BOSTON -- Beating the Charlotte Bobcats without Kevin Garnett is one thing; trying to beat the Miami Heat without the future Hall of Famer is another thing altogether.
The Boston Celtics exacted a bit of revenge against the Bobcats on Saturday night, winning easily, 105-88, but they did it without Garnett, who was out with what was being called a leg injury. He also had a brace on his left wrist after last Wednesday's win over Toronto.
Before Saturday night's game, coach Doc Rivers said this wasn't merely a night of rest for Garnett, who got a night off when the team won in Phoenix Feb. 22. That means Garnett is a question mark for the Heat, who take a 21-game winning streak into Toronto on Sunday before going to Boston.
"Right now we don't expect him to be back," Paul Pierce said after scoring 14 points and adding eight assists and six rebounds in just 23 minutes; as he sat out the fourth quarter of the laugher that reversed last week's 100-74 Bobcats win over the Celtics (playing without a resting Pierce) in Charlotte, where the 'Cats have beaten the Celtics twice this season.
"That's the mindset we've got to take," Pierce said. "If he's back that's just an added bonus for us to play Miami. Right now, as of today, we've got to get in our minds that this is the team that we're going to see versus Miami and we all got to be ready to step up."
Said Rivers: "If Kevin is healthy he'll play. If he's not he will not."
The Celtics, winning their 11th straight home game, improved to 16-6 since losing guard Rajon Rondo for the season. You might remember that stretch started with a home with over the Heat, on the day Rondo got the bad news. This team knows how to deal with adversity; and the Heat coming in for Ray Allen Return II would be major adversity.
Before the game, Rivers said, "Kevin's not playing tonight -- not because it's a night off. He wasn't moving well yesterday in practice or today (at the shootaround). So we're sitting him." He added he had "no idea" if Garnett would play Monday night.
Saturday's victory moved the Celtics into a three-way tie with Chicago and Atlanta for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, two games out of the important No. 4 position (the last spot with homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs).
With Garnett out, all five Celtics starters reached double figures, as did Jason Terry, who led all Celtics with 15 off the bench.
"They whooped us back at their place, so we wanted to come out, be aggressive and send the message," said Jeff Green, who started for Garnett and had 10 points, five rebounds and four assists.
Recent signee Shavlik Randolph had eight rebounds and six points in 15 minutes off the Boston bench as all 11 available Celtics scored at least five points. Pierce led the cheers for the bench guys from the bench.
The Celtics went 10 for 15 from 3-point range.
Gerald Henderson, who scored a career-high 35 in last week's win over Boston, scored 16, but Jannero Pargo, in his second game since signing with Charlotte, led the Bobcats with 18 off the bench. Josh McRoberts had nine points and 10 rebounds.
The Celtics had runs of 7-0 and 9-0 and led 20-11 after 7 1/2 minutes, but a 9-0 spurt by the Bobcats tied the game at 22-22. The Boston bench then helped the home team stay ahead in the second quarter -- where the Celtics again went up by nine -- only to have the 'Cats run off eight straight to cut the deficit to one. An 8-0 run got the Boston lead back up to nine and it was seven at the half.
But the third quarter was no contest as the Celtics, with 33 points, broke the game open, building the lead to 18 and leading by 17 after three. They quickly grew the lead to 26 in the first 1:53 of the fourth quarter and it was over.
"I thought defensively it was pretty disappointing," said Charlotte coach Mike Dunlap, whose teams is 2-2 against Boston and 12-50 against everyone else. "I think we're a better defensive team, we proved that last time we played them."
NOTES: The Celtics were actually better from 3-point range (66.7 percent) than from the foul line (65 percent). ... Guard Ramon Sessions came off the bench and scored 19 points in Charlotte's first win over Boston, but he's out with a knee injury. ... The Bobcats open a three-game homestand against Washington on Monday night. The Celtics go to New Orleans, Dallas and Memphis after Miami invades. ... Rivers, talking about the 1-2 record against Charlotte coming in said, "Honestly, in the three games (this season), the one thing they've done consistently is beat us off the dribble. All of them, Gerald Henderson and all their guards, even their bigs are beating us off the dribble." Henderson was 12 for 12 from the foul line against Boston last week, but only went 4 for 4 from the line Saturday.