Celtics-Bobcats Preview

The Associated Press

After a rough beginning to their stretch of three road games in three nights, the Boston Celtics appear to be headed in the right direction once again.

The Celtics look to conclude their back-to-back-to-back weekend Sunday night by sending the Charlotte Bobcats to their second 16-game losing streak of the season.

Riding a four-game winning streak with victories over Indiana, Philadelphia, Miami and Atlanta, Boston (35-25) fell flat at Toronto on Friday, shooting 37.5 percent in an 84-79 loss.

Frustrated by that defeat against a team out of playoff contention, the Celtics used a second-half surge Saturday to win for the 20th time in 28 games, 94-82 at New Jersey. Kevin Garnett had 21 points with 12 rebounds and Avery Bradley scored 11 of his 18 during a third quarter in which Boston outscored the Nets 26-13.

The Celtics held New Jersey to 34 second-half points.

"We came out a lot more aggressive," Garnett said. "We ran our system and our things and defensively we slowed them down a bit and never looked back."

With six games remaining, Boston has a 3 1/2-game lead over both New York and Philadelphia as it closes in on a fifth straight Atlantic Division title.

Bradley continues to provide a big boost for the Celtics, averaging 13.4 points while starting 12 of the last 13 games in place of Ray Allen.

"We know what he can do," teammate Paul Pierce said of the second-year guard. "It's just about him developing his confidence."

Allen will miss a fourth straight game Sunday with a sore ankle.

Garnett has averaged 20.0 points and 9.8 rebounds in the last five games, and totaled 46 points in Boston's two victories over the Bobcats this season. Pierce had 36 with 10 boards and Garnett scored 24 in a 102-95 win in Charlotte on March 26.

While the Celtics continue to gear up for the playoffs, Charlotte (7-51) has eight games left in what is almost certain to be the worst season in the eight-year history of the franchise.

The Bobcats need at least one more victory to avoid finishing with the worst winning percentage in NBA history.

With 10 healthy players in uniform, Charlotte fell behind 33-19 in the first quarter of a 105-82 loss at Miami on Friday.

"I think we played hard," said forward Derrick Brown, who had 21 points and nine rebounds. "We're short-handed right now. This team just keeps on playing through adversity. Obviously, it's bad but we need to continue to play as hard as we can to get ready for the future."

Charlotte, which already lost 16 in a row Jan. 16-Feb. 15, should have an extra body on the bench Sunday after signing forward Jamario Moon for the rest of the season.

A four-year NBA veteran, Moon has not played in the league this season but averaged 17.7 points for the Los Angeles D-Fenders of the NBA Development League. Moon, who played for Cleveland and the Clippers in 2010-11, has averaged 6.4 points for four NBA teams.

Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson has averaged 17.0 points on 54.3 percent (19 of 35) shooting in his last three games versus Boston.