WALTHAM — The Charlotte Bobcats: league-wide pushovers who push around the Celtics.
The last two times these squads have danced, Charlotte has left the floor with upset wins while Boston has exited red-faced and humiliated. They’ll throw down again Saturday night at TD Garden, just four days after the Bobcats pasted the Celtics by 26 points in Charlotte, N.C.
Paul Pierce swears that their recent flops against the Bobcats don’t have the Celtics burning for payback. “It’s not like it was a playoff series where a team eliminated you from the playoffs from a year ago so you have some type of rivalry going on,” the forward said Friday before the Celtics practice.
Still, with the Celtics in a tight race where home-court advantage in the playoffs is within reach, dropping games to the league’s worst team is a troublesome trend.
“If you’re going to be a champion, you have beat teams like Charlotte — very bad,” Jason Terry said.
To be fair, there have been extenuating circumstances each of the last two times the Celtics lost to the Bobcats.
In the Feb. 11 matchup, also in Charlotte, the Celtics lost, 94-91, one day after playing a triple-overtime game against Denver in which Pierce played 54 minutes and Kevin Garnett played 47.
Then Tuesday, Pierce sat out his first game of the season, and the remaining Celtics crashed and burned in a 100-74 loss.
Considering the conditions, the Celtics could take each of those games with a mountain of salt, but Doc Rivers won’t go that route.
“No matter what our excuses are, they beat us two games,” the coach said. “One game they beat us soundly, and one game we kind of sputtered down the stretch. And no matter what you say to them, they’ve beaten us twice. They are going to have great confidence against us.”
The Celtics have won 10 straight at home. A key player to watch: Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson, who scored 35 against the Celtics Tuesday. After that game, Celtics defensive ace Avery Bradley said, “We won’t let it happen again.”
Entering Friday, the Bobcats had winning records against Washington (2-1), Orlando (2-1), Minnesota (2-0), and the Celtics (2-1) . . . and a 6-47 record against everyone else.
The Knicks (38-25) have lost three straight and ground in the Atlantic, which they lead by one game over the Nets and 3½ games over the Celtics.
The Celtics have won five straight division titles, but capturing it this season doesn’t seem to be much of a priority.
“I’m sure if we hung Atlantic Division banners up here, we’d be looking at lot more closely at them, but right now we’re just floating under the radar, trying to win as many games as possible and play well going into the playoffs,” Pierce said.
“I don’t even know how many games we’re back for the Atlantic Division. We don’t even get a T-shirt for that.”
Said Rivers: “We would like to win the division, but I would rather win a world championship, if I had my choices.
“That’s the key, you want to be healthy and be right and give yourself the best opportunity to win in the playoffs. And if not winning the division tells you that you’re going to be better in the playoffs, I mean — where are those division banners? I don’t see one up there.”
The Heat had won 20 straight games entering Friday, but Pierce said he didn’t care.
“I hope they lose every game the rest of the season,” he said.
The Celtics especially hope the Heat lose when the teams play Monday at TD Garden.
Pierce acknowledged that it’s difficult to escape the buzz surrounding the streak, and that it was impressive. Rivers agreed.
“The year after we won it, I think we won  in a row, right before Kevin went down [with a season-ending knee injury], and it’s hard to do — for a lot of reasons,” said Rivers.
“But it’s harder to do for a defending champ, because every night is the other team’s biggest game. And the fact that they are doing it under those circumstances, is pretty impressive.”Baxter Holmes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BaxterHolmes