With 12 games to go, the coasting has begun for the Boston Celtics. Perhaps its in an effort to stay fresh for the playoffs, perhaps due to all the injuries they've suffered over the course of this season, or perhaps for entirely different reasons altogether, the Celtics (50-20) can't seem to get a consistent groove going.
Paul Pierce and company will look to bounce back on Friday night when they welcome the Charlotte Bobcats to TD Garden for an evening match-up at 7:30 p.m. EDT (TV/Radio: CSNNE/WEEI).
It looked Boston had found its groove one after consecutive comeback wins last Saturday and Monday over the New Orleans Hornets and the New York Knicks. But then on Wednesday, with the Memphis Grizzlies in town, they got off to another slow start before pulling ahead, but blew a fourth quarter lead in a flurry of incomprehensible, late-game mistakes in a 90-87 loss.
The Celtics haven't lost a game to an Eastern Conference opponent at home all year (21-0), a mark they can add to with a win over the Bobcats, who have lost four straight and may be without leading scorer Stephen Jackson.
Charlotte (28-42) has lost four in a row and 10 of its last 12, though the Bobcats did take their last meeting with the C's, a 94-89 win on Feb. 7, in Charlotte. That game was prior to Bobcats owner Michael Jordan trading away the franchise's all-time, leading scorer, Gerald Wallace. In addition, Charlotte has shot just 39.2 percent from the floor in its last seven meetings with the Celts.
In order for Boston to achieve success, it will need to get more out of Paul Pierce, not just Friday night, but for the remainder of the season heading into the playoffs. Pierce has taken 10 or fewer shots in six of the Celts' last nine games. In that stretch, the Celtics have gone 4-5 and fallen a game behind the Bulls for first place overall in the East. Rajon Rondo, in the midst of a woeful shooting slump (31 percent in his last nine games), has attempted two more shots than Pierce over that time.
On the injury front, reserve swingman Von Wafer is back practicing with the team but Shaquille O'Neal is still apparently about a week away from a return to the lineup. Forward Troy Murphy is day-to-day after rolling his ankle in practice on Thursday.