NBA: Celtics 101, Bobcats 78
CHARLOTTE ó In one year, Doc Rivers has gone from coaching dozens of meaningless games late in a miserable season to trying to keep his Big Three fresh for a playoff run.
Rivers accomplished it all Saturday night: resting his stars and continuing the Boston Celtics’ record-breaking return to prominence.
Leon Powe had 22 points and nine rebounds, leading a makeshift lineup of Celtics who were never threatened in a 101-78 win over the Charlotte Bobcats that not only clinched home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, but set the NBA record for biggest single-season turnaround.
“If you could write a script on the way to clinch home-court, this would probably be it,” Rivers said.
Boston’s trio of stars, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, didn’t play. Pierce was not with the team after his daughter was born Friday night. Rivers held out Allen and Garnett to give them a breather with the start of the playoffs two weeks away.
It didn’t matter ó even without their combined 57 points a game. Powe dominated the inside and James Posey added a season-high 19 points for the Celtics, who improved to 61-15. That’s 37 more wins that last season’s 24-58 disaster that led the Celtics to acquire Garnett and Allen.
The previous best turnaround was San Antonio going from 20-62 to 56-26 in 1997-98, the year they got Tim Duncan with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
“Right time, right spot for me,” Rivers said with a shrug. “For the guys, they just play hard every night. They really do.”
The Celtics’ sixth straight win guaranteed that someone will have to win on Boston’s famed parquet to prevent the Celtics from winning their first NBA title in 22 years, when the old Big Three of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale reigned.
There was little celebration and emotion in Boston’s locker room after the game. Players munched on fried chicken and deflected questions about the significance of the biggest turnaround season. They’re happy to have every potential Game 7 at home, but the goal is clearly the Celtics’ long-awaited 17th title.
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