This was going to be a tough game for the Celtics. The Celtics were down their two most talented and longest big men against a team that has active, young big men of their own. The Bulls are 7th best in the NBA in ‘points in the paint’ defense.
The Bulls’ now famous 35 point second half collapse to Sacramento immediately brought out every NBA fan’s lawn chairs, much like the old colosseum spectators, expecting blood in Chicago. Everyone lined up along the NBA road, waiting for Vinny Del Negro’s head to roll by.
The Bulls then lost to the Knicks. But to the surprise of everyone, they then went on a 4 game winning streak. They lost the next three straight and now have won 3 straight. What does all that mean? It means the Bulls are 7-3 over their last 10 games with this win. They are a game better than last year at the same point. Vinny Del Negro’s head is still attached.
To be sure, only 3 of those wins are against teams over .500, including the weakened the Celtics, but still.
The Celtics drop their 6th game over the last ten and are now 27-11.
It goes to show that you can just never tell in the NBA. How safe Del Negro’s job is, I don’t know.
What I do know is that this Bulls team is the leading shot blocking team in the NBA (3 way tie), has the 4th best field goal defense, 9th best defensive rating, 5th best rebounding differential, and is generally playing their best ball of the year.
They beat the shorthanded Celtics last night, 96-83 after leading almost the entire game and blocking 10 Boston shots. I guess the Celtics were short armed, too.
The Celtics played catch up all evening and managed to get within 4 points at the 8:06 mark of the 4th quarter. After receiving a pass, Eddie House quickly bounced a nice interior pass to Kendrick Perkins who was moving underneath from left to right. Perkins caught the pass in stride and continued under the basket for the right side lay-up to make it 75-71.
The Celtics could only close to within 6 points after that and did that numerous times. With Paul Pierce and Ray Allen missing shots, the Bulls pulled away to their biggest lead at the end.
Boston’s offense was constantly taking too long to find something. They had multiple 24 second shot clock violations and many shots were taken late in the 24 second count.
Luol Deng was the main Celtic nemesis with 25 points on 8 of 13 shooting. Deng was 5-5 in the first half with 16 points total.
Paul Pierce was looking a step slow, but led the Celtics with 20 points on 6 of 18 shooting. Pierce added 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
Rajon Rondo appeared to tire late in the game as well, allowing Derrick Rose to penetrate and add 9 big fourth quarter points. Rondo finished with 15 points on 6 –14 shooting, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, and 5 turnovers.
The Celtics were terrible at the foul line, hitting just 15 of 28 attempts. They were even worse from the three point line, shooting 4 of 17.
The Bulls had 13 more shots on basket, out rebounded the Celtics by 50-39 and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds to the Celtics 8. The Bulls converted 16 second chance points, while the Celtics could only convert 2 second chance points on those 8 offensive boards.
Pierce was blocked five times. Perkins was blocked three times and Davis and Rondo once each.
It was a wonder why the Bulls only won by 13.
This was a game you could question the strategy three ways.
1) With Wallace and Garnett out, on the second night of back to back games, wouldn’t it have been a good time to have given seldom used Bill Walker and J.R Giddens a real chance to help and to develop?
The Celtics were slower to rebounds, loose balls, and eventually tired in the 4th quarter. Walker or Giddens could have brought some energy, individual offense, and possibly rebounding to a Celtic team that was hurting for scoring.
2) Wouldn’t it have been a good time to set a strategy to get Ray Allen as many looks as possible?
Ray Allen had ten shots on hoop all night. Unless he is nursing an unmentioned injury, that was no where near enough. Often, the picks didn’t look that strong in this contest either.
Ray was largely uninvolved, grabbing just one rebound, no assists, but had three turnovers in 35 plus minutes.
3) Eddie House and Tony Allen could have seen more action, too. House was the only plus/minus on the team (+8) and… while Tony had two unnecessary turnovers, he could attack the rim better than anyone else on the Celtics in this particular contest and did have energy to burn.
House started off 5-5 shooting and finished 5 of 6 in 19 minutes. He started the 4th quarter off with a jumper, a huge steal, making the lay up, and making the score 70-65.
Of course, the response to those criticisms would be that the Celtics almost pulled out the win with the strategy Doc used.
Honestly, it didn’t appear that the energy was there to maintain a lead, even if they got one. Fresh legs might have helped.
Kendrick Perkins did battle as best he could with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocked shots of his own.
Glen Davis grabbed 8 rebounds, but had only 6 points on a night they could have used more from him.
Brain Scalabrine started again, got in early foul trouble and stayed there all night, finishing with 5 personal fouls. He played 20 minutes, scoring 7 points, including two clever drives for lay ups in traffic. They play him for the three point shot and it was good to see him effectively add to his repertoire with the drives. The down side with Brain is rebounding. He was only able to grab 3 rebounds and missed 4 straight three point shots.
The Celtics played their best defense in the second quarter when they held the Bulls to 5 of 18 shooting for 28%.
Unfortunately, the Celtics could only muster 39 first half points and a paltry .417 shooting against an active Bulls defense. 7 of the Chicago blocks were in the first half.
The Celtics get to regroup over the weekend and play Dallas in Boston on Monday.