BOSTON -- Ping-pong balls be damned. Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens yearned for progress and he got it on Friday night.
Phil Pressey came up big in a spot start for Rajon Rondo and Boston rallied back after kicking away a big fourth-quarter lead en route to a 106-103 triumph over the Charlotte Bobcats at TD Garden. The win, coupled with an Orlando loss, will drop Boston in the lottery standings, but Stevens said before Friday's game he's more concerned with building momentum before the offseason arrives.
THE NITTY GRITTY
Rondo was a late scratch due to a bruised left shin, but Pressey produced his second double-double in the past three games by putting up 10 points and 13 assists over a career-high 39 minutes. Jared Sullinger overcame a third-quarter ankle sprain to score 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Avery Bradley scored a team-high 22 points, while Jeff Green and Brandon Bass added 18 points apiece. Al Jefferson scored a game-high 32 points on 16-of-26 shooting against his former team.
The Celtics closed out the third quarter on a 9-0 run, then pushed their lead as high as 13 in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. Nothing comes easy for Boston and the Bobcats responded with a 15-2 run to tie the game at 92 with 5:13 to play. The Celtics were down 1 with under four minutes to play, but put together an 8-0 burst that saw Sullinger and Bradley sandwich 3-pointers around a Green layup for a 104-97 lead with 2:14 to play. The Bobcats got back within 1 on an Al Jefferson floater with 29 ticks to go, but Jannero Pargo missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer that could have forced overtime.
Sullinger limped off in the third quarter after suffering a mild left ankle sprain. He got re-taped and returned in the fourth quarter. ... Jerryd Bayless departed with a right knee sprain in the fourth quarter and did not return. ... Boston turned the ball over 20 times for 23 points, but Charlotte couldn't capitalize despite limiting its own giveaways (12 turnovers for 14 points). ... The Celtics shot 51.9 percent overall (41 of 79), including 47.8 percent beyond the 3-point arc (11 of 23).
WHAT IT MEANS
The Celtics (24-55) snapped a nine-game losing streak while winning for only the second time in 16 tries. Boston now owns the fourth worst record in basketball, moving a game ahead of Orlando. The Celtics could be tied for that fourth spot pending how Utah fares versus Portland. Boston travels to Cleveland on Saturday night to close out their final back-to-back of the season. A visit to Philadelphia looms on Monday before the 2013-14 season wraps up Wednesday with a visit from the Washington Wizards.