Celtics-Bulls preview: Running away from the competition

982407.jpg

Celtics-Bulls preview: Running away from the competition

WALTHAM, Mass. The aftermath of a morning shootaround is typically a quiet, intimate affair for the Celtics. Players have routines that often involve scurrying out of the practice facility as quickly as possible once the game plan for that particular night has been laid out.

Tonight against the Bulls, that game plan will account for the brand of basketball that the short-handed Celtics must now play.

Even with a full stable of healthy bodies, the Celtics were not a team that could beat you consistently in the half court game. Their offense in those scenarios -- get it to Kevin Garnett on the block -- was too predictable.

While getting Garnett on the post is still important, the injury-riddled Celtics now find themselves attacking more in transition which has opened things up scoring-wise and, more importantly, gives them a better shot at winning.

The Celtics currently rank 15th in the NBA in fast break points, with 13.4. That number is relatively consistent with the 13.5 fast-break points the Celtics have averaged in their last eight games -- seven of which were victories.

That trait will be especially important tonight against a Bulls team that's once again among the league's best rebounding teams.

The Bulls rank 7th in the NBA with 52.3 rebounds per game this season. Meanwhile, the C's are at the far end of that spectrum with 48.1 per game which ranks 28th (out of 30 teams).

Boston's ability to hold their own on the boards will indeed be one of the keys in tonight's game. Here are a few other factors to pay attention to as the C's try to get back to winning games after their season-best streak of seven straight wins, come to an end at Charlotte on Monday.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: With two of the NBA's top scoring defenses, points will be hard to come by for either team. The Celtics are ranked 10th in the league, giving up 96.3 points per game. The Bulls are even better, with opponents scoring 91.9 points against them which ranks 3rd in the NBA.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs Nate Robinson. The one upside to Rajon Rondo's injury has been how it has allowed Bradley to show that he's more than just a ball-hawking defender. Robinson, who was named Eastern Conference player of the week earlier this month, has been a major reason why the Bulls have remained among the Eastern Conference's elite despite former league MVP Derrick Rose being out all season.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Brandon Bass is long, long overdue for a breakout game scoring the ball. His season-high scoring is 16 points, which he has done three times. In his first season with the C's last year, Bass eclipsed that mark three times within his first 16 games.

STAT TO TRACK: The Celtics have to do a better job in the hustleeffort categories. In the 3-point loss to the Bobcats on Monday, Charlotte had more points in the paint (34-32), on fast breaks (15-9) and on second-chance opportunities (9-6).

Bradley still hurting, will miss Celtics game vs. Trail Blazers

Bradley still hurting, will miss Celtics game vs. Trail Blazers

WALTHAM, Mass. – The right Achilles’ strain that has kept Avery Bradley out of five of the Celtics’ past six games, will continue to keep the 6-foot-2 guard sidelined.
 
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Bradley will not play Saturday against the Portland Trail Blazers.
 
Stevens added that no additional tests have been taken and the Achilles’ itself is structurally fine.
 
“He’s got a lot of soreness around it, and that’s one of those things you have to be ultra-careful with,” said Stevens, who later added that Bradley would not practice with the team today. “When he [Bradley] came back, he said he felt a lot better, and then he played and the next day he practiced. We didn’t do anything live but he did a lot of cutting and did not feel near as good. That’s why he didn’t play Wednesday.”
 
The absence of Bradley was clearly felt in a 117-106 loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday, a game in which Knicks guard Derrick Rose – the man Bradley would have likely spent defending most of the game – scored 30 points.
 
This season, all-NBA first team defender is  the Celtics’ No. 2 scorer at 17 points per game along with averaging a team-best 6.9 rebounds.
 
In addition, Bradley is shooting a career-best 40.9 percent from 3-point range, as well as dishing out 2.4 assists per game, which also represents a career-high for the 26-year-old.


 

Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown still undecided on All-Star dunk contest

Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown still undecided on All-Star dunk contest

WALTHAM, Mass. – To dunk or not to dunk with the best in the NBA?
 
That is the question Celtics rookie forward Jaylen Brown is grappling with these days.
 
The 6-foot-7 Brown confirmed that he has been invited to be part of the league’s Slam Dunk competition at All-Star weekend, but hasn’t made up his mind as to whether he will participate.
 
Brown said he’ll likely make a decision about it sometime this weekend.
 
While he certainly understands that is indeed an honor for any player to be asked to participate in All-Star weekend, Brown said his trepidation about being part of the slam dunk competition has a lot to do with its potential impact on his body and how that may affect his ability to recharge over the weekend and get ready to finish out his rookie season strong.
 
If he decided to enter the contest, he would be facing some really stiff competition from last year’s winner Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando’s Aaron Gordon, whose battle last season put their slam dunk competition among the best ever.
 
Facing tough competition is not something that concerns Brown.
 
“I’m not worried about anybody or anything,” Brown said. “I think I have a lot to offer. Just like your rookie year, your body and everything … it’s a lot. All those dunks, they look cool but it takes a toll on your body for sure. I want to put myself in the best position to help the team.”
 
While his focus has been on the Celtics, Brown acknowledged he has been getting a few tips on the competition from teammate Gerald Green, who is also a former Slam Dunk champion.
 
“[Gerald] Green has been coaching me up, giving me a lot of good ideas I wouldn’t have thought on my own,” Brown said. “If I do decide to do it, it’ll be some stuff [nobody] has seen before.”