The Boston Celtics will host the Charlotte Bobcats tonight as they continue their six-game homestand, hoping to stay atop the Eastern Conference.
It will be the second game of the year between these two teams, and while the Celtics have had their way with Charlotte over the last four matchups, winning by an average of 26 points, this has proved to be an interesting pairing in the past. Be it the pair of overtime games the teams split in 2008, or the miracle game-winning three from Ray Allen in 2007, these teams have had their fair share of drama. And while a 29-9 team taking on a 15-21 team (still, amazingly, good for a playoff spot should the season end today) may not seem like much of a contest, the Bobcats are on a roll.
Charlotte may have come up with four straight wins, but the competition hasn't exactly been impressive. The streak began with an overtime victory over the Timberwolves, continuing with home wins over Washington and Memphis. Their most impressive game came on Wednesday when they toppled the Bulls 96-91.
It's difficult to find any constant in these victories. The scores suggest that Charlotte is playing impressive defense, but their opponents' field goal percentages have ranged from a low 39% (Memphis) to a fairly high 47% (Chicago). They've blocked a good few shots, but have also allowed a decent number of second opportunities. Perhaps the most striking figure is one based completely on luck: Bobcats opponents during the four-game winning streak have shot all of 68% from the charity stripe. Even the Clippers, who have the worst free throw shooting in the league, have managed slightly better.
The Celtics, for their part, are the same team they have been for the past few weeks. Kevin Garnett seems unlikely to play with Doc Rivers possibly aiming to take advantage of an upcoming two-game break, and Jermaine O'Neal may be on the way to surgery while Delonte West and Kendrick Perkins are still, at best, on the horizon.
If the Celtics want to keep their momentum going coming off a dominant win against the Kings, the Bobcats might not be the worst team to do it against, despite their current streak. Boston will need some significant help from the bench, but if they bring the same energy to the court that they did on Wednesday, they have more than enough talent to outclass a Charlotte team that's still struggling to find a successful core.