CHARLOTTE — After bathing in the satisfaction generated from their triple-overtime win over the Denver Nuggets Sunday, the Celtics had to get back to reality Monday against the Bobcats.
Doc Rivers was faced with some interesting decisions after the 118-114 victory, a game in which Paul Pierce equaled his career high by playing 54 minutes, Kevin Garnett, age 36, logged 47 minutes, and Jason Terry played 43.
With his three 30-plus-year-old veterans logging season-high minutes, Rivers decided to play them all against Charlotte but kept a keen eye on how they fared during their stints and all three were in the game down the stretch of the 94-91 loss.
Pierce, Garnett, and Terry all played in the 29-minute range Monday but fatigue was obviously a factor as the Celtics shot 41.6 percent for the game and 38.5 percent in the second half.
“Really I thought all game we just never got back and matched up,” Rivers said. “You could see they were really trying to push the pace. We just didn’t have [the energy]”
With the club having Saturday practice canceled because of the Boston blizzard and with an off day Tuesday because of games played the past two nights, Rivers went with his usual starting five.
“Obviously I would like to limit their minutes in the first half as much as possible,” Rivers said before the game. “We had two days off because of the snowstorm so that may have been a blessing today. I don’t know how we are going to be today. That was a lot of minutes and they were all hard minutes. Playing Denver is not like a team that’s walking the ball up the floor and a slow down. It was a fastbreak basketball game the entire game.”
Denver took a chunk out of the Celtics’ endurance and Rivers went extensively to the bench in the second quarter.
“If you have eight, nine overtimes [in a season], there’s nothing you can do about that,” Rivers said. “Hopefully in the second half, we can decide games in the four quarters. That would be nice.”
The absence of Rajon Rondo has meant more responsibility for Pierce, who has two triple-doubles in Rondo’s absence and has shown more versatility after struggling the first 2½ months of the season. During the team’s seven-game winning streak, Pierce was averaging 18.8 points, 10.1 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and is shooting 40 percent on 3-pointers.
Pierce suffered an off night shooting (4 of 12) but still finished with 13 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists. Rivers has used Pierce as more of an offensive facilitator with Rondo out, and his assists has increased dramatically.
“I know what I’m capable of,” Pierce said. “When you have a guy like Rondo, not as much is needed from me. He can do so many things also. I think with [Rondo] out, roles change. I am going to be more of a facilitator for this ballclub. It’s going to come from not only me but from a number of guys. Everybody’s got to step up and do more. Everybody’s roles change and we all have to do something more than before.”
Said Rivers: “When Paul has the ball more, more good things than not will happen and they’re happening.”
The Celtics had major trouble with Charlotte 7-footer Byron Mullens, who scored the Bobcats’ first 10 points against undersized Brandon Bass (6 feet 8 inches) and finished with 25 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. Mullens, who has averaged 17.6 points since returning from a left ankle sprain, canned four 3-pointers, sending the Celtics’ defense scrambling . . . The Celtics recalled Fab Melo from Maine of the NBDL after sending him down for one day. It is uncertain whether the Celtics will send Melo to Maine during the break.