Celtics-Bulls preview: Outlasting the opponent

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Celtics-Bulls preview: Outlasting the opponent

CHICAGO In Boston's loss at San Antonio on Saturday, it was clear that the Celtics could not put up much resistance to the Spurs down the stretch.

In Chicago's loss at Memphis on Monday, they too sputtered at the end of the game.

As both Boston and Chicago continue their quest to get back into the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race, both teams will look to improve upon finishing games.

Both teams pride themselves on their defense, particularly down the stretch.

But the ultimate goal every night is to score more points than your opponent, and scoring -- especially in the fourth quarter -- has been at times problematic for both teams.

The Bulls come into tonight's game having won five of their last seven games. They average 23.4 points scored in the fourth quarter this season, but in their most recent losses they averaged 21 points in the fourth.

The gap is even wider for the Celtics.

They average 23.7 points in the fourth quarter which ranks 14th in the NBA. In their last seven games, that number dips to 20.4 points in the fourth which to some degree speaks to why the Celtics are 3-4 during that span.

"At the end of the day, it has to be consistency in what we do," said Boston's Paul Pierce. "We have our schemes and the things we do. If we just do them right on a consistent basis, we wouldn't be inconsistent. When we look at the tape, it's because we're not doing the things we go over during practice."

Finding that consistency will be important for the Celtics against an improving Chicago Bulls team. Here are some other keys to tonight's game as the Celtics try and snap a two-game losing skid.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The Celtics took just eight free throw attempts in their loss to San Antonio, so you can expect them to attack the rim more often as well as get the ball to Kevin Garnett early in the post. The eight free throw attempts were the fewest for the C's since they took five in a home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers last February.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Carlos Boozer. Bass is due for a breakout game after shooting just 2-for-8 in his last two games. That wouldn't be that big a stretch against Boozer who is not exactly known as a defensive stalwart.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo has rolled sevens -- as in turnovers -- in each of Boston's last two games. His name is all over the C's record books already, but he'll clearly be looking to avoid adding another historical footnote with what would be a third straight game with seven or more turnovers -- something no Celtic in franchise history has ever accomplished.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston is looking to avoid giving up 100 points or more for the fourth straight game, which shouldn't be too difficult to do against a Chicago team playing without their starting backcourt of Derrick Rose and Richard Hamilton. Regardless of the opponent, the Celtics have not had much success when opponents meet or exceed the 100-point plateau with a less-than-stellar record in such games of 3-7 this season.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics host the Raptors at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

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Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

Celtics-Raptors preview: DeRozan, Lowry a challenge for Bradley, C's

BOSTON – Avery Bradley doesn’t mind being a standout, but this is probably not what he had in mind. 

Injuries have ravaged the Boston Celtics’ starting five to the point where only one player, Bradley, has been with the first unit in all 22 games this season. 

Just like Bradley was looked upon to step his game up in the absence of Isaiah Thomas (right groin) at Orlando on Wednesday, he will once again be challenged to lead Boston (13-9) to victory tonight when the Thomas-less Celtics face the Toronto Raptors. 

Bradley’s emergence as a two-way talent this season has overshadowed at times what has been another season of elite play defensively. 

And he’ll need to be on top of his defensive game tonight against a Raptors All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. 

Both Lowry and DeRozan present a different kind of challenge for Bradley who will spend time defending each of them at various points during the game. 

Lowry has good size, strength and deceptive quickness in addition to an under-rated perimeter game that will keep Bradley on his toes for sure. 

This season he's averaging 20.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and a career-high 7.6 assists while shooting 42.9 percent on 3's which is also a career mark. 

And DeRozan is having the kind of season that might get him a few league MVP votes. 

His 28.0 points per game ranks fifth in the NBA, but making his numbers even more impressive is that unlike most guards DeRozan doesn’t generate much offense from three-pointers.

DeRozan averages 1.8 three-point attempts per game which is the fewest attempts among any player ranked among the league’s top-25 scorers.

The 6-foot-7 All-Star is the master of the mid-range game which accounts for 31.5 percent of the points he scores. And when he’s not shooting the mid-range, he’s working a defender in one-on-one iso-situations. 

That helps explain why 76.4 percent of his two-point made field goals are unassisted. 

But here’s the thing about Bradley. 

As much as we give him props for what he does defensively, it’s his offense that has put him on the map as a potential All-Star this season. 

Bradley is averaging a career-high 17.9 points while shooting 47.2 percent from the field. He’s also averaging a career-high 7.8 rebounds per game in addition to shooting a career-high 40.7 percent on 3's.

But for Bradley, individual accolades are only going to come his way by the Celtics winning games; preferably against above-average teams like the Toronto Raptors.

And that would make both Bradley and the Celtics stand out this season.