Celtics-Bulls review: Big plays go Bulls way

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Celtics-Bulls review: Big plays go Bulls way

BOSTON The Boston Celtics' 100-99 overtime loss to Chicago will be remembered by many for the big plays made by the Bulls in the game's final moments.

More than that, the loss serves as a reminder of how important the little things - like getting to a loose ball or boxing out - can be in determining a game's outcome.

That's why the Celtics are in head-scratching mode after Friday's loss, a game that they know was there for the taking.

"We had the game in our hands a couple times, and it just slipped through our fingers both times," said Paul Pierce. "Just little things."

Leading 88-86 with 9.4 seconds to play in the fourth quarter, officials ruled that Pierce was tied up by Joakim Noah with Noah - about five inches taller - winning the jump ball.

"It could have gone either way," Pierce said. "I thought I was fouled on that. I came out with a busted lip but the ref didn't see it that way. It was definitely a huge play of the game."

Oh, there was more.

On the ensuing possession, there was a scramble for the ball that ultimately resulted in Kirk Hinrich getting a wide open jumper that he knocked down with two seconds to play that forced overtime.

And then there was the game-winning shot by Marco Belinelli with 3.1 seconds to go, a shot that came about due to the Bulls literally getting a good bounce as the ball wound up in Belinelli's hands.

"It just goes to show that little things can prove costly in this league if you're not on point the whole game," Pierce said. "And it bit us tonight."

Not taking care of the little things was definitely a big part of the Celtics loss. Here are some other factors outlined prior to the game, and how they actually played out on Friday.

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.

WHAT WE SAW: Noah was indeed one of the key players for the Bulls, finishing with 14 points and 13 rebounds along with four assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

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.

WHAT WE SAW: Pierce had another rough outing against the Bulls, scoring 13 points on 5-for-17 shooting. Deng, who was limited in part because of a hamstring injury, had just three points on 1-for-6 shooting.

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.

WHAT WE SAW: Boozer continues to play at an all-star level, thoroughly dominating the Celtics around the basket before finishing with 19 points and a game-high 20 rebounds.

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).

WHAT WE SAW: From the game's opening moments, it was clear that Boston was intent on getting to the free throw line more than they did in the loss to New Orleans. For the game, the C's were 20-for-28 while the Bulls were slightly better with a 23-for-32 effort.

Isaiah Thomas won't make trip to Oklahoma City for Sunday game

Isaiah Thomas won't make trip to Oklahoma City for Sunday game

BOSTON – Facing Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook with a fully healthy squad is tough. 
 
Doing so without your leading scorer makes the challenge all that much greater. 
 
That is where the Celtics find themselves heading into Sunday night’s game against the Thunder without Isaiah Thomas, who did not travel with the team when they left for Oklahoma City today. 
 
Boston’s leading scorer this season with 26 points per game, Thomas suffered a right groin injury against Houston on Dec. 5 and has missed the Celtics’ past two games because of it. 
 
He was hoping to convince Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to let him travel with the team, but Thomas acknowledged convincing Ainge was a long shot. 
 
“He’s not really in favor of me going,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “I’m trying to convince them to let me go. If I’m there, they know I’m going to try and play. I’m shooting for Wednesday [at San Antonio] for the most part. That’s more realistic than Sunday. Hopefully I can play on Wednesday.”
 
Boston has split the two games with Thomas out, beating the you-know-what out of Orlando 117-87 on the road, but dropping one at home 101-94 to Toronto on Friday night. 
 
As disappointed as Thomas is with not being able to play – it’s the first games he has missed since the 2014-2015 season – he understands the potential problems that could surface with an injury like this if he and the Celtics aren’t careful. 
 
“They keep wanting to be very patient with this,” Thomas said. “They don’t want to re-injure it. It is an injury that can get re-injured and be a problem the rest of the season. I don’t want that. On top of that, it gives me time to heal all the other injuries I have.”
 
Among the other injuries Thomas was referring to, is a still-swollen finger on his left (shooting) hand. 
 
The injury was believed to have happened on Nov. 12 against Indiana. 
 
While it was painfully sore, it didn’t seem to be an issue in Boston’s next game against New Orleans when he scored a season-high 37 points. He followed that up with a 30-point performance in a 90-83 win over Dallas.