CHICAGO Play well here. Play bad there. The Boston Celtics continue to sputter along this season, showing once again that they can hang with any team in the NBA -- and turn around just as quickly and hang themselves.
The latest team to bury the Celtics was the Eastern Conference-leading Chicago Bulls, who pulled away for an 89-80 win Thursday night.
Boston came out attacking from the start, and seemingly had the Bulls right where it wanted them.
"We came out soft in the first quarter," said Bulls coach and former Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau. "They got us back on our heels."
But that soon changed in the second quarter, as Chicago began to assert control of the game by doing what they do best -- rebound the ball.
"It kept us from getting out and running," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose team was minus-15 on the boards. "They crushed us on the glass all game and that was the big difference."
However, there were other factors that came into play as Boston lost for the fourth time in its last five games.
We'll re-examine a few others right now.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: You can bet Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has been on his team lately for how freely they have allowed other teams to score. Despite having the third-best scoring defense (88 points per game) in the NBA this season, the Bulls have given up 105 points per game in their last two games which includes a 95-91 loss to Boston.
"Defensively, we have to play a lot better," Thibodeau said. "Our defense has been okay most of the year. But the last two games, it's not where we want it to be."
WHAT WE SAW: As expected, the Bulls did a much better job defensively against Boston. There were several areas that exemplified this, but none stood out more than the rebounding. The Bulls came into the game as the NBA's second-best rebounding team, while the C's were No. 29. For the game, Chicago was plus-15 on the boards.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Ray Allen vs. Ronnie Brewer: Allen is currently trying to snap out of a mini-shooting slump in which he has averaged 7.7 points on 31.8 percent shooting from the field in the C's last three games. In addition, Allen has missed six of his seven 3-point attempts in that span. Brewer is what you'd call an intangibles guy who does a lot of little things to help the Bulls win, but may not necessarily show up in the final statistics. Against the Celtics, that would be trying to continue making Ray Allen an ineffective scorer.
WHAT WE SAW: It took a while, but Ray Allen finally got on track shooting the ball. He finished with 12 points which included 3-for-7 on 3s. Brewer didn't score a single point, but that's okay. His role is to provide energy and solid play defensively. Considering the Bulls got the win, and Allen had a sub-par game, Brewer did his job.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul Pierce will look to bounce from an inexplicable performance in Wednesday's loss to Detroit. He had 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting, but never at any point in the game looked like he was ready to take over. Rajon Rondo's career night scoring the ball did have a downside -- it kept Pierce from ever getting into any kind of flow because Rondo had it going with points in the paint as well as from the perimeter hitting jumpers. Look for the Celtics to try and establish Pierce as a scorer early tonight.
WHAT WE SAW: After scoring six points in the first couple minutes, Pierce only scored eight more the rest of the game. Lack of ball movement wasn't necessarily the main culprit in Pierce's struggles. Much of the credit should go to Luol Deng, who once again did a strong job in defending Pierce.
STAT TO TRACK: Rivers was not pleased with his team's lack of ball movement in the loss to Detroit. Indeed, it was an unusual night for the the C's in terms of spreading the wealth. Boston scores via an assist on 64.6 percent of their made baskets, which is tops in the NBA. In the 98-88 loss to the Pistons, the Celtics had 16 assists on 34 made baskets, or 47 percent. For Boston to have a shot at winning, they'll likely need to be trending close to what they normally do in terms of assists to field goals made this season.
WHAT WE SAW: Boston's ball movement wasn't any better on Thursday then it was in the loss to Detroit just 24 hours earlier. The Celtics had 31 made baskets, but only 15 assists. That's just not going to get it done against the Bulls -- or any team in the NBA, for that matter.