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With Kevin Garnett out and Michael Jackson’s brother Jermaine (O’Neal) out as well, the rest of the team needed to step up. And they stepped up enough to beat the Bobcats 99-94. Things started as a slug-fest; Boston could only managed a four-point lead early, but Charlotte kept it close. Some clutch shooting, including three pointers, put Boston up 18-12, but Charlotte eased their way back into a 22-22 tie. On Semih Erden’s third foul of the 1st quarter, Charlotte took the lead for the first time, but Boston tied it at 24 at the end of the frame.
It didn’t take Charlotte long to build a five-point lead (their biggest of the night), but it didn’t last too long. Just as Charlotte did earlier, Boston fought their way back into a tie, at 34. Neither team led by more than two for the rest of the half; they traded buckets, and like Rafa and Federer, forced their way to another deuce, tied at 42 at the half.
Then Boston got things going. They built a couple of five-point leads of their own, and stretched it to eight on Paul Pierce’s three. Charlotte knocked it all the way back down to one, 62-61, but then they committed a cardinal sin by fouling Nate Robinson when shooting a three. Krytonate made all three charity shots to put the lead back at four. In the middle of a battle of free throws, Marquis Daniels hit a layup to help keep the lead past a bucket, 69-66, heading into the final quarter.
Shaq started off the next quarter with a +1. I don’t know why people keep committing lane violations against him, but Shaq hit the second chance to push the lead to six. Thanks to a couple of threes from Ray Allen, and even one from Rajon Rondo, Boston took a double-digit lead 87-76. Boston even took a 12-point lead 1:09 to go, which was fortunately not enough time left, because Charlotte went on a mini-run. They hit a three with 1:00 to go, but didn’t foul, assuming the game was already over. Two free throws and a three later (sandwiching 1/2 at the line by Rondo), and Charlotte was within five with 15.8 seconds to go. But they were fortunately willing to wave the white flag at that point and let Boston walk away with the win.
It’s tempting to give it to Rondo (who was four rebounds away from a triple-double), but between injuries and foul trouble, the Big Plug played 35:13. A game-high 23 points and five blocks helped out too.
Erden only played 8:24, but aside from the kinda pointless +/- stat (-8), the only figures he racked up were 0/1 from the field and five fouls.