Celtics trampled by Bulls, 93-86

718678.jpg

Celtics trampled by Bulls, 93-86

CHICAGO A tale of two halves.

It has been the story of the Boston Celtics' season, and it was story of their second straight loss as the Chicago Bulls rallied from a double-digit Celtics lead at the half, for a 93-86 win.

Boston (30-24) has now lost two in a row, both in large part because of one poor half of play.

In Wednesday's 87-86 loss to San Antonio, a horrible first half proved to be too much for the Celtics to fully overcome as they seemingly ran out of steam in the game's closing minutes under the strong finish by the Spurs.

On Thursday, the C's had similar struggles in the second half as the Bulls ratcheted up the defensive intensity.

In a back-and-fourth tussle for most of the third quarter, Chicago seemed poised to pull away after a pair of mid-range jumpers by Luol Deng gave Chicago a five-point lead with more than eight minutes to play. He led all scorers with 26 points.

There was still plenty of time remaining, but there was no doubt the game's momentum had clearly shifted towards the home team.

After a Celtics shot clock violation, the Bulls seemed prepared to take their biggest lead of the night.

However, Boston's newest full-time starter, Avery Bradley, had a steal and subsequent lay-up that cut Chicago's lead to 78-75.

Bradley got the starting nod ahead of Ray Allen, who came off the bench for only the fifth time in his career (a span of 1,145 games) and the first time as a Celtic.

Rivers' decision to start Bradley instead of Allen seemed a good one in the first half which saw the C's spend the bulk of the time with a lead.

And as far as far minutes were concerned, both played 15 minutes in the first half with Bradley tallying four points and an assist while Allen led the Celtics' second unit with five points and two rebounds which also led the team's backups. Bradley, who was in foul trouble in the second half, had nine points in 27 minutes while Allen finished with 14 points in 31 minutes.

The game's focus could have easily been on the Bradley-Allen swap, but truth be told, this game in the first half was all about Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo dominating the action.

Pierce had another big scoring half, leading all players with 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting. And Rondo was well on his way to another double-double with eight points and seven assists which played a major role in Boston's 49-38 halftime lead. He finished with a team-high 22 points while Rondo had 10 points and 12 assists.

Of course the C's caught a break of sorts with reigning league MVP Derrick Rose remaining out with a groin injury that has sidelined him the last 12 games.

His replacement, C.J. Watson, had a decent first half with nine points. Watson finished with 15 points and eight assists.

But if there was as area that spoke to why Boston was in control, it was rebounding.

Despite Boston being the worst rebounding team in the NBA, they literally met the Bulls rebound-for-rebound, grabbing the same number of boards (20) as Chicago did in the first half.

In addition, the Celtics were able to capitalize on Chicago's mistakes, converting the Bulls' eight turnovers into 15 points all the while limiting their miscues to four turnovers which generated just six points for the Bulls.

Crowder on Cousins' style: 'Step up to the test or you get run over'

Crowder on Cousins' style: 'Step up to the test or you get run over'

BOSTON – There was a point in the fourth quarter when Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins was fouled trying to score which brought about an automatic, intense and angry scowl from the all-star center. 

He raised his hand as he were going to strike back at the potential assailant. 

And then he saw the man was Jae Crowder. 

Cousins, who had a game-high 28 points, then went to the free throw line, incident-free. 

“I’m not one those other cats he be punking,” said Crowder with a grin.

That moment was one of many throughout Friday night’s game when Crowder made his presence felt when the game mattered most, and wasn’t afraid to mix it up with whoever stood between him and helping the Celtics win – even Cousins. 

But as Crowder explained following Boston’s 97-92 win, that moment was about two physical players who have developed an on-the-floor rapport that speaks to their intensity and desire to win at all costs. 

“He’s going to bring the game to you; his physicality,” said Crowder who had 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting. “He’s a very physical type of guy. If he senses you’re not physical at all, he’ll let you know. He’s a dog down there; he’s a bull. I love to go against a player like that. He’s going to give you his best shot each and every night. You either step up to the test or you get run over.” 

As soon as the two made eye contact, Crowder knew it was one of the many intimidation methods used by Cousins against opposing players. 

Crowder wasn’t having it. 

“That’s my guy; he’s my guy,” Crowder said of Cousins. “He plays a lot of tactics against a lot of other players. I’ve earned that respect with him. He knows I’m going to fight him just as hard as anybody else. We leave it on the court. He’s a good friend of mine. We’ve become friends, just playing ball, playing basketball the right way.”

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics make big plays down the stretch

Stars, studs and duds: Celtics make big plays down the stretch

BOSTON – When the fourth quarter rolled around on Friday night, the Boston Celtics found themselves in a down-to-the-wire fight with the Sacramento Kings. 

It was the kind of game that in the past has brought out the scrappy, get-it-done-somehow brand of basketball that has in many ways come to define the Celtics under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens. 

And it was on full display Friday night as the Celtics made all the big plays at both ends of the floor down the stretch to beat the Sacramento Kings, 97-92. 

After Sacramento cut Boston’s lead to 90-87, Al Horford drained a 3-pointer to make it a two-possession game again. 

Isaiah Thomas came up with a pair of free throws that turned out to be huge, because shortly after he made them the Kings got a 3-pointer from DeMarcus Cousins that made it a 95-92 game.

The Kings had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth when Horford was credited with his sixth block of the game, this time on DeMarcus Cousins.

Horford was immediately fouled and went to the free throw line where he sealed the victory by making a pair.

Those were the kind of plays we saw often last season being made by the Celtics who finished in a tie for the third-best record in the East. 

This year, not so much. 

“For the most part we got what we wanted (in the fourth quarter) and we got the stops we needed even,” Thomas said. 

Which is the kind of game Jae Crowder and the rest of the guys who have been here awhile, have grown accustomed to.

“We got back to being the aggressive team,” Crowder said. “We came out and imposed our will early; that helped. But if the game comes down to what it was tonight, we have to be the team that comes out on top. It was like a playoff game, real physical. We have to grit it out, grind it out.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Friday night’s game.

 

STARS

Al Horford

So this is what an ultra-aggressive Al Horford looks like? The four-time All-Star had a season-high 26 points which included knocking down four three-pointers to go with eight rebounds and six blocked shots – yes, six blocked shots.

DeMarcus Cousins

While his fiery temper hasn’t died down completely, his incredible offensive skills and brute strength is what folks are talking more about, finally. He led the Kings with a game-high 28 points to go with nine rebounds, three assists, a steal and four blocked shots.  

 

STUDS

Isaiah Thomas

His streak of being Boston’s outright scoring leader ended at 14 games, but he’s more than happy to take a back seat for one night if it means getting a victory. Horford led the charge on Friday night, but Thomas still chipped in with 20 points, seven assists and two steals. 

Matt Barnes

Although he missed eight of his 11 shots from the field, the 36-year-old Barnes was rewarded for his hustle and effort as he finished with a double-double of 12 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.

Jae Crowder

Boston needed tough plays to be made on Friday and Crowder was up the challenge all night. He finished with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting to go with three rebounds, three assists and a steal. Good things happened when he was on the floor, evident by his game-high plus/minus of +15.

 

DUDS

Rudy Gay

He finished with 13 points on 6-for-14 shooting but the Kings needed more from their second-leading scorer who finished almost seven points below his 19.6 points per game average. That stands out on a night when the Kings lost by just five points.