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Quite a floor show

Davis (12 of 15) and Celtics (58 percent) are right on target

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- He was here once. It seems long ago -- it was five years -- but Ricky Davis cut his professional teeth with the franchise formerly known as the Charlotte Hornets. Davis was a bit too out of control back then, as he also tended to be in subsequent stops in Miami and Cleveland and, for a while, even in Boston.

Not anymore. The guy has been a virtual Algonquin Club regular this season. Last night, in front of 11,103 fans who may have remembered him from back when, Davis put on a show against the Bobcats (27 points on 12-of-15 shooting) and led the Celtics to a 119-110 victory, their fourth straight. The Celtics swept the season series, 4-0, from the expansionistas in a bizarrely officiated game that saw the ejection of Bobcats coach Bernie Bickerstaff and so many weird calls that Doc Rivers said, shortly thereafter, "I'll be joining him soon."

Rivers managed to stay the course, as did his team. The Celtics squandered a 15-point lead early, survived a second-quarter meltdown of nine turnovers and lackluster play from the bench, and finally broke it open against the pesky hosts in the fourth quarter. Davis had 6 points in a 10-0 opening run and the Celtics, who shot 58 percent, never looked back. They're now 4 1/2 games ahead of the Sixers in the Atlantic Division with 18 games remaining.

"Guys are coming together," Davis said. "Guys are beginning to understand what we can do and how far we can go."

Davis spent his first two NBA years here, getting schooled by David Wesley, among others. But he was too much for Paul Silas and the Hornets dealt him to Miami. He was way too much for Pat Riley, and the Heat dealt him to Cleveland, where he had a reunion with Silas that went about as well as the first go-round. He was no favorite of Jim O'Brien or John Carroll in Boston.

But if Rivers has anything bad to say about Davis, it is lost in translation. Davis moved to the bench without a squawk earlier this season and still plays 35 minutes-plus. He's always on the floor at the end of games.

"He's one of those guys who, when they get it going, they're difficult to shut down," Rivers said.

Davis said he was disappointed with his shooting Sunday against the Wizards (4 of 14) and came out with extra focus last night. He made his first six shots and everything flowed from there. When the Celtics had to have a basket, it was Davis, generally, who delivered. When he didn't, Antoine Walker (25 points) did.

"That's what's so great about this team," said Paul Pierce, who made only two baskets but still finished with the Dantleyesque line of 2-11--15. "I took a back seat and Antoine and Ricky got it going. I was a playmaker out there [9 assists] and it was a lot of fun."

It was Pierce and Gary Payton who tore into the second unit at halftime after a disastrous second quarter led to an eye-opening 68-68 tie at the break. Said Pierce, "I was hoping to be able to rest on the bench in the fourth quarter and watch Justin Reed and Delonte West gain valuable playing experience. We should have been up by 20 or 25 at the half."

Once you let the Bobcats back into a game, they don't go away. It was a tight game (90-89, Boston) after three. The Bobcats showed resiliency by getting the long ball first from Matt Carroll -- who had to be born Matthias Carrollauskas in either Vilnius or Kaunas -- and then Jason Kapono. The hosts were active on the offensive glass (23 second-chance points) and capitalized on Boston's brutal second quarter with 18 points off miscues.

But with the game on the line, the Celtics' subs, the same guys who were first-half slugs, put things out of reach. Al Jefferson's only hoop of the game (in nine minutes) made it 92-89. Then came the ejection of Bickerstaff by referee Eddie Rush; it was a weird call given that Marcus Banks had just been called for an offensive foul. Rivers had picked up a technical in the first half.

Davis made one of the two free throws (93-89) and then Mark Blount hit a jumper off a Davis feed. (Davis had 6 assists.) The lead went to 9 -- Charlotte missed its first nine shots of the fourth quarter -- when Davis knocked down a trey with 8:21 to play and to 100-89 with 7:44 left on another Davis jumper. It was The Ricky Show and, folks, just so you know, there's no hard feelings.

"That team moved to New Orleans," he said of the former Charlotte tenants. "But the fans? They're still here.

"The fans know what I'm capable of. It's cool. I had fun playing here."

He had fun last night. The Celtics got the lead to 108-95 (another Davis jumper) and then sweated out a mini-Charlotte rally that trimmed the lead to 5 on three occasions. But late treys by Raef LaFrentz (two) and Walker hastened the exit of those who remained, assuring the Celtics a most pleasant ride home.

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