Celtics

Celtics-Bobcats review: Tired legs doom C's

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Celtics-Bobcats review: Tired legs doom C's

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Whether it was fatigue following Sunday's triple overtime game or simply Charlotte's youth winning out, the Boston Celtics' transition defense was about as bad as it has been in a while.

It certainly played a pivotal role down the stretch as Charlotte rallied for a 94-91 victory over the Celtics that snapped the C's season-best seven game winning streak.

"They beat us in transition basically, all game," said C's coach Doc Rivers.

Charlotte had 15 fast-break points compared to just six for the Celtics.

While the Celtics went out of their way to give the Bobcats (12-39) props for playing well, there was no way to look past the tired legs Boston players had down the stretch.

The C's shot 7-for-20 in the fourth quarter with Garnett and Pierce combining to miss seven of their 10 shots from the field. A number of those missed shots came up short, a clear sign most nights of tired legs which is understandable.

"Give them credit, they hung in there and competed," Rivers said. "We had a five-point (with 5:50) lead. Usually we close that game out. We didn't."

Missed shots and poor transition defense were just some of factors that led to the Celtics' winning streak coming to an end on Monday.

Here are some other factors outlined prior to the game, and how they actually played out.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Fatigue will be an issue, whether it's at the start of the game or in its closing moments. Doc Rivers would be hard pressed to play his guys their usual minutes after Sunday's triple overtime win over Denver. "Paul played 54 minutes. He's the guy I'm most concerned with," Rivers said. "If we have to rest guys and play them shorter minutes ... the only way I can do it is by my eyes. You'll never know how guy's feel until (tonight)."

WHAT WE SAW: It was clear that Rivers wanted to rest Pierce and Garnett in the first half as they played 13 and 12 minutes, respectively. The mental and physical drain from Sunday night caught up with both players down the stretch on Monday, with Pierce going scoreless in the fourth quarter while Garnett had eight points but missed five of his eight shot attempts which included a wide open, potential go-ahead jumper in the game's final seconds.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs. Kemba Walker: Bradley is showing that he's more than a defender with a mid-range game that has been effective lately. Walker is having a really good season statistically. But it's going unnoticed because the Bobcats are such a bad team.

WHAT WE SAW: Bradley could not deliver on what would have been a game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of play. He finished with eight points, three assists, three steals and a pair of blocked shots. Meanwhile, Walker continues to be the best player on the Bobcats roster, tallying 18 points to go with six rebounds and six assists.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Courtney Lee was the only Celtics starter to play less than 30 minutes on Sunday, so he may very well get lots of opportunities to make an impact early on. A big game from Lee would do wonders not only for the Celtics, but also for Lee who tends to play better overall when he's more involved in the offense.

WHAT WE SAW: Like the rest of his teammates, Lee never seemed to get into any kind of flow or rhythm all game. He played just 19 minutes, scoring four points on 2-for-6 shooting.

STAT TO TRACK: One of Boston's strengths all season has been their ability to rack up lots of assists. During their current seven-game winning streak, the Celtics have won the assist battle in all but one game. And this season, Boston has a 23-6 record in games in which they have more assists.

WHAT WE SAW: Boston once again came out ahead in terms of assists with 26 compared to 22 for the Bobcats. But Charlotte swept the three big hustleeffort stat categories: points in the paint (34-32, Charlotte); second-chance points (9-6, Charlotte); and fast break points (15-9, Charlotte). It's hard to win games when opponents win all three of those categories.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

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WATCH: Celtics vs. Heat

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch the Celtics play the Heat in Miami. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Will Celtics be drained by emotional comeback win Monday in Dallas?

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

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Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

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Celtics-Heat preview: Will Celts be drained by emotional win in Dallas?

The Boston Celtics remain a team whose collective talents are far more valuable than their individual abilities.

But there are going to be nights when someone has to shoulder a larger burden of the team in order to win. More often than not, that “one” will likely be No. 11, Kyrie Irving. 

We saw in Dallas what can happen when Irving feels he has little choice but to put the team on his back and carry them to victory. 

The Celtics were desperate for a spark against the Mavericks and found it in Irving, who scored 47 points in leading the Celtics to a come-from-behind 110-102 overtime win. 

It remains to be seen if the Celtics will require a similar Herculean effort tonight when they take the Miami Heat with a chance to extend their winning streak to 17 straight. 

This team isn’t one to dwell on success in the past, even if the past was just 24 hours ago. But there’s no getting around how what happened on Monday night might impact what we see against the Heat. 

Boston expended a tremendous amount of energy in rallying from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter at Dallas, the kind of effort that may be difficult to replicate against a Miami team that you can count on to play hard from the opening tip to the final horn. 

Irving’s performance was one of the rare instances this season when Boston clearly could not have won without their top scorer having a big game. 

“When we needed it most, he made big shot after big shot,” said Al Horford. “He had such good rhythm, I was thinking, ‘just let him keep it going.’ He just kept being aggressive, taking really good shots. He recognized he needed to be extra aggressive, especially at the end and score the ball for us.”

Scoring could potentially be at a premium against Miami which allows 102.5 points per game which ranks ninth in the league in fewest points allowed. Also, the Heat will test Boston’s perimeter defenders. Miami comes into tonight’s game averaging 11.1 made 3-pointers per game which ranks ninth in the NBA. 

The Heat are led by Goran Dragic who is averaging team highs in scoring (18.3 points) and assists (4.7) this season. 

These two squared off earlier this season in Miami with the Celtics coming away with a 96-90 win as Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum led the way with 24 and 20 points, respectively. In that game, the Heat were without starting center Hassan Whiteside, who will be in the lineup tonight as the Heat try to bounce back after losing three of its last four games.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE