Pump Up Music: The Devil Wears Prada -- "Still Fly"
The Big Picture: This game hardly matters to the Boston Celtics. From a purely rational standpoint, all they have to do is get to the playoffs with a reasonably good record, and as long as they're healthy and rested, they're championship contenders. Rajon Rondo is the only member of their core on the right side of 30. If you were coaching the Celtics in December, how would you distribute minutes in the middle of a four game road trip? They may not be dramatically limiting minutes, yet, but it's only a matter of time before they can afford to start thinking about "staying fresh" for the real season.
For the Cats, this is another major test for the reformulated, S-Jaxified, roster. Believe me when I say that I love Stephen Jackson for everything he brings to the floor, especially his defense -- see what he did covering Dirk in the '07 playoffs for further confirmation of his versatility -- but he's best as a complementary player, not relied upon as the pillar. We're not quite there with him. I'd argue we don't really have a pillar, because Larry Brown seems to believe that he can go against history and build a successful team with four or five solid to very good pillars instead of building around one or two exceptional pillars. But as soon as the team believes Jackson, or Gerald, or Raymond, or anyone on this current roster, is a star they can lean upon to carry them through a rough patch singlehandedly, that's when we'll be in trouble.
Wallace is closest to meeting that definition, but the roster path we're following requires that role players contribute more than most successful teams' role players do. It's a grand experiment, in a way. Despite years of evidence that the best basketball teams operate with one or two superstars dictating the action in a variety of ways, the Bobcats are trying to operate a team with relatively equal parts working in concert to be greater than the sum of its parts.
The recent winning streak is wonderful, exciting, et cetera, but I don't think they've had enough time to show who they really are. Remember, the 35-win team last year had a 6-game winning streak.
Key to Victory: The Celtics will give the Cats all the three point shots they want. They'll give them all the 20-foot jumpers they want. The Bobcats must resist. Charlotte is among the worst distance shooting teams in the league, shooting below 30% from beyond the arc and only 36% from 16-23 feet. Boston will play their floating zone, pack the lane, and dare everyone to settle for the jumper instead of working the ball around to get angles at the basket. Settling for jumpers will lead to under 70 points... or 59.
Detail That Might Interest .08% of You: Bill Walker once urinated while standing in the Kansas State bench area, during a game. And yes, there's video.