Pierce needed nine points to tie Bird’s total of 21,791. He had seven points at halftime, then hit a 3-pointer with 10:23 left in the third quarter to pass Bird.
Pierce nearly celebrated the milestone with a triple-double, coming up just short with nine assists and eight rebounds.
Rajon Rondo added 14 assists and 10 points, Kevin Garnett scored 22 and Ray Allen finished with 17 points.
Reggie Williams scored 21 for the Bobcats, who lost their 12th straight despite staying within 11 points through the first three quarters. Derrick Brown added 20 points — making all 10 shots he took from the field — and Kemba Walker had 16 points and seven assists for the Bobcats.
The outcome never seemed in doubt and fans focused on Pierce making history for a franchise loaded with it. There was no announcement — or need for one — as everyone seemed to know what Pierce’s shot from the top of the key meant in addition to giving the Celtics a 48-40 lead early in the third quarter.
Pierce knew he had it, raising his arms as Boston fans gave him a standing ovation. The applause lasted for several minutes as teammate Garnett waved the crowd on for more.
The official announcement finally came during a time out with 5:14 left in the third and Pierce went to midcourt, blew a few kisses and bowed during another round of applause. There was one more when Pierce went to the bench with 3:57 left in the period.
Pierce still has a ways to go to become the Celtics all-time leading scorer. John Havlicek holds that mark with 26,395 points.
Boston led 45-38 at halftime and after an even third quarter, the Celtics pulled away in the fourth, leading by as much as 18.
Brandon Bass scored 13 and Garnett added seven rebounds for the Celtics.
Notes: Boston’s five-game winning streak is its longest of the season. … Rondo played his third straight game after missing eight with a sore right wrist. … Charlotte last won on Jan. 14, beating Golden State 112-100. … Charlotte (3-22) has the worst record in the NBA and fell to 1-14 on the road.