|Fast Break: Celtics get gored in Chicago||04.07.11 at 10:38 pm ET|
If there was a statement to be made in Thursday night’s game between the Bulls and Celtics, it’s that Boston can’t expect to come in to Chicago and play its C+ game and come away with anything but a double-digit loss. The Bulls defense can make anyone look bad, but the Celtics didn’t help the cause by missing layups and failing to do anything in transition. Defensively, they were a step slow in closing out on shooters and allowed the Bulls hit over 40 percent from 3-point range, in a 97-81 loss.
While still technically alive, the race for homecourt is over … and in reality it has been ever since the Celtics dropped winnable games at home against the Grizzlies and Bobcats two weeks ago. They are now tied with the Heat for second place with Sunday’s showdown looming in Miami.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Derrick Rose happened: The likely MVP put on a clinic in the first, scoring from impossible angles and running past the Celtics defense in transition. When he wasn’t scoring, Rose was breaking down the Celtics defense and allowing lanes for offensive rebounds. He completely outplayed Rondo in the first half, outscoring him 16-0.
Offensive execution: Where was it? The Bulls are the best defensive team in the league, but the Celtics played right into their hands by turning down decent looks and having to force contested jump shots late in the shot clock. Outside of a brief stretch in the third quarter, there were also no fast break points to be had.
Pick a player: Ray Allen couldn’t get on track. Paul Pierce forced the issue and had several bad turnovers. Kevin Garnett had an off-night shooting. Glen Davis was 1-for-8. Rondo missed layups, among other problems. There was no one among the Celtics main players who had anything close to a good night.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The second unit had its moments: Doc Rivers finally has the right personnel in place to have a functioning second unit and while he’s still toying with the right combinations, the offensive punch provided by Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic off the bench is a welcome sight. The Celtics posted up Green on several occasions with generally positive results and that helped erase an eight-point lead in the first half. Unfortunately for the Celtics, they couldn’t duplicate that performance in the second half.
Free throw shooting: It’s the simplest thing in the world, but the Celtics were able to stay in the game by going a perfect 10-for-10 in the first half at the line, while also getting Luol Deng in foul trouble. That was about all they had going for them offensively.
|Race for top seed in Eastern Conference takes shape||03.22.11 at 2:34 pm ET|
A few weeks ago, the Celtics were in the driver’s seat for the best record in the Eastern Conference. After beating the Suns on March 2, their record stood at 44-15, three games ahead of the Bulls. Things changed quickly, as the Celtics went 3-4 over the next two weeks, while the Bulls reeled off eight straight wins to take a momentary lead.
The Celtics got themselves back on track with comeback wins against New Orleans and New York, and now with 13 games left in the regular season, the Celtics and Bulls are tied again at 50-9 heading into Chicago’s game with the Hawks on Tuesday night.
In examining the remaining schedule, the Celtics have a slightly tougher slate of games ‘ but they own two tiebreakers. First, they have gone 2-1 against Chicago with the final matchup scheduled for April 7 at the United Center. If the Celtics win that game, they’ll own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Even if they lose, they currently have a better conference record (33-6) than Chicago (30-9), which is the next tiebreaker.
The Celtics are on record as saying that health is their primary focus, not getting homecourt. Yet with 13 games left it remains a possibility and there is incentive. At stake is homecourt advantage as well as the benefit of playing a sub-500 team in the first round and avoiding a semifinal matchup with Miami.
Here’s how the schedule break down:
Home: 6 (Memphis, Philadelphia, Toronto, Phoenix, Boston, New Jersey)
Road: 7 (Atlanta, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Detroit, Cleveland, Orlando, New York)
Back-to-backs: 4 (Two second games at home against Toronto and New Jersey and two on the road against Milwaukee and Cleveland).
Playoff opponents: 6
Home: Memphis, Philadelphia, Boston
Road: Atlanta, Orlando, New York
Toughest stretch: After they play the Celtics on April 7, the Bulls have three games on the road against Cleveland, Orlando and New York before finishing the regular season at home against New Jersey. There are two back-to-backs against the Cavs and Nets.
Home: 6 (Memphis, Charlotte, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington, New York)
Road: 7 (Minnesota, Indiana, San Antonio, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, Miami)
Back-to-backs: 4 (One second game at home against Washington and three on the road against Indiana, Atlanta and Washington).
Playoff opponents: 7
Home: Memphis, Philadelphia, New York
Road: San Antonio, Atlanta, Chicago, Miami
Toughest stretch: There are actually two. The first is a four-game road trip that has two sets of back-t0-backs with Minnesota and Indiana followed by San Antonio and Atlanta. The second starts with the Bulls game and is followed by a back-to-back at home against Washington on Friday and then a trip to Miami for a Sunday afternoon game with yet another back-to-back against the Wizards, this time in Washington.
How many wins over the final 13 games will it take to clinch the East? Various projection models have it at 59, which would mean going 9-4 down the stretch. Justin Kubatko’s forecast at Basketball-Reference has the Bulls with a 57.4 percent probability of getting the top seed and he has the Celtics at 35.4 percent going into Tuesday night’s games. The Heat have a slim 7 percent chance. Based on the schedule, and also the Celtics stated intentions to not go all out for the top seed, the Bulls have to be considered the favorites but that can change in a week.
|Talking Hoops, Episode V with Kelly Dwyer||03.14.11 at 4:44 pm ET|
In the latest edition of Talking Hoops with Paul Flannery we talked with Kelly Dwyer, editor of Yahoo! Sports Ball Don’t Lie. Few people know the Bulls as well as Dwyer, so we went in-depth on Chicago’s rise from talented als0-ran to legitimate championship contender. Then we talked about the Celtics and what we can expect from their new additions and later, we ran through the sleepers in the Eastern Conference.
We also reminisced about the Fab 5, Rodrick Rhodes and Dwyer tries to convince me to listen to ELO.
LISTEN HERE: Talking Hoops, Episode V
|Fast Break: Bulls bury Celtics||01.08.11 at 10:42 pm ET|
The NBA schedule is sometimes a cruel beast. Take the Celtics and Bulls, put them in a vacuum and the result is usually a fantastic game. But put them on a Saturday night with both teams on the second end of back-to-backs and you get a slow, ugly contest, like the one these two teams played.
The Celtics were able to hang in until the bitter end, mostly thanks to 21 Chicago turnovers, but the combination of Derrick Rose (36 points) and Carlos Boozer (22) was too much to overcome in a 90-79 loss that snapped Boston’s four-game winning streak. (Recap.)
Credit Tom Thibodeau‘s defense, which held the Celtics to 38 percent shooting and kept them out of the paint all night. Not many teams can make the Celtics look as bad as they did Saturday night, but Thibodeau knows them as well as anyone and he has Chicago ranked second (behind the Celtics) in defensive efficiency.
The Celtics return home for a six-game homestand against only two teams with winning records: Utah and Orlando. They are also expected to get Kevin Garnett back, possibly as early as Monday.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Rebounding: In case there was still any confusion about how the Celtics feel about offensive rebounds, Doc Rivers said it as plainly as he could Friday night.
“I don’t care about offensive rebounds,” the coach said. “I care about defensive rebounds.”
In that case, the first half was very discouraging as the Bulls grabbed eight offensive rebounds. It didn’t get any better in the second half as the Celtics got pounded on the boards. They gave up 11 offensive boards and lost the overall battle, 48-27.
Derrick Rose at the free throw line: Derrick Rose established a new career-high in free throw attempts and makes midway through the third quarter. He went on to make 15-of-19 as he wore the Celtics out with the pick-and-roll. The Bulls wound up only being +7 at the line, despite taking 13 more shots (35-22).
Bench production: Or the lack, thereof. Outside of Jermaine O’Neal who had six points and three rebounds, the Celtics reserves combined to shoot 1-for-7 with three rebounds and four assists. Once again, the Celtics offense without Rajon Rondo on the floor was disjointed and out of sync.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Paul Pierce and Ray Allen: The two veterans basically are the Celtics offense right now with Garnett out, so it’s a good thing that they are both playing at a high level. They combined for 40 points, or more than half the Celtics’ total. Along with Rondo, they shot 20-for-43. The rest of the team? A horrific 8-for-31.
Turnovers: Yes, this is the right column. The Bulls turned it over 21 times compared to the Celtics’ eight times. The Celtics recorded 12 steals, which helped, but this was the only thing that kept the Celtics in the game.
Rajon Rondo was decent: Rondo had a solid line with 13 points, five rebounds, five steals and eight assists, but he was also responsible (along with the big men) for Rose’s big night.
|Preview: Bulls at Celtics||12.03.10 at 11:18 am ET|
At 9-7, the Bulls record doesn’t leap off the page, but consider they recently completed a seven-game road trip (known locally as the circus trip) and although they have gone 4-4 in their last eight games, their losses have come against the Spurs, Nuggets, Lakers and Magic.
They’re not there yet though. Carlos Boozer played his first game of the season Wednesday night and had just five points and two rebounds in 22 minutes. Once he gets acclimated, the Bulls will really begin to shape. One problem that has not been fixed yet, however, is their lack of 3-point shooting beyond Kyle Korver.
The Bulls rank 28th in overall makes from behind the arc and are 24th in accuracy, shooting just 33 percent. Luol Deng is shooting an almost-respectable 35 percent, and Derrick Rose is next at 34 percent. That’s actually a marked improvement from the point guard who is under 30 percent for his career.
Despite their troubles from long-range, the Bulls do many things well and they have all the elements to become an elite defensive team. But it’s hard to break through and become a true contender with such an obvious weakness.
BULLS (9-7, 6-4 last 10)
Offensive Rating: 99.0 (14th)
Defensive Rating: 103.8 (9th)
Pace: 93.5 (12th)
Likely Starters: Derrick Rose, Keith Bogans, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah
CELTICS (14-4, 8-2 last 10)
Offensive Rating: 109.2 (9th)
Defensive Rating: 100.8 (2nd)
Pace: 90.7 (23rd)
|Del Negro to coach Clippers||07.07.10 at 6:42 am ET|
Former Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro reached an agreement to become the next coach of the Clippers, according to multiple reports. Del Negro, a native of Springfield, Mass., was fired by the Bulls in May after going 82-82 over two seasons.
|Report: Bulls will send Hinrich, pick to Wizards||06.24.10 at 4:00 pm ET|
According to an ESPN report, the Bulls have agreed to a deal that would send guard Kirk Hinrich and the No. 17 pick to the Wizards in an effort to clear up salary cap space. The deal would not be able to be consummated until July 8, at which time the Wizards would have the salary cap space to afford Hinrich’s $9 million salary. It was not clear what Washington would send to Chicago in return.