Fast Break: Inconsistent Celtics lose inconsistent game to Bulls
|02.16.12 at 10:54 pm ET|
The Celtics were good, bad and then good again against the Bulls on Thursday. Unfortunately for them, the game was four quarters long and by the time the C’s had pulled even with Chicago, they were out of gas. Give them credit for hanging in there against a tough team on the road on the second night of a back-to-back, but the Celtics should be way past moral victories at this point of the season.
The offensive balance returned as Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett all took between 12 and 17 shots apiece. Together, they took about 75 percent of the team’s shots. They just simply didn’t make enough. The defense also returned to previous level with the return of Garnett as they held Chicago to 40 percent shooting. But they gave up too many offensive rebounds (16) and fouled too much (the Bulls had a 28-18 edge in free throws).
It will go in the books as 89-80 loss, their fourth in the last five games and their long road trip is off to a frustrating start.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– Everything that happened in the second quarter. The Celtics were outscored 26-11, but that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. They shot 3-for-15 and were outrebounded 19-4. Omer Asik and Taj Gibson had seven offensive rebounds between them and played only four minutes each. They were scoreless for the first three and a half minutes of the quarter and didn’t make a basket until it was halfway over. Even all that doesn’t do justice to how poorly they played.
– Chris Wilcox and JaJuan Johnson have made their contributions by being energy players. For three quarters, their collective batteries were on low. Wilcox picked up his game in the fourth, thanks to some highlight-worthy lob passes from Rondo. The rest of the bench play was ineffective at best and disastrous at worst. Without an effective second unit to provide support, the Celtics’ starters ran out of steam.
– Speaking of Wilcox, his fourth quarter technical foul couldn’t have come at worse time. The Bulls pushed their lead from five to eight and he went to the bench in favor of Jermaine O’Neal. The momentum the Celtics had built was gone.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– Not so surprisingly, it turns out that Rondo and Pierce can co-exist when both players are aggressive. Less than 24 hours after a dismal offensive performance against Detroit, Pierce started Thursday’s game looking to score. He made three of his first four shots and while Pierce was doing his thing, Rondo stayed in the background. Once Pierce cooled off, Rondo took over. Together, they took 15 of the team’s 25 shots in the first quarter and set the tone for the rest of the night.
– Ray Allen missed his first seven shots, but caught fire at just the right time, knocking down three straight 3-pointers as the Celtics pulled to within one point by the end of the third quarter after being down by double digits.
– Rondo operating in the post continues to be an intriguing wrinkle for the Celtics. While he’s not a true scoring threat on the block, getting Rondo isolated under the basket with shooters spaced out around him practically dares opponents to try and double-team him.
– Garnett had a double-double in his return from a hip flexor with 18 points and 10 rebounds. The Celtics desperately need him to stay healthy the rest of the season if they are going to have a chance.