Celtics-Bulls review: What we saw

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Celtics-Bulls review: What we saw

BOSTON Finally, the Boston Celtics have a win over one of the NBA's elite - sort of.

Boston's 95-91 win over Chicago came with the Bulls' best player and the reigning league MVP Derrick Rose, out with a back injury.

"In this season, every win is a marquee win, with the shortened season," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "You got bodies out, on both teams every night."

But the Bulls have proven they are a formidable foe with or without Rose in the lineup, evident by their 5-1 record coming into Sunday's game without Rose playing.

Rose's absence was among the factors to keep an eye on leading into Sunday's game.

We'll take a look a few others, and how they actually played out in what was one of the Celtics' biggest wins this season.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - The Bulls are still unsure if reigning league MVP Derrick Rose will play today. He sat out Chicago's 31-point win at Charlotte on Friday due to a back injury. If Rose does play, it'll be interesting to see just how much that back injury will limit his effectiveness at attacking the rim which he does as good as any player in the NBA. In Chicago's 88-79 win over Boston earlier this year, Rose had 25 points and seven assists and four rebounds.
WHAT WE SAW - No Derrick Rose hasn't really been an issue for the Bulls this season. But it was clear on Sunday night that the guys who normally fill the void for him - C.J. Watson and John Lucas III - would not be up to the challenge this time. Watson got the start and had 22 points, but he shot just 8-for-23 from the field. Lucas wasn't much better off the bench, finishing with nine points on 3-for-9 shooting. "We just looked a little sluggish," Watson said. "Came out slow and that's probably why they got a quick start on us."

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah: Garnett will be matched up with one of these guys, depending on whether Jermaine O'Neal (shoulder) plays. Regardless of which one KG faces, the C's need him to win that matchup. And with Garnett, it doesn't have to necessarily be him scoring more points. Garnett has to make an impact, whether it's rebounding, blocking shots or playing his usual Jedi mind trick games.
WHAT WE SAW - With Jermaine O'Neal (left shoulder) and Brandon Bass (left knee) out, Garnett began the game at center with Chris Wilcox starting at power forward. Garnett and Joakim Noah played to a virtual standstill, which actually favors the C's considering how Noah's energy and hustle has often given him an edge over most big men. Noah finished with 16 points and nine rebounds. Garnett had a solid 13-point, 12-rebound night for the C's, in addition to blocking a game-high four shots compared to none for Noah. "I think overall, they just wanted it more," Noah said.

PLAYER TO WATCH - The legend of Avery Bradley continues to grow. Bradley told CSNNE.com that the shoulder injury that limited him the past couple games, won't keep him off the floor today against the Bulls. We've seen Bradley's on-the-ball pressure completely blanket guards. But Derrick Rose? That's an entirely different animal. Like Kevin Garnett, Bradley's impact on the game won't necessarily be seen in his individual stats. In Boston's 86-74 loss at Toronto, Bradley only had three points in his seven minutes on the floor. But in that time, he had a plusminus ratio of plus-7.

WHAT WE SAW - The Bradley factor was not really that big a deal on Sunday, with him playing just over eight minutes in which he had four points, a couple rebounds and a rare blocked shot. His lack of minutes was a direct reflection on how well Rajon Rondo (32 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds) was playing.

STAT TO TRACK - First quarter scoring has been an issue for the Celtics all season, evident by them ranking 27th in the NBA in points scored (21.7) in the first quarter. However, the C's are averaging 24.1 points in the first quarter in their 14 wins this season. Chicago has been among the NBA best at limiting first-quarter scoring. Teams are scoring just 21.3 points against the Bulls in the first quarter, which ranks No. 3 in fewest first quarter points allowed this season. The first quarter clamps have been even tighter of late by the Bulls, having allowed 16 or fewer points scored in each of their last four games - all blowout wins.

WHAT WE SAW - The Celtics could not have had a better start to the game, with lots of contributions from their patchwork lineup. The early results were solid, as the C's took a 28-23 lead after the game's first 12 minutes.

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

With Thomas drawing attention, Stevens turns to Rozier in big moment

BOSTON – Prior to Saturday’s game, Terry Rozier talked to CSNNE.com about the importance of staying ready always, because “you never know when your name or number is going to be called.”

Like when trailing by three points in the fourth quarter with less than 10 seconds to play?

Yes, Rozier was on the floor in that scenario and the second-year guard delivered when his team needed it.

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But Rozier’s fourth quarter heroics which forced overtime against Portland, did not provide that much-needed jolt that Boston needed as the Blazers managed to fend off the Celtics in overtime, 127-123.

For Rozier’s part, he had 15 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The 15 points scored for Rozier was the most for him since he tallied 16 in a 30-point Celtics win at Orlando on Dec. 7.

But more than the points, the decision by head coach Brad Stevens to draw up a play for him in that moment, a time when most of what Boston does revolves around the shooting of Isaiah Thomas who has been among the top-3 scorers in the fourth quarter most of this season, was surprising to many.

And at that point in the game, Thomas already had 13 fourth-quarter points.

Stevens confirmed after the game that the last shot in the fourth was indeed for Rozier, but Thomas’ presence on the floor was important to its execution.

“He (Thomas) also draws a lot of attention,” Stevens said. “So I think you just weigh kind of … what kind of shot you’re going to get, depending on who it is.”

Rozier had initially screened for Thomas, and Thomas came back and screened for him.

“I was open as soon as I caught … and I let it fly,” Rozier said. “Coach drew up a play for me and it felt good to see the ball go in.”

Being on the floor at that time, win or lose, was a victory of sorts for Rozier.

He has seen first-hand how quickly the tide can change in the NBA for a young player.

After a strong summer league showing and a solid training camp, Rozier had earned himself a firm spot in the team’s regular rotation.

But a series of not-so-great games coupled with Gerald Green’s breakout night on Christmas Day, led to his playing time since then becoming more sporadic.

Rozier, in an interview with CSNNE.com, acknowledged it hasn’t been easy going from playing regular minutes to not being sure how much court time, if any, he would receive.

But he says the veterans on the team have been good about keeping his spirits up, and one in particular – Avery Bradley – has been especially helpful.

Like Rozier, Bradley’s first couple of years saw his playing time go from non-existent to inconsistent. But Bradley stayed the course and listened to the team’s veterans who continued to tell him that his hard work would pay off sooner or later.

Those same words of wisdom Bradley received in his early days, he passes on to Rozier.

“It’s big,” Rozier told CSNNE.com. “He (Bradley) tells me things like that. I felt I was ready for this (inconsistent minutes) after all that he told me. It’s big to have a guy like him that has been through it all with a championship team, been around this organization for a while; have him talk to you is big. It’s always good. That’s why I stay positive, and be ready.”

Which is part of the reason why Stevens didn’t hesitate to call up a play for the second-year guard despite him being a 33.3 percent shooter from 3-point range this season – that ranks eighth on this team, mind you.

“He’s a really good shooter,” Stevens said of Rozier. “I think with more opportunity that will show itself true, but he made some big ones in the fourth quarter. We went to him a few different times out of time-outs, and felt good about him making that one.”

And to know that Stevens will turn to him not just to spell Thomas or one of the team’s other guards, but to actually make a game-altering play in the final seconds … that’s major.

“It helps tremendously,” said Rozier who added that his confidence is through “the roof. It makes me want to do everything. You know defense, all of that. It’s great, especially to have a guy like Brad trust you."