Celtics try to grab share of Atlantic Division lead in Charlotte

The Boston Celtics will try to continue their crawl up the Atlantic Division standings when they take on the lowly Charlotte Bobcats tonight down south from Time Warner Cable Arena.

The Celtics are now just a half-game behind struggling Philadelphia for the division lead and recorded an 88-76 triumph versus Washington in Beantown on Sunday thanks to a career-high 23 points from Avery Bradley. Paul Pierce scored 21 points to go with eight rebounds, while Kevin Garnett and Greg Stiesma chipped in 10 points apiece.

Rajon Rondo handed out 11 assists in Boston's sixth straight win at home and 11th in the last 16 tries overall.

"He was awesome out there tonight," remarked Pierce about Bradley, who is gaining exposure with Ray Allen currently injured. "He's just gaining more confidence. It's good to watch him mature before your eyes."

The sharpshooting Allen missed his second straight games because of a sore right ankle and is not expected to play tonight. Guard Mickael Pietrus (concussion) is still resting from the head injury he sustained in Friday's loss at Philadelphia.

Boston is 9-14 away from Beantown and seeded seventh in the East.

Charlotte will play three straight at home versus Boston, Minnesota and Denver, and is 4-17 as the host this season.

The Bobcats, who are last in the Southeast with a dreadful 7-39 record, dropped a 102-89 decision at New Jersey on Saturday despite a 17-point, 10- rebounds effort from Byron Mullens. Corey Maggette netted 13 points, and both Kemba Walker and Reggie Williams finished with 10 apiece for Charlotte, which has lost three straight and eight of 10 games.

"We were playing hard. We just need to play faster," said Bobcats guard Gerald Henderson, who had seven points one game after posting 29 against Milwaukee on Friday. "We're better when we're playing faster and that's when we are going to get out points in the paint."

Maggette has scored in double figures in 19 of his last 20 games, averaging 17.0 ppg over the span. Henderson has scored in double figures in six of his last seven games and is averaging 15.8 points per game during the stretch.

Charlotte suffered a 94-84 loss at Boston on Feb. 7 this season and is just 3-10 in the previous 13 meetings between the teams. The Celtics have won six of eight and eight of the 12 meetings at Charlotte.