By ROBERT LEE
Journal Sports Writer
BOSTON -- The Celtics have their swagger back.
If there were any doubts after Boston beat Cleveland in both teams' season opener Tuesday night, captain Paul Pierce put those doubts to rest before the Celtics made their TD Banknorth Garden regular season debut when he grabbed the microphone moments before tip-off, promised the crowd that the Celtics are going to do big things this year, pointed up to the 17 world championship banners hanging in the rafters, and then said that the Celtics need to add another one this year.
The crowd erupted in cheers and the Celtics proceeded to rout the young but hungry Charlotte Bobcats, 92-59, to improve to 2-0.
After building an 11-point halftime lead, the Celtics opened up the second half with a 15-0 surge to end any hopes of a Charlotte rally. They led by as much as 30 after a Ray Allen free throw with 4:06 left in the third quarter put Boston up, 63-33.
Ray Allen led all scorers with 18 points, but it was Pierce who scored 10 of his 15 points during Boston's third quarter surge.
Not to be outdone, Rajon Rondo had a double-double with 10 points and 11 assists.
Everything was going extremely well for the Celtics until about 4:20 remaining in the third when Kevin Garnett (10 points, 7 rebounds) went down hard while trying to corral a loose ball.
Charlotte guard Boris Diaw beat him to the loose ball, and Garnett slipped while trying to stop suddenly. He grimaced, got up limping, slowly walked up the court, and was then taken out at the next whistle.
Not wanting to take a chance since the Celtics were up by 27 points, Rivers did not put Garnett back into the game. He remained on the sidelines and iced his surgically repaired right knee.
Garnett wasn't the only player injured on the night.
After spotting the Celtics a 22-13 lead by the end of the first quarter, Charlotte guard Raymond Felton was forced to leave the game when Garnett landed on his head during a skirmish for the ball, driving it into the court with 5:32 remaining in the first half and the Celtics leading 32-27.
Felton cut his lower lip so severely that he had to get 15 stiches (10 on the outside and five on the inside), but he returned to play in the second half, finishing with nine points.
The Celtics closed out the first half with a 10-4 surge after Felton got hurt.
Gerald Wallace was the only Charlotte player in double digits in scoring with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
More to come....