Chris Forsberg preview:
Boston Celtics (19-17, 12-6 home) host the Charlotte Bobcats (9-27, 4-13 away) on Monday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:
* CAN'T SLEEP ON THESE 'CATS:
Celtics coach Doc Rivers will implore his team to look past their opponent's record. Yes, the Bobcats have a .250 winning percentage (only the Wizards and Cavaliers are worse) and Charlotte has lost 22 of its last 24 games. But Rivers noted Sunday that, "They play hard as hell. You don’t play well against them, you will lose. They play extremely hard. It’s funny, I’ve talked to a couple guys after they just played them and the first thing that came out of their mouth: 'If you’re not ready to play them, they’ll knock you out. They come at you.' That tells you a lot with what they’ve done, if they’re still doing that." Rivers is likely referring to good friend Tom Thibodeau, whose Chicago squad endured a 91-81 loss to visiting Charlotte in late December.
* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT:
Offensively, the Bobcats rank 22nd overall averaging 0.895 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data. Charlotte is middle of the pack in transition and actually ranks second in pick-and-roll ball-handlers (two of its top three play types), but the Bobcats really struggle with spot-up shooting (27th, 0.897 points per play) and have limited post offense. Defensively, Charlotte is dead last while allowing 0.967 points per play. Neither Kemba Walker (0.944 ppp, 23rd percentile) nor rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (0.974 ppp, 15th percentile) have provided much resistance and 20 percent of opponents' plays go at them. Put another way: Byron Mullens ranks as the team's best individual defender (0.836 ppp, 60th percentile) among Charlotte's top rotation players and most of his teammates are not particularly close.
* NO BUMPS IN THE ROAD:
The Celtics already own a five-game winning streak, but with two of the league's worst teams visiting the Garden this week (New Orleans looms on Wednesday), Boston knows it has a chance to really make a surge here. While Rivers said he doesn't pay attention to the standings, Boston can start shimmying up the Eastern Conference playoff seedings if it sustains its win streak. The East-leading Heat are 5˝ games out. Maybe more importantly, nothing would derail all this built-up momentum like stumbling against a team like the Bobcats. The Celtics' early season struggles doesn't give them the ability to look past any opponent.