CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Gerald Wallace was at his best here. He was “Crash.” During his physical peak, he was a shutdown defender who also teamed with Stephen Jackson for a formidable scoring duo.
That was years ago and Crash’s body is beginning to betray him. Yet, Charlotte fans showed their appreciation for Wallace with a nice round of applause as he entered the game in the first quarter, and he returned the graciousness with a vintage Crash game to lead the Celtics to a 96-86 win over the Bobcats on Monday night at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Wallace had a season-high 17 points along with 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 steals as the Celtics used a 19-3 first-half run and led nearly the entire way. On a night when Jeff Green, Avery Bradley, and Jared Sullinger combined for 8-for-31 shooting, the Celtics relied on their depth to avenge a Nov. 13 loss at TD Garden.
Jordan Crawford sparked the offense with a second-quarter 3-point barrage and led the Celtics with 21 points while Brandon Bass added 16 as the Celtics have responded from their six-game losing streak with two consecutive road victories.
Kemba Walker led Charlotte with 28 points but the Celtics pulled away when coach Steve Clifford inexplicably left Walker on the bench during a fourth-quarter stretch in favor of Ramon Sessions. Gerald Henderson added 20 for Charlotte but just 2 in the fourth quarter.
The Celtics dominated the game with interior defense, forcing the Bobcats into jump shots. Al Jefferson, who led the Bobcats with 22 points and 11 rebounds in the first meeting, came back with just 14 and 3 on Monday night.
Walker and Henderson helped the Bobcats cut into the Celtics’ 9-point halftime lead with pinpoint shooting despite staunch defense. The duo took on double teams in stretches and responded with fadeaway jumpers. Walker swished a jumper to slice the Celtics’ margin to 56-52 with 6:26 left in the period.
The Celtics began missing shots they converted the previous quarter and Walker tied the game at 64 with a jumper at the 1:29 mark. Wallace quickly gave the Celtics the lead back with a layup. A Brandon Bass jumper gave the Celtics a 68-66 advantage at the end of the quarter, and a 9-0 run to begin the fourth provided a much-needed cushion.