Charlotte Bobcats vs. Boston Celtics: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
Boston is on a hot streak, winning five straight games up to this point, by far their longest winning streak of the season.
Charlotte, on the other hand, is playing about as well as we've expected them to play. Of course, the fact that they've won two of their past six games should be notable on the grounds that they had lost 18 in a row prior to that.
Even if Boston isn't taking on a top-tier team in the league, this is an important game to see if the Celtics are able to continue on their recent stretch of wins and how they're able to do it.
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBA League Pass
Records: Charlotte Bobcats (9-27), Boston Celtics (19-17)
Betting Line: Boston Celtics -11.5
Injury Report: Chris Wilcox, out (sprained thumb), Byron Mullens, out (sprained ankle)
Key Storyline: Boston's Turnaround
Before their current five-game winning streak, the Celtics were staring up at the playoffs, dropping out of the top eight in the Eastern Conference and wondering just what their team was and what they would even be capable of.
Boston was 14-17; they were right around the low the Los Angeles Lakers are experiencing right now, and they were contemplating what deals they could potentially make at the trade deadline in order to turn the season around.
Well, it seems all they needed was to start punching teams in the mouth, a nice return from Avery Bradley and a miniature Paul Pierce renaissance.
They're looking fine at this point, they just need to keep things going and beat the teams they know they're capable of beating.
Key Matchup: Kemba Walker vs. Rajon Rondo
There are few compelling young players on Charlotte's rebuilding squad, but none can be as thrilling and at times dominant as UConn's own Kemba Walker.
Walker went up against Rajon Rondo three times last season and didn't walk away with much success, but he's a very different player than he was a season ago.
The quick little guard has put up at least 25 points in a game seven different times this season, and he's also shown off his defensive prowess with an amazing 26-point, six-rebound, seven-assist, eight-steal performance against the Dallas Mavericks back in November.
Lining up against him, we all know what Rondo is capable of.
While he's not the most dominant scorer in the game, he's very capable of getting to the rim and scoring when he's got the desire to.
Rondo is the lifeblood of ball movement in Boston's offense. They can work well without him in charge of the ball, but it depends on a lot of teamwork and more isolation plays than they would normally run.
Look for him to pick up big assist numbers against this loose-at-times Charlotte squad.
X-Factors: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jared Sullinger
Of all the players the Bobcats employ, there are better scorers, better passers and better rebounders than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but I don't think there's a guy who would pass as a better defender.
Charlotte's players either fall under the category of young and inexperienced, old and slow or just bad at defense, while Kidd-Gilchrist is the rare smart, young, athletic defender that every team is looking for.
Every once in a while he'll break out for a nice scoring game, but he's really most dangerous (this season at least) as a defensive presence on the wing, and even in the post.
As for Jared Sullinger, he's come on as of late as a very important member of Boston's rotation. It's taken him some work to really get involved in games and earn consistent minutes, but he's been integral to their winning streak.
Not only has he posted big double-doubles in two straight games, but he's also averaging 10.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in the past five, all while shooting 58 percent from the floor.
Jared Sullinger lead the NBA in plus/minus in January with +67— DonaldTower (@boceltics18) January 13, 2013
Boston is red hot, and a team like Charlotte does not have the offensive firepower that it would take to slow them down.
Not only are the Celtics coming off of two solid days of rest (whereas Charlotte is coming off of one rest day), but they're also playing at home, where they've posted a 12-6 record.
The Celtics are not to a point yet where they can take teams lightly. This is another game that they need to win in order to keep their momentum going through their home stand. They should do just that.
Boston Celtics 99, Charlotte Bobcats 78
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