After an ugly start to tonight’s contest, the Celtics fought back valiantly but fell just short. A cold first quarter mixed with a blazing hot start from Charlotte saw the Celtics down sixteen in the first. After missing just ten of their first 25 shot attempts, the Bobcats raced out to an eight point halftime lead.
The game plan from Charlotte early on was certainly getting to the free-throw line. The Bobcats lead the NBA in free throws attempted per game this season and tonight was certainly no exception. On most nights, the Bobcats fail to convert on those attempts, ranking near the bottom of the league in free throw percentage, but not tonight. In tonight’s contest, Charlotte was able to hit on 26 of their 30 attempts in what proved to be the most crucial aspect of the game. On the flip side, the Celtics struggled greatly in that same category. Sure they got to the line 25 times, but were only able to hit 18. Those seven misses also seemed to come at the least opportune times and on silly lane violations which cost Boston key points.
In a game marred by big Charlotte runs, the Celtics relied on pure energy and grit to close the gap in this one. The loss of Jared Sullinger clearly hurt tonight, as Charlotte big man and former Celtic Al Jefferson dominated rookie Kelly Olynyk to the tune of 22 points and ten rebounds. Olynyk was notably late on numerous transitions, setting up for easy Jefferson looks. Fellow Boston big men Vitor Faverani and Brandon Bass also struggled tonight as they shot just 4-17 combined. The Celtics as a whole shot just 38% as a unit but managed to stay in this one thanks to key plays and surges of energy from Jeff Green, Jordan Crawford, and…. yes… Gerald Wallace.
Despite leaving the game for a minor finger injury in the first half, Green was able to return with key 3-point plays in the second half to keep the game close. But ultimately it may have been Green’s play that undid the C’s efforts tonight. Just one rebound and no assists pointed to a lack of energy from Green’s part. His two missed free throws with seven minutes to play also stalled a big comeback effort and turned momentum back to the Cats. Tonight was a night Boston desperately needed a huge scoring game from Green with Sully out, but it never came.
Crawford and Wallace combined for 26 points on 22 shots while Wallace added in eight big rebounds (finally living up to his Crash nickname) as Crawford had an important six assists in a night where turnovers were kept to a minimum. Unfortunately the Bobcats also had that game plan, as their five turnovers kept the Celtics from starting many fast breaks.
The second half certainly looked much better for the Celtics, as Charlotte’s hot shooting finally returned to Earth. After starting 15-25 shooting, the Bobcats were only able to muster 15-55 the rest of the way. Faverani also finally got some offense going in the second half as he was able to connect on a three to cut the lead to five in the third. But outside of those second half flashes of offensive success, Faverani’s poor play in the post was ultimately the Celtics undoing.
Tonight’s game could best be described as a terrible storm of bad chance. Faverani and Bass’s first bad games coincide with Sullinger being out in a night against one of the most skilled offensive big men in the league. The Celtics’ late game resiliency was nice to see, as they were able to cut it all the way down to just two points on a Crawford three-point play in the last minute. Wallace’s energy was a nice addition and it was also nice to see him finally SHOOT THE BALL! He shot the ball so many times tonight that Celtics play-by-play broadcaster Sean Grande described his output as an “offensive geyser”… seven shots attempted is considered a geyser of offensive production… oh well, I’ll certainly take it over his other stat lines.
After nine games, we can happily say that Boston has at least been competitive in each one. In order to win tonight’s game, a huge breakout game from Jeff Green was needed. While it didn’t come, it was still nice to see other role players pick up the slack in Sullingers absence. With this level of resiliency and better nights of shooting to go along with Jared Sullinger, more winning streaks could be in the future. While it stings to have this one stopped at four games, there were certainly many positives that can be taken away.