Celtics-Bulls review: C's limit Bulls in transition

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Celtics-Bulls review: C's limit Bulls in transition

CHICAGO The Chicago Bulls are not the greatest running team in the NBA. And the Boston Celtics for their part, kept it that way in the C's 101-95 win on Monday.

For the second time in as many games, Boston's ability to limit their opponents' transition game was a huge factor in the C's success.

"Our big thing tonight was transition defense," said C's guard Jason Terry. "We did a good job in that area, and offensively the ball really moved."

Boston limited the Bulls to just 10 fast-break points.

A major factor in limiting transition baskets is keeping turnovers relatively low.

Boston did just that on Monday in committing just eight turnovers which is less than half of the 16.7 turnovers Chicago usually forces teams into committing per game.

Finding success in those two areas more often than not, renders results like Monday's victory.

Here are a few other keys identified prior to the game and how they actually played out in Boston's win over the Bulls which snapped the C's five-game road losing streak in Chicago.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Rajon Rondo has been shredding defenses apart all season with an array of pin-point passes resulting in double-digit assists every game. He's the primary reason why the Celtics rank among the top-five this season in assists per game. But the Bulls have made it tough on opponents when it comes to getting assists. In fact, they are only giving up 19.8 per game which ranks sixth in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: Forgot about double-doubles. Rondo was on track for a triple-double with 10 points, five rebounds and five assists in the first half. He would come just a rebound short in tallying 20 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Kevin Garnett vs. Joakim Noah. There's no love lost between these two, which only adds more intrigue and suspense to this matchup between two of the better teams in the East.

WHAT WE SAW: Garnett didn't have one of his best games (15 points, 5 rebounds), but he came up with a pair of lob dunks in the fourth quarter that were huge plays at the time in the Celtics victory. Noah continues to evolve into one of the better power forwards in the NBA, tallying 17 points and 11 rebounds to go with three assists. "They're both unique, high energy guys," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau who is a former Celtics assistant coach. "Both are excellent defenders. (Noah's) shooting is improving. Garnett has done it a lot longer. (Noah's) still learning and growing."

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jeff Green had a major breakout game at Milwaukee on Saturday with 12 points and strong play defensively. It'll be interesting to see if he can build off of that performance or whether he'll return to Struggelesville which he has called home for most of this year.

WHAT WE SAW: Green came out looking aggressive as ever for the Celtics, tallying four points on 2-for-3 shooting in just seven minutes. However, his success didn't go any further than that after suffering a mild right ankle sprain in the second quarter that would not allow him to return in the first half. He played in the second half for Boston, but didn't appear to have the same kind of impact or aggression afterward.

STAT TO TRACK: Boston has had its share of problems limiting opponents scoring in the paint. They currently rank 27th in the league with foes churning out 45.7 points in the paint per game. The Bulls may be just what the Celtics need right now. Chicago comes into tonight's game among the NBA's worst at scoring around the basket. The C's would do themselves a world of good in keeping the Bulls around their 38 points-in-the-paint per game average which ranks No. 23 in the NBA.

WHAT WE SAW: With Chicago ranking among the NBA's worst at scoring in the paint, the Celtics kept them at their season average - 38 points scored in the paint. Boston wasn't much better with 40 points in the paint. But considering how teams have feasted on the C's interior defense, Boston had reason to feel good about their defense against the Bulls - especially on the interior.

Celtics are living by the 3-pointer at a historic level

Celtics are living by the 3-pointer at a historic level

BOSTON – It has been well-established that the Celtics are a three-point shooting, bombs away kind of team and nothing seems like it’ll deter them from continuing along that path.
 
But as we prepare for the second half of the season, beginning tonight against the New York Knicks, we come to realize Boston’s launching of 3-pointers isn’t just unusually high.
 
This group of Celtics rank among the league's all-time leaders in 3-point attempts by the halfway mark of the season.

And when you look at the company they’re keeping when it comes to 3-point shooting, it speaks to how important it has become in this NBA to have as many long-range shooting threats on the floor as possible if you're trying to win at a high level.
 
Boston’s 494 3-point attempts thus far this season ranks fourth all-time by the halfway point of a season. But this season, that’s just good enough to be third behind Houston and Golden State with 617 and 505 three-point attempts, respectively.
 
The other team in the top four all-time is last season's Golden State squad, which took 519 three-pointers by the midway point of the season.
 
And all those 3’s by the Celtics have included an NBA-record six straight games in which they made at least 15 3-pointers.
 
That has allowed the Celtics to score at least 100 points in 15 consecutive games, the franchise’s longest such streak since they reached the 100-point plateau in 19 straight games in 1991.
 
Of course Isaiah Thomas’ 3-point shooting stands out, particularly when you see how dominant he has been this season in the fourth quarter with a league-best 10.1 points per game.
 
But his offense, while potent, is aided heavily by the shot-making snipers coach Brad Stevens surrounds him with on a nightly basis.
 
That’s why you didn’t see Stevens or president of basketball operations Danny Ainge freak out earlier this season when the Celtics were struggling.
 
Kelly Olynyk, who shot better than 40 percent on 3’s a year ago, was still on the mend after offseason shoulder surgery.
 
Jae Crowder, whose 3-point shooting has steadily improved throughout his career, had some minor injuries that set him back and maybe more important, didn’t allow him to get into the kind of shooting rhythm we see now which has allowed him to shoot a team-best 42.6 percent on 3’s.
 
Al Horford, Thomas, Amir Johnson … they all missed some time due to injuries this season, which has impacted the team’s chemistry and timing.
 
But the past couple of weeks have seen the Celtics healthier than they’ve been most of this season, and it has allowed them to play with the kind of space they want which has allowed Thomas and his cohorts to take lots of lightly contested to open 3’s most of this season.
 
“We’ve got pretty good shooters on this team where you’ve got to pick your poison,” Thomas said. “We’re shooting at a high level, and I got to say, you just have to pick your poison who you want to stop and my job is just to make the right play each and every time down.”
 

Mitchell (knee) 'feeling well' as he prepares for AFC title game

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Mitchell (knee) 'feeling well' as he prepares for AFC title game

FOXBORO -- Malcolm Mitchell indicated before Wednesday's practice that he's feeling pretty good despite missing last weekend's Divisional Round matchup with the Texans due to a knee injury. 

"I'm feeling well," he said. "Just taking it day by day. Preparing. I just go from there."

Mitchell suffered the injury in a Week 16 win over the Jets at Gillette Stadium. He missed the regular-season finale and has been limited in practice in recent weeks. 

Mitchell was present for Wednesday's fully-padded practice outdoors, and he said it was crucial for him to prepare as though he will play even if he's unsure as to whether or not he'll be called upon. 

"That's the most important thing," he said. "Be ready for any opportunities that could come about."

He added: "As a competitor, no one wants to miss a game. What's important is the team going out theere and competing whether I was out there or not."

Should Mitchell be at all limited moving forward, the Patriots would likely continue to lean upon Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan as their top options. Both Danny Amendola and Michael Floyd were in uniform for last weekend's playoff matchup with Houston as well. 

Hogan suffered a thigh injury that knocked him from the Texans game, but he said on Tuesday that he was progressing well, and he was also on the field for Wednesday's practice. 

Mitchell said there is a sense of confidence in the receivers room that because of their depth, they'll be good to go as a group even if one or two members of the unit are at less than 100 percent. 

"We know there's some things we can't control," he said, "but our coach does a good job of getting everybody ready."