Bobcats at Celtics
The Charlotte Bobcats and Boston Celtics have posted nearly identical offensive numbers through the first 36 games of the season. Defensively, the clubs remain worlds apart - an advantage the Celtics will look to exploit as they host the woeful Bobcats on Monday. Boston remains a top-eight defensive unit in the NBA despite dealing with an aging roster, and comes into Monday's tilt having won five straight. The Bobcats own the league's worst defense, a big reason for their abysmal record.
Charlotte has dropped the first two legs of its three-game road trip and has lost three in a row overall. The Bobcats failed to bounce back from an ugly 99-78 loss in Toronto on Friday, allowing 11 3-pointers in an eight-point setback in Indiana the following night. Ending their skid against the Celtics will be a difficult task - especially considering Boston is well rested, having played just twice in the past six days. It's the first meeting between the clubs since last April 15, when the Celtics earned a 94-82 road win.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, SportSouth (Charlotte), Comcast SportsNet New England (Boston)
ABOUT THE BOBCATS (9-27): Charlotte put together a strong first half against undermanned Indiana but couldn't keep the Pacers at bay in the second half. Indiana used a 13-2 third-quarter run to surge ahead and didn't trail again. The Bobcats are headed for lottery misery yet again, but have been buoyed by the play of reserve guard Ben Gordon. The former third overall pick has thrived in his first season with the Bobcats, averaging 13.9 points - his highest total since scoring at a 20.7-point clip with Chicago in 2008-09. This despite averaging a career-low 22 1/2 minutes per night, nearly 4 1/2 minutes fewer than he posted with Detroit last season. He also remains dangerous from 3-point range (41.1 percent) and the free-throw line (83.3),
ABOUT THE CELTICS (19-17): Boston has made slow starts its new normal the past few seasons, but always seems to get hot at some point. The club's recent stretch is no exception, with the Celtics looking impressive in disposing of Houston, New York and Atlanta among others. The key to the surge has been a renewed commitment to the kind of stingy defense Doc Rivers has preached for years. After surrendering more than 100 points three times during the four-game losing skid that preceded Boston's run, the Celtics haven't allowed a team to reach triple digits at any point during the winning streak. That doesn't bode well for a Charlotte team averaging just 82.3 points in its last 10 games against Boston.
1. Boston's five straight wins have come by an average of 10.6 points.
2. Gordon averages 13 points in 27 career games against Boston.
3. The Celtics (minus-0.7) and Milwaukee Bucks (minus-0.9) are the only Eastern Conference teams with winning records and negative point differentials.
PREDICTION: Celtics 95, Bobcats 81.