Celtics-Bulls preview: Too many missed jumpers for C's


Celtics-Bulls preview: Too many missed jumpers for C's

BOSTON NBA teams are no different than other professional clubs.

When it comes to developing a formula for winning, they tend to lean on what they do best.

For the Boston Celtics, that means shooting jump shots - a lot of jump shots, actually.

It has proven to be both a blessing and a burden at times for the Celtics who come into tonight's game against Chicago having won six of their last seven.

The one setback in that span, a 90-78 loss to New Orleans on Wednesday, was a night in which the Celtics' shooters couldn't make shots. They shot 45 percent for the game, but only 30.4 percent in the decisive fourth quarter.

"We shot a lot of jump shots, but that's what we do," said Celtics guard Rajon Rondo. "You know Courtney (Lee), JT (Jason Terry), P (Paul Pierce), Kevin (Garnett), Brandon (Bass), they're all jump-shooters."

But as Rondo pointed out later, they all have the ability to score driving to the basket as well.

Finding an ideal balance between the two remains a challenge at times for the C's.

"There's nothing wrong with taking jump shots if you're making them; if you're open and you're making them," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "But you have to have some kind of regulator of your team and yourself if they're not going in, you have to go to the second or third option and look for a better shot."

While that might appear as though it places the blame on the shoulders of point guard Rajon Rondo, Rivers is quick to clarify that was not the issue.

"It's on everyone," Rivers said. "Rondo is the leader of that to get guys into stuff, but in transition it's his job to throw the ball ahead. We're throwing the ball ahead, they're jacking shots up, it's tough on him. We have to be better."

They will get that opportunity tonight against the Chicago Bulls as the C's try to cap off their five-game homestand with a victory. Here are some of the keys to tonight's matchup.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Joakim Noah controlled their last matchup in just about every way imaginable, finishing with a triple-double of 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. Limiting his impact to one or even two of the major categories will be huge for the Celtics.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Paul Pierce vs. Luol Deng: Deng's length tends to force Pierce to work a lot harder for good looks than he usually has to. But after struggling against Deng's defense last year (Pierce shot 21-for-59 in the four games against the Bulls), he comes into tonight's game having shot 6-for-10 against Chicago earlier this season.

PLAYER TO WATCH: The trade rumors early in the season about Carlos Boozer have died a slow death, courtesy of him putting together a long string of strong performances. In nine of Chicago's last 10 games, Boozer has had at least 15 points and 10 rebounds. Only three other players (Artis Gilmore, Michael Jordan and Elton Brand) in Bulls history have done that over a 10-game span.

STAT TO TRACK: The C's would do well to keep the free throw differential relatively close. New Orleans had almost twice as many free throw attempts (31) as the C's (16). And tonight, they face a Chicago team that's ranked in the top-10 in free throws made per game (18.3).

Horford's all-around play key in first regular season game with Celtics

Horford's all-around play key in first regular season game with Celtics

BOSTON – The Al Horford love fest continues with the veteran big man delivering yet another impressive performance for the Boston Celtics.

And this one?

Unlike his play in the preseason, Wednesday night's game counts.

Horford’s all-around play was pivotal to Boston holding on for a 122-117 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

CELTICS 122, NETS 117:

The four-time All-Star made several high-basketball IQ-type plays that in hindsight, were major key moments in Boston pushing its lead to as many as 23 points.

In the third quarter with Boston ahead 71-65, Horford took advantage of Brooklyn closing out too hard on him and drove into the lane. As the Nets defenders collapsed to take away a shot attempt in the lane, Horford swung the ball to Jae Crowder whose jumper triggered a 14-5 run.

Boston would lead by double figures until the last couple of minutes of the game.

“We have to keep playing the right way, for 48 minutes,” Horford said when asked about the team’s late-game collapse.

The late-game struggles aside, there was a lot to like about how the Celtics played throughout the first 40 minutes.

And a big part of that strong play has to be credited to Horford whose ability to help keep the ball moving allowed the Celtics to finish with 36 assists on 48 made field goals, the kind of opening night assist numbers that haven’t been seen around these parts in decades.

Horford was among those getting into the act, scoring 11 points to go with five rebounds and six assists.

To see him racking up guard-like assist numbers isn’t unusual when you consider he was third in the league last season in assists per game (3.2) for a center.

“Guys were moving the ball very well,” Horford said. “It’s kind of contagious.”

Said Crowder: “I never saw coaches clap on a three-second call. We moved the ball in the first quarter so much we got a three-second call. We passed up a lot of open shots. It just shows how unselfish we are playing as a unit.”

And while that selfless brand of basketball was on display at times last season, the addition of Horford seems to have taken it to another level.

“He opens the floor, he makes it easier for everybody; he’s always in the right spots, he’s a threat at all times,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “He can hit the 3, hit the mid-range, and also post up so he has the full package; a guy that makes it easy for everybody.”