the better of this matchup. 

Honorable Mention

Paul Pierce vs Dante Cunningham (or Stephen Jackson)
If Jackson plays this will be definitely be a key matchup as Jackson is the focal point of the Bobcat's offense, especially since the Bobcats traded Gerald Wallace. Jackson is listed as day to day with a hamstring injury and isn't expected to play but you never know.    Whoever plays for the Bobcats, Pierce has to find his shot and be aggressive in going to the hoop and leading the Celtics.  Pierce has taken 10 or fewer shots in the past 9 games and after the Grizzlies game, Doc said that he had to find ways to get Pierce the ball more.   It would be great to see him get on a hot streak. 

Keys to the Game
Focus and Energy -  The Celtics have to especially come out to start the game with energy and focus.    They can't keep digging a hole and expect to climb out of it.  They also have to play 48 minutes and close out the game.  They have played well in spurts but they have to play well throughout the game.  This includes taking better care of the ball and limiting turnovers.  They turned the ball over 20 times vs the Grizzlies and some of those were due to a lack of focus. 

Defense -   The Celtics need to make defense their priority.   They have struggled since the trade to play defense on a consistent basis.   The defense has been especially problematic in first quarters when the C's have let their defense lapse.   The Celtics must find that defensive cohesion if they expect to win the title.  Defense becomes more important in the playoffs and with all the new faces, the Celtics must work on getting their defense back on track now. 

Rebound -    Good things happen when the Celtics crash the boards.   When they show energy in rebounding, that energy spreads to other areas of the game.  They prevent second chance points and fast break baskets by grabbing the rebounds as well.  They allowed the Grizzlies to grab 11 offensive rebounds.  The Celtics must do better on the boards. 

Be Aggressive - When the Celtics are the more aggressive team they usually win.  They need to be aggressive in going to the basket, in grabbing rebounds, and in hustling after loose balls.  This goes for the Celtics as a team and for each player as well. 

Move the Ball
There have been long periods in games recently where the ball just seems to stick and players try to do too much on their own.  When they move the ball and make the extra pass and find the open man, they are tough to beat.   They have to get back to playing team ball and not hero ball. 

Official Report
David Jones
He has been an NBA referee for over 18 years. He has officiated 26 playoffs games, he has also officiated the 1998 and 2002 FIBA World Championship, and the 2000 Olympic Games. He has collegiate officiating experience in basketball, baseball, and football. He was one of the refs who helped to train Tim Donaghy and was very outspoken in condemning Donaghy's actions and felt that Donaghy's actions took the "ethics and integrity of the profession and threw them out the window." The Celtics are 3-2 this season with Jones. He officiated 2 of the 3 previous Bobcats games in which the Bobcats shot 64 free throws to 51 for the Celtics. He also officiated the first Mavs game and the Hawks game in which the opponents shot 44 free throws 18 for the Celtics in the 2 games. The 5th game was the Nets game where the Celtics shot 39 free throws to 15 for the Nets. Both teams are 7-3 over their last 10 games with Jones officiating. His home W/L record is 38-20.

Kane Fitzgerald
The Celtics are 6-1 this season with Fitzgerald officiating. He has officiated more of the Celtics games this season than any other ref, including 2 of the 3 previous games against Charlotte. Over those 7 games opponents have shot 204 free throws compared to 174 for the Celtics. He is a former D-League official and is in his second season calling NBA games. One of those wins was no thanks to Fitzgerald who gave KG a very quick pair of technicals (from about 30 feet away) and tossed him in the 2nd quarter of the Celtics 104-101 win over the Knicks (in which Amare scored 30). In another outing with the Celtics, the loss to the Bobcats in Charlotte, he tossed Stephen Jackson after 2 quick questionable T's. His quickness with the T dates back to his days in the D-league where he was close to the top in calling technical fouls there as well. The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games with Fitzgerald and the Bobcats are 5-5 in their last 10. His home W/L record is 33-20 this season.

Michael Smith
Michael Smith has officiated over 740+ regular season games and 10 playoff games. He worked 5 years in the CBA, 8 years at the college level and 10 years at the high school level before making it to the NBA. The Celtics are 2-2 with Smith this season and 6-4 in their last 10 with Smith officiating. Over the 4 games this season the Celtics have shot 78 fre throws to 110 for their opponents. Charlotte is 4-6 over their last 10 with Smith. In one of his games with the Celtics the Celtics won but the Magic took 13 more free throws than the Celtics and the officiating was terrible for both teams. In another game, Golden State shot 28 free throws to 11 for the Celtics, but before the intentional fouls at the end, the difference was 28-6 in favor of the Warriors. His home W/L is 39-16.

Playing at Home
The Celtics lost their last game at home and hopefully that will give them the extra boost they need to come out strong in this one and avoid a 2 game home losing streak.  They are 21-0 against Eastern Conference foes and they should be motivated to continue that streak.