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- The Boston Celtics (27-23) hit the road to face the Charlotte Bobcats (11-39) tonight in the Celtics’ 13 back-to-back games series this season. However, it will be a tired Celtics team playing at Time Warner Cable Arena – they’re coming off a 118-114 triple-overtime home victory over the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.
- Tonight’s matchup is one of teams heading in opposite directions in the standings. The Celtics have won seven straight, the longest current winning streak in the NBA, and are third in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division, 5½ games behind the New York Knicks and 1 ½ games back of the Brooklyn Nets. Meanwhile, the Bobcats have lost seven straight – again, the longest current losing streak in the league – and are 3-16 over the 2013 portion of their schedule. That puts Charlotte at the bottom of the Southeast Division and the entire league.
- Of course, Charlotte’s seven-game slide isn’t its longest losing streak – the Bobcats lost 19 straight earlier this season, between Nov. 26-Dec. 29, 2012; and tied the NBA record by closing out the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 season with 23 consecutive losses.
- An interesting side note on the Celtics’ current success from the Elias Sports Bureau – they’re the first team in NBA history to sandwich two six-game winning streaks around a six-game losing streak. Boston won six straight between Jan. 4-14 (which includes a 100-89 victory over the Bobcats on Jan. 14), then dropped its next six (between Jan. 16-25) before embarking on its current winning streak.
- The Celtics have been playing a lot of extra minutes, with Sunday’s triple-OT win over the Nuggets their ninth overtime game this season. Four of those games went double OT or more, tying the franchise record first set during the 1950-51 season, and tied in 1953-54. In all, Boston is 5-4 this season in OT games, and 3-1 in those that went double OT or more.
- The Celtics are missing two key players, both out for the season – veteran point guard Rajon Rondo (torn ACL in his right knee) and rookie forward Jared Sullinger (lumbar disc surgery). The Bobcats, on the other hand, are relatively healthy, with forward-center Byron Mullens returning to the lineup last week after missing 19 games with a severely sprained ankle.
- Speaking of Mullens, his return filled two key voids in the Bobcats’ lineup – rebounding and outside scoring. The 7-footer was Charlotte’s leading rebounder at 7.8 per game and No. 5 scorer at 11.6 points per game when he went down with the ankle injury before the Christmas holiday. Mullens was also the Bobcats’ No. 2 threat from 3-point range, having made 37 0f 122 (second to Ben Gordon’s 44 3s). Since his return, Mullens has scored in double figures in four games, and pulled down seven or more rebounds in three of those.
- Celtics starters:Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass, Kevin Garnett, Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley
- Bobcats starters: Mullens, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bismack Biyombo, Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker.
– Bill Kiser