CHARLOTTE, N.C. All in all, Monday proved to be a painful night for the Boston Celtics.
Not only did the Celtics have their seven-game losing streak snapped at the hands of the NBA’s worst team, but they might have suffered yet another costly injury in their 94-91 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats.
Backup guard Leandro Barbosa, who has seen increased playing time since the season-ending injury to Rajon Rondo, injured his left knee late in the third quarter and had to be carried to the locker room by a trainer and teammate.
Coach Doc Rivers said Barbosa will have an MRI on Tuesday.
“It doesn’t look great but we’ll see,” Rivers said.
In the seven games since Rondo’s injury Barbosa had averaged nine points while playing an average of 22.5 minutes. The Celtics had won all seven games.
All of that came crashing down Monday night.
This night belonged to Charlotte’s unheralded big man, Byron Mullens.
The four-year NBA veteran turned in a career game with 25 points and 18 rebounds as the Bobcats snapped a seven-game losing streak.
The 7-foot Mullens hit 10 of 16 shots from the field, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. Ramon Sessions had 19 points for the Bobcats, including the go-ahead jumper from 18 feet with 25.7 seconds left. Kemba Walker had 18 points, six assists and six rebounds, and Gerald Henderson chipped in with 16 points.
Mullens was playing his fifth game after missing 19 with an ankle injury.
“It’s big time,” Walker said of Mullens’ effort. “We need that from him. We need that from Byron and he can do it. We know he can do it every night. He is very capable. When he has big games like that, you know, I think that gives us a much better chance.”
Mullens said he was more pleased with his rebounding than his scoring “because that is not what I’m known for.
“I just have to show the league and this organization that I can rebound,” he said.
Kevin Garnett had 16 points and 13 rebounds for the Celtics, but missed a key 18-footer that would have given Boston the lead late in the game. Paul Pierce and Avery Bradley had chances to send the game into overtime in the final seconds, but missed open 3-pointers.
Jeff Green had 18 points for the Celtics and Pierce finished with 13 points, eight assists and eight rebounds.
“We had a win streak going and we had momentum going,” Celtics guard Courtney Lee said. “We wanted finish out the rest of these games going into the (All-Star) break. So it’s definitely a letdown. This one hurts more because we had the lead with one minute to go.”
It was a back-and-forth game throughout.
After Henderson gave the Bobcats an 85-84 lead with 3:58 remaining, Jason Terry made a 3 from the wing and Garnett followed with a turnaround jumper in the lane to push the Boston lead to four.
It appeared as though the Bobcats were on their way to another fourth quarter collapse.
But trailing by four, Henderson hit a 3-point with 1:01 left. After Bradley missed an open jumper, Sessions came free off a screen and knocked down an 18-footer to give the Bobcats the lead with 25.7 seconds remaining.
The Celtics called timeout but Garnett missed from the left wing. Mullens grabbed his 18th rebound and the Walker made a pair of key free throws to give the Bobcats a three-point lead with 14.8 seconds left.
Boston set up an inbounds play and Pierce got an open look but missed. He grabbed his own rebound and dished out to the wing for Bradley, but he missed a 3 as time expired.
Boston’s loss came after a triple overtime win against Denver on Thursday night, but the Celtics refused to use fatigue as an excuse.
“We put that one behind us,” Green said.
As he’d planned to do before the game, Rivers went deep into his bench in the first half with 10 players seeing at least 10 minutes of action.
The Bobcats battled back in the third quarter behind 12 points from Mullens to take a 75-72 lead into the fourth. Mullens, who scored Charlotte’s first 10 points of the game, did most of his damage from outside, knocking down 3-pointers and turnaround jumpers, showing great touch for a big man.
“Byron was as good as you can get in the NBA statistically in many ways,” Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap said. “He’s still young. He’s growing. … He’s a different player because he was able to take a res. He’s got live legs and he’s able to see the game.”
TIMBERWOLVES 100, CAVALIERS 92
CLEVELAND — Luke Ridnour scored 21 points, Ricky Rubio added 13 and 10 assists and Minnesota snapped an eight-game road losing streak.
Ridnour dropped a critical 3-pointer with 1:43 left for the banged-up Timberwolves, who hadn’t won on the road since Jan. 3 — star center Kevin Love’s last game before he was lost indefinitely with a broken hand.
Nikola Pekovic added 16 points and 10 rebounds as Minnesota ended a four-game losing streak and improved to just 4-16 since losing Love.
Kyrie Irving scored 20 points and Tristan Thompson had 16 for the Cavs, who were within 82-81 in the fourth before Ridnour sparked a 10-2 run by the Timberwolves. Ridnour had 13 points in the final 12 minutes.
CLIPPERS 107, 76ERS 90
PHILADELPHIA — Chris Paul had 21 points and 11 assists, Blake Griffin scored 20 points and the Clippers cruised past Philadelphia.
Jamal Crawford also scored 20 points and Matt Barnes had 11 for the Pacific Division-leading Clippers. Eric Bledsoe scored 10 points while DeAndre Jordan grabbed 10 rebounds.
Los Angeles closed out its season-high eight-game road trip at 4-4, including consecutive wins at New York and Philadelphia. The Clippers won the finale with ease without guard Chauncey Billups and forward Caron Butler. Both players were nursing sore lower backs and were replaced in the starting lineup by Matt Barnes and Willie Green.
Nick Young led the Sixers with 29 points while Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner and Jeremy Pargo had 10 each. Spencer Hawes had 10 rebounds.
NETS 89, PACERS 84, OT
INDIANAPOLIS — Brook Lopez scored 25 points and Brooklyn opened overtime on a 9-3 run to pull away from Indiana.
The Nets ended a five-game losing streak at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and won for just the second time in games overall despite playing without injured guard Deron Williams.
Indiana lost its second straight home game in overtime, the losses coming on the heels of a 15-game home winning streak. George Hill scored 22 points and Roy Hibbert added 12 on a night the Pacers shot just 34.4 percent from the field and All-Star Paul George finished with five points.
The Pacers appeared to swing the game with a 7-0 run that gave them a 76-72 lead with 1:38 left in regulation.
But Brooklyn scored the final four points to force overtime and started fast in the extra period to put away the game.
HORNETS 105, PISTONS 86
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Ryan Anderson scored 31 points, Robin Lopez had 23 points and 10 rebounds, and New Orleans won for the third time in eight games.
New Orleans had lost of five of seven coming in, but was in control for the final 40 minutes even though Eric Gordon sat out to rest his knee. Wearing their purple, green and gold Mardi Gras jerseys, New Orleans finished with 10 blocks to just three for the Pistons. Al-Farouq Aminu added 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Playing without star rookie Andre Drummond (back), the Pistons had no answer for New Orleans in the paint. Reserve Rodney Stuckey led Detroit with 19 points, but most came after the game had been decided. Greg Monroe added 17 points and 11 rebounds.
WIZARDS 102, BUCKS 90
MILWAUKEE — Rookie Brandon Beal scored a season-high 28 points to help Washington to a rare road win.
The Wizards have won four consecutive games and 11 of 18. They are 10-7 since John Wall returned from injury and won for only the fourth time in 25 road games this year.
Monta Ellis had 24 points, seven rebounds and eight assists for Milwaukee, and Ersan Ilyasova added 19 points and nine rebounds. Leading-scorer Brandon Jennings was held to seven points, missing 14 of 17 shots.
The Bucks have dropped four consecutive games and six of seven, but hold the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They didn’t lose any ground to the team closest to them as Philadelphia lost 107-90 to the Los Angeles Clippers.
SPURS 103, BULLS 89
CHICAGO— Kawhi Leonard had a career-high 26 points and Danny Green scored 18 on Monday night, helping the short-handed San Antonio Spurs beat the Chicago Bulls 103-89 without their three biggest stars.
Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were all out with injuries, and swingman Stephen Jackson also missed the game due to “personal business,” according to the team. And the NBA-best Spurs still had enough talent to beat one of the Eastern Conference’s best teams in its building.
Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter had 16 points apiece for San Antonio, which improved the league’s best road record to 19-10. Nando De Colo, subbing for Parker, had nine points and seven assists in his second career start.
Nate Robinson scored 20 points and Richard Hamilton had 16 for the Bulls.
HAWKS 105, MAVERICKS 101
DALLAS — Josh Smith had 26 points and 13 rebounds, Devin Harris made a key steal in the final minute for Atlanta,
Al Horford had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Jeff Teague scored 20 points to help the Hawks win for just the second time in their last 10 road games.
With the Hawks up 99-98, Harris poked the ball from a driving O.J. Mayo and saved the ball from going out of bounds with 23.9 seconds left. Atlanta preserved the victory by hitting its final six free throws.
Dirk Nowitzki scored 24 points and Mayo added 19 for the Mavericks, who have lost two of the first three on a five-game homestand.