Rapid Reaction: Celtics 102, Bobcats 95

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Kevin Garnett and the Celtics fended off the Bobcats' charge.Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 102-95 Monday night at Time Warner Cable Arena:


Paul Pierce (game-high 36 points on 10-of-20 shooting) and Kevin Garnett (24 points on 10-of-20 shooting) put the Celtics on their backs, particularly with the bench struggling to provide much in the way of production, and carried the team to a rare win on the second night of a back-to-back on the road (only Boston's second of the season). Rajon Rondo chipped in 7 points and 13 assists, while Brandon Bass added 15 points and 5 rebounds as the starters carried the load. Avery Bradley kicked in 11 points while starting in place of Ray Allen. For Charlotte, Gerald Henderson had a team-high 21 points, but Byron Mullens might have been the biggest pest, chipping in 18 points and 7 rebounds to spark the Bobcats' ridiculous bench effort (59 points for Charlotte reserves; 36 for its starters).


After letting the Bobcats back into the game with a lifeless second quarter, the Celtics owned only a 2-point lead coming out of the intermission. Boston cranked up the defensive intensity, denying Charlotte a field goal over the first 3:19 of the third quarter, and Pierce and Bradley carried the team offensively, pushing the lead to 11 in less than two minutes. The Bobcats never got closer than two possessions the rest of the way (even if the lead did sink to four in the final minutes).


The Celtics punctuated a stellar first quarter with an alley-oop lob from Rondo to newcomer Ryan Hollins on the break. Rondo hauled in a rebound and got out front (two Charlotte players had collided under the hoop) and Hollins sprinted down the right sideline before swooping along the baseline and throwing down Rondo's feed from the top of the arc. The bucket pushed Boston's lead to 33-15 after one.


With his 10th straight game with double-digit assists, Rondo established a career high (topping a streak of nine straight he set during the 2010-11 season, according to Elias Sports Bureau). Rondo continued to struggle a bit with his shot -- missing six of seven attempts -- but quarterbacked a solid game and turned the ball over just three times, all while chipping in 6 rebounds and 2 steals and making 5-of-8 attempts at the charity stripe. Speaking of which...


Sparked by Pierce, the Celtics were as aggressive as they've been this season in attacking the basket and reaped the reward of a season-high 45 free throw attempts, making a season-high 34. Boston's previous highs were making 29 of 34 attempts in a loss to Oklahoma City last month. Pierce was spectacular, getting to the stripe a whopping 18 times (making 15) as part of his monster night.


Celtics coach Doc Rivers leads NBA coaches with eight technical fouls this season, but Paul Silas isn't going to let him pull away from the pack. Charlotte's helmsman picked up his seventh technical foul of the season Monday and is right on Rivers' heels. Greg Stiemsma picked up his second technical of the month -- a questionable one at best -- for something he said after fouling Derrick Brown while defending a dunk attempt.


Don't look now, but the Celtics (27-22) are tied with the Philadelphia 76ers atop the Atlantic Division with 17 games to go in the regular season. There's one head-to-head matchup remaining in Boston next month and Philly already owns the tie-breaker, so there's still work to be done, but the Celtics are at least giving themselves a chance to win the division title and secure that coveted No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference. At the moment, the Celtics own the No. 7 seed and have work to do to catch the Hawks in front of them.


You don't get any sort of bonus for style points, so the Celtics will take another uglier-than-it-needed-to-be triumph against a hapless opponent. The Bobcats erupted for 60 points over the middle quarters, including a bench-sparked 35-point second, thanks in large part to Boston's defensive indifference (falling victim to an early lead for the second straight night). When engaged at the start and end of the game, Boston dominated an inferior opponent, which allowed it to emerge with its second straight victory. The Celtics get a couple of days back home with a visit from the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.