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Aggressive Play Key to Putting Down Cats

Last night, the Celtics were the aggressors from the opening tip, and their hot start resonated throughout the course of the game, as Charlotte was never really able to climb back into the game after falling behind 29-18 after the first quarter. Boston held Charlotte to just 7-20 shooting (35 percent) in the opening frame and kept them under 20 points, which is  one of my points of emphasis for this team.

Based on his play throughout Charlotte's now deceased four-game winning streak, I figured Gerald Wallace would be a tough guard for Paul Pierce and would give Pierce all he could handle on the defensive end.  However, Pierce and co. wiped out any chance of that happening by attacking Wallace early.   As a result, Wallace picked up his second foul with 6:29 left in the opening frame. For reasons I'm still not entirely sure of, Charlotte coach Larry Brown decided to keep Wallace on the bench for the remainder of the first half, despite his team drastically needing a scoring punch. Because the Celtics went at Wallace, he was forced to the bench and a non-factor for the remainder of the game.

The Celtics initiated and maintained their offensive flow throughout the entire opening quarter and the ball moved relentlessly, as evidenced by the team's nine assists on its first 12 baskets. Kevin Garnett did a fantastic job of sprinting down the floor and beating his defender to the spot in the paint in order to establish ideal position. Rajon Rondo was quick to realize this and made a point to feed KG down low on more than one occasion. Then of course there was Kendrick Perkins, who shot 4-4 in the opening frame, good for 10 points. He went at Tyson Chandler and Boris Diaw and finished with 21 points on near perfect shooting (9-10 from the field, 3-3 from the free throw line).

Against the Heat on Sunday the C's held a 59-48 lead early in the third quarter, but then allowed Miami to surge offensively and fight its way back into the game. The Celtics closed the Heat out in impressive fashion, but one of the trademarks of this team should be its ability to create substantial leads and not give them back as the game progresses.

So when the Celtics took an 88-66 lead into the fourth and final quarter, it was nice to see Charlotte never really have a shot at getting back into the game. The Celtics' offense did stagnate around the eight-minute mark and Charlotte managed a 9-0 run against Boston's bench, but then Doc Rivers re-inserted four of his five starters around the 6:30 mark. They were quick to stamp out any hint of Charlotte catching fire and making the second half of the fourth quarter interesting. Marquis Daniels settled things down with a jump shot to make it 100-83 with 4:07 left and Perk finished things off with a pretty smooth between the legs crossover, followed by a strong drive and an athletic reverse, which made it 102-83 with 3:31 to play.

The Bobcats are now 7-10 on the season, so subduing an opponent with such a record might not seem overly impressive, but the Celtics have certainly been a work in progress this season and Charlotte was on a four-game winning streak and is capable of putting together quality offensive runs. Charlotte also came into tonight's game leading the league in points allowed per game (87.9).

Last night's win was another step towards becoming a more complete team. The Celtics showed they could fend off a quality opponent in Miami on Sunday and that they were equally capable of knocking down a pesky opponent and keeping it there on the way to an easier win last night. The guys are in a good groove right now and they are now backed by their five-game winning streak as they look to tackle San Antonio on Thursday.

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