The Bobcats outscored the Celtics 30-15 in the final period. Boston’s last hopes ended when Ray Allen missed a 3-point attempt and failed on a jumper in the final 5 seconds.
Charlotte moved two games behind Indiana, which lost to Sacramento, for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston, which began the night a ½-game behind the for the best record in the East, lost for the sixth time in 10 games.
DJ White led the Bobcats with a career-high 17 points and Gerald Henderson had 15.
Boston was led by Paul Pierce with 18 and Allen with 14.
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 for a 66-53 lead. And they stayed on top 71-59 nearly three minutes into the fourth.
That’s when Charlotte began turning it around.
A three-point play by Shaun Livingston and two free throws by Henderson started a 21-4 run in which the Bobcats took their first lead of the game, 76-75, with 3:55 remaining.
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 then made a 3-pointer and two free throws before Henderson put in an offensive rebound. Then Augustin and Henderson made 15-footers for an 80-75 lead with 2:48 left.
Boston came back 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.
Henderson then made one of two free throws with 16 seconds left and Boston called timeout to set up its last possession, ending with the miss by Garnett as the buzzer sounded.
Notes: 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 Rajon Rondo’s buzzer-beating layup at halftime. … White’s previous career high was 16 against Portland on March 11. … Charlotte played without Stephen Jackson (strained hamstring) and Tyrus Thomas (bruised ribs).