Celtics-Bulls preview: Running away from the competition

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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).

Bird not renewing Vogel's contract; McHale not a candidate

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Bird not renewing Vogel's contract; McHale not a candidate

Pacers head coach Frank Vogel, a good friend of Brad Stevens, is out in Indiana.

Pacers president Larry Bird made the official announcement on Thursday.

Vogel’s contract was up in Indiana and Bird elected to not renew it. That, according to Bird, was hard for Vogel to hear.

Both Bird and Vogel spoke shortly before Bird’s press conference with members of the media, and that’s when Bird gave him the news.

There is speculation now as to who will take over as head coach. With Kevin McHale removing himself from consideration for the Sacramento Kings job, there was some thought that he could become the head coach of the Pacers under good friend and former teammate Bird.

That isn’t going to happen either.

Which players fill Celtics Top 5 draft needs?

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Which players fill Celtics Top 5 draft needs?

BOSTON – When it comes to the NBA Draft, nobody has the flexibility to address a need the way the Celtics can this year.
 
If you are a draft-eligible player expected to be among the 60 names called next month, you are within the Celtics’ reach of being drafted.
 
That’s what having eight draft picks (three in the first round and five in the second) can do for you.
 
And while the Celtics have lots of needs, here’s a look at five specifically that they can address through the draft, and the best players to fill those voids.
 
5. Undervalued talent: Marquese Chriss
Getting players whose talent exceeds where they are drafted is certainly something the Celtics would love to do in a year when they have so many picks. Marquese Chriss of Washington could be that player. He’s a 6-9 forward who in this small-ball era in the NBA, can play both forward positions and have a matchup advantage at both spots. He’s targeted to be selected in the middle of the first round which makes him a prime target of the Celtics who could tab him with their second, first-round selection which will be the 16th overall pick.
 
 
4. Rim Protection
You have to give the Celtics props for having a defense that ranked 4th in the NBA despite no legit rim protector other than 6-9 Amir Johnson. As good as Johnson was, the Celtics need to add at least another player or two with rim protection as their strength. Enter Michigan State’s Deyonta Davis. He’s limited offensively in terms of what he can do, but his knack for blocking/altering shots, lateral quickness, vertical leap and overall strength makes him a force in the middle. He too is a player Boston has to give some thought to selecting if he’s still on the board (he’s considered a possible late-lottery pick) when it’s time for the Celtics to choose at No. 16.
 
 
3. Defensive versatility
One of the reasons Boston’s defense was so good this season was because of its ability to make defensive switches and it not create huge mismatches. Having players with the talent and skill to defend multiple positions will remain something the Celtics will also value on draft night. That’s why Jaylen Brown of Cal could be in the mix depending on where the pick Boston gets from Brooklyn, eventually falls. If it’s outside of the top-4, Brown becomes a viable possibility. He gets props for his strength and ability to use it as a means of scoring. But NBA teams are just as excited about his potential as a defender, already possessing an NBA-ready body with the tools to potentially defend all three perimeter positions.
 
2. Wing scoring
The Celtics ranked 11th in 3-pointers taken per game (26.1) but only 28th in 3-point percentage (.335) which shows that they were getting plenty of long-range shots but unable to make them with any consistency. Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield could change all that. He was hands-down the best shooter in college basketball this past season. And with him being a senior, he’s more likely to come in and make an immediate impact than many of his younger draft brethren who are judged more on potential than proven work. If the Celtics wind up with a top-3 pick, Hield would be a bit of a stretch. But if Boston is on the clock with the No. 4, 5 or 6th pick, he should be on their short list of possible targets.
 
 
1. Superstar potential
The best shot Boston has of landing that superstar they’ve longed for, is to land the top overall pick. And with that pick, there’s a growing consensus that Duke’s Brandon Ingram should be that guy rather than LSU’s Ben Simmons. Ingram has a game that in many ways is reminiscent to a young Kevin Durant. But at this stage, Ingram is a better 3-point shooter (he shot 41 percent on 3s in his lone season at Duke) which is one of the many areas Boston could use a boost through the draft.
 
 

Ainge: McHale's clothesline on Rambis was 'sweet'

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Ainge: McHale's clothesline on Rambis was 'sweet'

If you know anything about basketball in the 1980s and early 1990s, you know it was a physical game. And in the playoffs, that physicality multiplied.

The Boston Celtics were no exception to that. There are countless highlights of Celtics players getting into it with their opponents, but perhaps the most famous incident was when Kevin McHale clothelined the Lakers' Kurt Rambis in Game 4 of the 1984 NBA Finals.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge was a member of that team, and discussed that play on Thursday morning with the guys from the Toucher and Rich Show.

“I remember that we were at shootaround the morning of the Kevin McHale / Kurt Rambis clothesline incident,” Ainge said. “They had just beat us by 30 . . . it was Hollywood showtime Lakers all the way and we were humiliated. We came to practice the next day and we had some guys chirping about that, like, ‘We have to take some hard fouls. We cannot let these guys fast break over us and dunk on us in transition. We have to take some hard fouls.’ And I said to the whole team, I like screamed at them, I said, ‘Hey listen, I’m booed in every arena in this league because I’m the only guy who takes hard fouls. I need some of you guys to take some hard fouls. And sure enough Kevin clothelined Kurt Rambis and that was sweet.”