BOSTON -- Charlotte coach Paul Silas didn't think his team had a chance when it trailed by 13 points in the fourth quarter. He didn't count on Boston's poor offense, defense and teamwork.
His young Bobcats had good reason to celebrate their 83-81 win on Friday night that left them just two games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
The mood in the postgame locker room was joyous.
"It was unbelievable," Silas said. "It's just kind of indescribable."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers felt much differently. After all, one of the NBA's best teams that should be building toward the playoffs lost for the sixth time in 10 games -- and endured a 16-0 run in which the Bobcats took their first lead, 76-75, with 3:56 left.
"The way we're playing shocks me. Our attitude shocks me," he said. "I just think we've become very, very selfish, not just as far as trying to get our own [shots], but everything is about how we're playing individually, instead of how the team is playing.
"A guy struggles, he pouts, he moans. Everything is me, me, me on our team right now, feeling sorry for themselves instead of giving themselves to the team and playing."
The Celtics led 66-53 entering the fourth quarter but were outscored 30-15 the rest of the way.
The Bobcats went on a 21-4 run that put them ahead 80-75 with 2:49 left on Gerald Henderson's 18-footer. But Boston got the next six points to go up 81-80.
Then Dante Cunningham hit a go-ahead 15-foot jumper with 34 seconds left, Henderson sank a free throw and Boston's last hopes ended when Ray Allen missed a 3-point attempt and Kevin Garnett failed on a jumper in the final 5 seconds.
"When you play a good team like this on the road, chances are you're not going to blow them out," said Henderson, who scored 15 points. "They're just too good. You want to play the best that you can and just get yourself in a position to win at the end."
Charlotte, led by D.J. White's career-high 17 points, moved two games behind Indiana, which lost to Sacramento, for the eighth playoff spot in the East. Boston dropped two games behind the Chicago Bulls, who beat Memphis, for the best record in the East.
Boston was led by Paul Pierce with 18 points and Allen with 14.
"Our defense really broke down in the fourth quarter," Pierce said. "Regardless of however our offense is going -- it's been struggling as of late -- we still should be able to put together a defensive run."
"When you have too many breakdowns in the fourth quarter against an injury-riddled team, it's frustrating," Pierce said.
Charlotte made just one of its first 12 shots but trailed only 42-37 at halftime. The Celtics dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Bobcats 24-16 and stayed on top 71-59 nearly three minutes into the fourth.
That's when Charlotte began turning it around.
"I just didn't know that we had it in us to really score like we did, especially in the fourth quarter," Silas said. "Truthfully, I did not think we had a chance to win this ballgame."
A three-point play by Shaun Livingston and two free throws by Henderson started the 21-4 run.
"When you can get into a flow and get some momentum and then also get stops, it kind of takes the crowd out of it and makes it easier for you to win," Henderson said.
The Celtics followed Henderson's free throws with baskets by Garnett and Delonte West, making it 75-64 with 7:42 to go. But they didn't score again until 2:34 was left in the game.
Cunningham, who scored just four points, began the 16-0 run with a jumper, Henderson hit two free throws and Kwame Brown made one. D.J. Augustin made a 3-pointer and two free throws before Henderson weaved between several Boston big men to put in an offensive rebound. Then Augustin and Henderson made 15-footers for an 80-75 lead with 2:48 left.
Allen said the Celtics didn't move the ball well -- Rajon Rondo's five assists were 6.5 below his average -- and didn't have offensive rhythm at the end, scoring six points in the last 7:41. Only some of that is attributable to the recent addition of several players.
"It's not about making excuses," Allen said, "but I think the chemistry with the new guys is still being built."
Boston came back from the five-point deficit with six consecutive points -- three by Pierce, one by Nenad Krstic and two by Garnett -- to take an 81-80 lead with 55 seconds to play.
But with the shot clock running down, an unguarded Cunningham hit his jumper from the left. Boston then rushed a shot on its next possession, a miss of a 16-footer by Pierce with 26 seconds remaining.
Both teams had five turnovers in a sloppy second period. The Celtics shot 28 percent and the Bobcats were only slightly better at 35 percent. ... Glen Davis was scoreless until his six straight points late in the third quarter. He also blocked a shot by Brown that led to Rondo's buzzer-beating layup at halftime. ... White's previous career high was 16 against Portland on March 11.