CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Gerald Wallace is still settling into his role off the bench with the Boston Celtics.
After a pep talk from coach Brad Stevens on Sunday, the veteran forward went out Monday night and executed that role to perfection as the Celtics beat the Charlotte Bobcats 96-86.
Wallace scored a season-high 17 points and was on the court during two decisive stretches --- a 17-2 run to open the second quarter, and then a 9-0 spurt to open the fourth -- in clearly his best outing with his new team.
"I thought he might play well today," Stevens said. "We talked a little yesterday and I think he's been a little frustrated coming off the last stretch of games. You could kinda sense he was going to be focused and ready. He's such a competitive guy."
"He's giving us everything we need," said guard Jordan Crawford, who led the Celtics with 21 points. "He's checking their best player, rebounding. He can pass. He can score. He's a big attribute to the team and helped us get a big win."
Wallace, acquired from Brooklyn in the blockbuster deal that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets, came into the game averaging just 4.7 points and 3.7 rebounds in 25 minutes a game. He had played less than 20 minutes in four of the Celtics' previous five games and had contributed just 13 points with 10 rebounds combined.
He wound up playing 35 minutes against his former team, the Bobcats, going 6-for-10 from the field with four rebounds, three assists, two steals and one blocked shot.
"My main thing was, just be aggressive," Wallace said. "I had a talk with coach and the main thing he wanted me to do was go out and play the way I know how to play. Don't worry about anything else, don't even try to figure out how to fit in or what to do. Just go out and play basketball the way you know how to play basketball, and do what you're capable of doing. That's what I tried to do tonight."
The victory was Boston's second straight and was payback after the Bobcats won in Boston earlier this month. Boston is now 6-10.
Crawford's 21 points included four 3-pointers, and then six free throws in the final minute. Boston also got 16 points from forward Brandon Bass, 13 points and seven rebounds from forward Jeff Green, and 11 points from guard Courtney Lee.
Stevens pointed to the 17-2 run by the bench to open the second quarter, when the Celtics wiped out a 10-point Charlotte lead, as the turning point. And clearly Wallace led the way.
"The bench changed the game," Stevens said. "I thought Gerald and Phil (Pressey) really kick-started us. Gerald is contagious in the way he plays, and so when he plays like that it makes it easier to follow. I thought we were pretty good off the bench tonight all the way around."
The Bobcats (7-8) couldn't build on the momentum of their best performance of the season in a 96-72 win at Milwaukee on Saturday night. They have now lost three straight at home and are just 3-5 at Time Warner Cable Arena this season.
"We need to start playing better at home and the guys know that," Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said. "We've been a different team on the road. We haven't come close to that intensity at home, and that's got to change."
Guard Kemba Walker led the Bobcats with 28 points, and guard Gerald Henderson scored 20. But center Al Jefferson, who had 22 points and 11 rebounds in the win at Boston, was limited to 14 points and three rebounds, and the Bobcats bench combined for only 15 points all night.
"It was a tough one," Walker said. "We couldn't get over the hump. I thought we played hard at times, and in this league you've got to play hard consistently. We haven't been the same team at home as we've been on the road, but we've just got to find it. I think we will because we have great guys on this team and I think we'll grow closer and get better."
NOTES: Celtics G Phil Pressey had eight assists and three steals, both career highs. ... The Celtics were coming off a 94-87 win at Atlanta on Saturday night, which snapped a six-game losing streak. ... Celtics C Kelly Olynyk will miss about two weeks with a sprained right ankle, while G Rajon Rondo (torn ACL right knee) and G Keith Bogans (ill) remain out indefinitely. ... Bobcats C Brendan Haywood (stress fracture left foot) is out for about two months. ... The Bobcats came into the game ranked third in the NBA in scoring defense, yielding just 91.6 ppg. The 72 points allowed at Milwaukee were the third fewest in franchise history. ... The Celtics will return home to face Memphis on Wednesday. ... The Bobcats were opening a three-game homestand. They'll play Indiana on Wednesday and Milwaukee on Friday. ... The teams will meet just three times this season, with Game 3 set for April 11 in Boston.