The Celtics followed their biggest win of the season by handing the Bobcats possibly the biggest win in their franchise's history.
Just days after knocking off the Detroit Pistons, the Celtics suffered a stunning 95-83 loss to struggling Charlotte at TD Banknorth Garden last night. The loss ended a nine-game winning streak for Boston (29-4), as well as an opportunity for the Celtics to become only the fourth team in NBA history reach 30 wins without a fourth loss. The Celtics also lost by more than 5 points for the first time this season.
"It's one game," said Paul Pierce. "We won nine in a row before that. We're not going to win every game. They are an NBA team also. On any given night we can get beat by anybody. Tonight's just one of those nights.
"Maybe it's good for us. I always say you can learn from a bad win. But you can also learn from a bad loss, not to take anything away from Charlotte."
Bobcats guard Jason Richardson scored 34 points, tying a season high by making 14 of 22 shots and nailing two 3-pointers. The 34 points were the most scored by a Celtics opponent in regulation this season. Cleveland's LeBron James scored 38 points in a 109-104 overtime win over the Celtics Nov. 27, but 11 came in OT.
"I felt great tonight," said Richardson, who also had 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals in 43 minutes. "The team was giving me the ball. Coach [Sam Vincent] was drawing the plays up. I knew when they were doing that, I had to do something. If I wasn't scoring, I had to do something and make something happen with the ball.
"Every time I got it I felt like the rim was just as big as the ocean. I just threw [the ball] up in the air and it was going in."
Kevin Garnett, who had a team-high 24 points for the Celtics along with eight rebounds, said, "[Richardson] hit some tough shots. I felt in certain situations Paul made him go to his counter [move]. He just hit some tough shots."
Charlotte (13-21) ended an 11-game road losing streak, winning away from home for the first time since its road opener at Miami Nov. 4. The Bobcats have never been to the playoffs since entering the league in 2004. The previous top wins in franchise history included beating the reigning champion Pistons in Charlotte's inaugural season, and defeating the Lakers, 133-124, in triple overtime despite Kobe Bryant scoring 58 points Dec. 29, 2006.
"It's right up there with the first win of the franchise, the triple-overtime win with the Lakers," said forward Gerald Wallace, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds. "But this one is right up there at the top. I thank God because this is a good win for us."
The Celtics were coming off their biggest win of 2007-08, a 92-85 road victory over Detroit last Saturday. But considering the Celtics needed a desperation 3-pointer by Ray Allen at the buzzer of a 96-95 win at Charlotte, N.C., in the teams' first meeting, Pierce felt the Celtics would not underestimate the Bobcats last night. Plus, Allen (pinched nerve in neck) and rookie forward Glen Davis (knee) were sidelined.
"We were focused on them," Pierce said. "Everyone was in tune. It's just one of those nights. You can't take anything away from Charlotte. They played well. That's the second time they played us well, for some reason. Charlotte plays us well."
The Bobcats overcame an 11-point deficit to take a 45-41 halftime lead, shooting 52.6 percent through two quarters. Boston shot 42.1 percent in the first half and was outscored, 26-16, in the paint.
Charlotte outscored Boston, 27-24, in the third quarter to enter the fourth ahead, 72-65. A Richardson lay-in gave Charlotte an 81-70 lead with 7:08 remaining. Garnett made 1 of 2 free throws to bring Boston within 89-81 with 1:20 left, but the Celtics would get no closer, and Richardson's jumper with 47.7 seconds left put Charlotte back up by 10.
The Celtics were outscored, 23-18, in the fourth, shot 41.7 percent for the game, and missed 16 of 20 3-pointers.
When asked what he told his team afterward, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, "They got their butt kicked. I didn't sugarcoat it. We all did. Sam Vincent did a better job than me and their players did a better job than our players. Give them credit."