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5 things we learned from Celtics’ loss to Bulls 01.17.15 at 9:07 am ET
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The Bulls defeated the Celtics, 119-103, Friday night at TD Garden (box score).

The Celtics played well offensively through three quarters, shooting 52 percent from the field, but were unable to sustain the effort for the entire game. The veteran Bulls played a complete 48 minutes and pulled away during the final frame, outscoring the inexperienced Celtics 31-17 in that period. Boston only managed to force seven turnovers, while Chicago made 13 of its 25 3-point attempts.

Star point guard Derrick Rose led the way for the Bulls, with an exceptional third quarter in which he had six assists to go along with nine points. He finished with 29 points and 10 assists, notching his second double-double of the year.

SULLINGER FLU GAME

The seasonal flu has ripped though the entire Celtics organization. CSNNE play-by-play commentator Mike Gorman was forced to miss the game against the Pelicans. On Friday, James Young was sent home sick and may be delayed in joining the team for its upcoming West Coast road trip. Only nine players participated at practice on Thursday. Jared Sullinger, battling flu-like symptoms, played 28 minutes, scoring 20 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

HAND INJURY DOESN’T EFFECT TURNER

Evan Turner, after injuring his right thumb in Wednesday’€™s loss to the Hawks, played with a heavy bandage on the thumb. Turner, who normally excels when playing in Chicago, did a bit of everything while starting at point guard, scoring 11 points, dishing out eight assists and grabbing six rebounds.

JIMMY BUTLER IS A STUD

Butler is in the midst of a breakout season that likely will earn him a max contract when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. Butler is leading the league in minutes played and has evolved into a potent scorer. Each year Butler has been in the league, he has increased his average points per game. This year he is scoring 20.7 ppg, a seven-point jump from last season.

Before the game, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens noted Butler’€™s remarkable improvement:

“€œJimmy might be the most improved guy in the league and is probably an All-Star,” Stevens said.

On Friday, Butler did a bit of everything in his 39 minutes for the Bulls. In addition to dropping 22 points, he dominated defensively, snatching up a career-high six steals. If the Bulls make a deep run in the playoffs, it will likely be on the back of Butler.

CELTICS CAN’T GUARD BULLS FRONTLINE

Even with starting forward Joakim Noah inactive, the Celtics struggled to defend the front line of the Bulls. Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson and rookie Nikola Mirotic combined for 38 points and 20 rebounds. The Bulls had 48 points in the paint

TEAM OFFENSE IMPRESSES EARLY

In what has seemingly become a theme of their better performances, the Celtics shared the ball extremely well. Five players scored in double figures, The majority of their points came off of smart passes in the pick-and-roll. Turner, Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley did an excellent job distributing the ball to rolling bigs, as the point guard trio combined for 17 assists. Despite their early success, the Celtics only managed to score 17 points in the fourth quarter, going 8-for-20 from the field. 

Jimmy Butler: ‘If I didn’t have [Joakim Noah] on my team I would hate him,’ understands why Kevin Garnett doesn’t like Noah 01.17.15 at 1:55 am ET
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Joakim Noah didn’t play in Friday’s win over the Celtics, but he still managed to find his way into the box score with a technical foul in street clothes from the bench. The call sparked one of the loudest ovations of the night from the TD Garden crowd — a fan base that has despised Noah dating back to his battles with Kevin Garnett when he was wearing green.

Noah’s cockiness was something that Garnett and Celtics fans have come to hate over the years. So in typical fashion, Noah took credit for the Bulls run against the C’s, claiming it was his technical that sparked his team. Jimmy Butler was asked about Noah’s claim after the game.

“No comment, man. Jo always thinks it has something to do with him. That’s your guy. Look at him over there,” said a smiling Butler gesturing towards a laughing Noah on the other end of the locker room. “Something’s wrong with him.”

So, is Noah the type of player that you only love when he’s on your team?

“Yes, I always say that,” Butler said emphatically before the second half of the question was even posed to him. “If I didn’t have Jo on my team I would hate him. So hopefully he’s on my team for forever because I really would not like him if I was going up against him.

“He just talks too much. He gets on my nerves. I don’t know,” he continued while both smiling and shaking his head thinking he may have gone too far. “I love him because he’s on my team, but if we end up playing towards the end of each of our careers if we go separate ways we will end up fighting. I guarantee it.”

Butler’s honesty came as a little bit of a surprise. So this seemed like the perfect time to see if one of Noah’s own teammates could see things from Garnett’s point of view during the many altercations the two shared while the Big Ticket was still in Boston (and even during his time with Brooklyn).

“Oh yeah, definitely,” Butler said. “I think that comes with the game, you know, two fierce competitors that want to win. [They’re] really great at their position. That’s what your going to get. Especially out of that one,” he finished while gesturing towards Noah once again.

Even though Butler is open minded enough to see things from Garnett and the Boston fans’ point of view, he is very grateful to have Noah on his side.

“Jo makes everyone around him play harder, dive on the floor, take a charge, because when you see how emotional he is you know that he’s really into the game,” expressed a now more serious Butler. “You want to go to war, you want to battle with a guy like Jo.”

Look, Jimmy Butler does not dislike Joakim Noah, “Jo’s my guy,” Butler said multiple times in the locker room. But Celtics fans may just find it refreshing to know that someone in the Bulls locker room can justify that he too would hate Noah if he were an opponent. KG might even find it a bit gratifying as well.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Read More: Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah
Brad Stevens credits Gerald Wallace for team chemistry amidst trades; 2 newcomers to be added on road trip 01.16.15 at 7:27 pm ET
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The Celtics have made nine trades on the season, four of them coming in just the last week. Brad Stevens has joked that he asks Danny Ainge to e-mail him the roster every morning just so he knows who he will be coaching. Evan Turner, who enjoys a good laugh, claimed that the C’s had to take attendance at practice this week to make sure all were accounted for. Bodies are flying in and out of the locker room. Stevens informed the media on Friday that the team will be joined in Los Angeles this weekend by both Tayshaun Prince and Shavlik Randolph.

But all kidding aside, Boston’s young coach feels as though 16-year veteran Gerald Wallace is as important as anyone throughout all the changes.

“I’m not too worried about chemistry in the locker room, and large credit for that goes to Gerald Wallace,” Stevens told reporters prior to Friday’s home game against the Bulls. “Because of the way he, at his age, has accepted his role and how he talks to the young guys. It kind of makes everybody else say, ‘I’m going to do what I can the right way every time.’ So I give him a lot of credit for that.”

Wallace is in a unique situation. The former All-Star is not in the C’s rotation at the moment, and when he is he plays minimal minutes, yet is still expected to lead. Not only by his coach, but by his young teammates.

“It’s a challenge for sure,” Jae Crowder admitted after Thursday’s practice about the team’s ability to remain focused. “I think that’s when guys like Gerald Wallace have to step up.”

Turner goes as far as to refer to Wallace as “uncle”, although he couldn’t resist taking a shot at his elder: “You got two types of uncles, there’s the cool ones and the ones that don’t want to be bothered, and he’s the latter.”

So the next time you see a shot of Wallace sitting on the C’s bench, remember that his role is not quite that simple. “G”, as he’s known around the league, is looked up to by Boston’s youthful locker room. That makes him a key contributor to this rebuild simply by example.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow 

Read More: Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, gerald wallace,
Celtics trade Austin Rivers, waive Nate Robinson 01.15.15 at 6:38 pm ET
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In a series of smaller moves, the Celtics have adjusted their roster once again.

The Celtics finalized a three-team trade that will send Austin Rivers to play in Los Angeles for his father, former C’s and current Clippers coach Doc Rivers, in exchange for a 2017 second-round pick, a $2.4 million trade exception and the expiring contracts of old friend Shavlik Randolph and journeyman Chris Douglas-Roberts.

The Celtics recently acquired the younger Rivers as part of last week’s Jeff Green trade, which also brought Tayshaun Prince‘s expiring deal and a future first-round draft pick (most likely in 2019) to Boston.

In another minor move, the Celtics placed Nate Robinson on waivers. They acquired Robinson earlier this week in exchange for Jameer Nelson, who arrived last month in the Rajon Rondo trade. It’s all very confusing.

In the end, as a result of trading Rondo and Green, the Celtics are left with Jae Crowder, $12.0 million in expiring contracts, three trade exceptions ($12.9 million for Rondo, $5.0 million for Brandan Wright and $2.4 million for Austin Rivers) and what will most likely be two first-round picks (Dallas’ in 2016 and Memphis’ in 2019) and four second-round picks (Dallas’ in 2016; Minnesota’s in 2016 and 2017; and the Clippers’ in 2017).

Read More: Austin Rivers, Boston Celtics, NBA, Shavlik Randolph
Hawks represent a “machine” Brad Stevens is familiar with: Could Boston model Atlanta’s success? 01.15.15 at 3:23 pm ET
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Back in 2007 the Celtics inspired the NBA when they put together what became known as the Big Three. Since then, the Heat accumulated their own successful trio, which LeBron James is now trying to replicate in Cleveland. Teams around the league are all scrambling to put together their own Big Three, but superstars are not easy to come by. Danny Ainge has found that out since trading away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.

Meanwhile, after collecting an impressive victory in Boston without two of their top players, the Hawks are far from scrambling in search of stars. Sitting at 31-8, they’ve lost just two games since Thanksgiving. The first-place team in the Eastern Conference? It’s not the Bulls, the Wizards and certainly not LeBron’s struggling Cavs. That would be the Atlanta Hawks.

After the C’s loss on Wednesday, Brad Stevens, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley all referred to the Hawks as a “machine.” So what is it that makes this particular machine so good?

One key is balance. All five of the Hawks’ starters average at least 11.9 points, but it’s not just about scoring. They can all rebound the ball, starting with the front court duo of Al Horford and Paul Millsap. They can all distribute the ball, but the head of the monster is the crazy-quick Jeff Teague. Kyle Korver is “the most challenging player in the league that averages less than 13 points to prepare for,” according to Stevens. That can be attributed not only to Korver’s lights-out shooting from downtown, but the fact that if he’s doubled he knows how to pass out of it and if his man leaves him it’s an automatic 3-pointer. Then there’s Demarre Carroll, a do-it-all type player with the ability to drop 22 points like he did on the C’s when other starters sat out, despite being the least heralded of the five.

Bottom line is that it’s a tough group of players, but even tougher when you see how fantastic they all gel together. On top of that, Atlanta has seven players coming off the bench that all average over four points, so depth isn’t an issue. Depth is also something the superstar-less Celtics seem to have, but with such a young team they have been unable to find the same type of cohesiveness that the Hawks have.

“I think you have to look and redefine who the superstars are with our own eyes everyday, right?” Stevens said following the game when asked about how Atlanta wins without superstars. “And so I would argue that they’ve got a couple guys on their way. And I don’t know what qualifies a superstar, but I know this: Nobody in the league can keep Jeff Teague in front of them. Nobody. And [Dennis] Schroder — I’m not saying he’s a superstar yet, he’s a young kid –but nobody can keep him in front of them. And then they space it with shooters, so now it’s a basketball team, right? And Millsap’s been and All-Star, Horford didn’t play tonight, he’s been an All-Star, Korver didn’t play tonight, he’s a really good player. So they’ve got a great group and it fits well, and you might have a budding superstar in that group, right?

“The other thing that I’d say about them that stands out, jumps off the page, jumps on the page when you’re coaching against them, jumps off the page when you’re watching film: Big-time savy,” the coach continued to gush. “The game comes really easy to them. It’s slow on defense. They can see things coming. They play well together. They know the biggest threats. They react to the biggest threats. And offense, they stay spaced to make the right basketball play time and again. And I agree with you that the superstar thing and factor is a big part of this, but there’s something to be said about a group that just — it’s like a machine. They’re a machine. They’ve really got a good thing going already.”

Another thing that makes the Hawks so good is their coaching. With Mike Budenholzer at the helm, the team has taken on a new identity since his arrival in 2013, and this may be a machine that Stevens recognizes. Budenholzer coached under Gregg Popovich from 1996-2013, winning four championships in the process. The Spurs have been an organization that Stevens has practically been obsessed with since he’s been on an NBA sideline, now the Hawks might be joining that same elite class.

It seems like the Spurs/Hawks’ style is the type of play that Stevens is most interested in coaching, it’s ultimate team basketball, which might be played best in a superstar-less system. In other words, the Celtics greatest success may come from Danny Ainge searching for the perfect fits in Boston while his youngsters develop, rather than waiting for the next KG trade to fall into his lap. Ainge has been actively working the trade market of late, so he certainly isn’t waiting around, but he may want to take a look at the Hawks blueprint if he wants to taste the champagne again soon.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow

Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, Gregg Popovich
Brad Stevens envies the ‘beautiful basketball’ of the Atlanta Hawks after seeing it up close and personal 01.15.15 at 10:24 am ET
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Brad Stevens had the perfect model for his players to see Wednesday night. The Atlanta Hawks came in winners of nine straight, despite missing star big man Al Horford and sharpshooter Kyle Korver.

He thought maybe his team would see how Atlanta (31-8) is playing the game right now for their coach Mike Budenholzer and be inspired. He thought wrong.

Not three minutes into the game, Stevens had to call a timeout to remind his young team, still working to learn each other’s game, that he wants them to run basic offense.

“I thought our offense was pretty poor all night, and I think they’€™re obviously a difficult-enough offense to guard,” Stevens said. “But when you give them run-out dunks, it doesn’€™t help anything, and we just turned the ball over too much. Put too much pressure on ourselves to be good in the half-court defensively, and then to come back.

“We had cut it to nine and we were playing with some pretty good energy, but then at the end of the day they made us pay on a few different plays. And they do such a great job of ‘€“ they don’€™t over-dribble, you know? They attack, they space, they pass ‘€“ it’€™s beautiful basketball. They really move the ball well. And I thought we never really got into anything from a movement standpoint. We got pushed out a little bit out of our space and we fumbled the ball all around as a result of that.”

The Celtics responded in the first quarter and managed a 24-24 tie after 12 minutes. But the roof started to cave in when the shots didn’t fall in the second and they could never really recover from a 57-45 halftime hole. Still, it was the start of the game that stuck in Stevens’ craw.

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Read More: Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brad Stevens, NBA
Jared Sullinger would rather not change momentum 01.15.15 at 12:45 am ET
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Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger

While his team’s double-digit loss to the Hawks came as no surprise — even as Atlanta rested starters Al Horford and Kyle Korver — Celtics coach Brad Stevens wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort almost from the opening tip.

“I was really disappointed with our first three minutes of the game,” Stevens said of a timeout that came just 2:38 into Wednesday’s 105-91 loss to the red-hot Hawks. “I’m usually not that disappointed in the first three minutes of the game. I thought it was poorly played on our part.”

Things didn’t get much better over the final 45 minutes, either, as Kelly Olynyk allowed dunk after layup after dunk inside, Tyler Zeller finished 0-for-4 from the floor and Stevens continued to dig deep into his rotation.

“Well, I thought our offense was pretty poor all night, and I think they’re obviously a difficult enough offense to guard,” added Stevens. “But when you give them run-out dunks, it doesn’t help anything, and we just turned the ball over too much.” (Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?)

With usual energy boosters Jae Crowder and Marcus Smart struggling to produce, the Celtics desperately needed a game-changer, but only Phil Pressey (7 points, 2 assists) on the end of the bench provided any punch.

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