BOSTON -- Tom Thibodeau has seen the Boston Celtics play championship-caliber basketball. He has also watched them struggle at times on the court.
After a slow start at the beginning of this season, the former Celtics assistant coach and current Chicago Bulls head coach believes the Cs are back on track.
Theyre very experienced and I think theyre playing at a very high level, Thibodeau said following the Celtics 95-91 win over the Bulls on Sunday. Even in the Lakers game (an 88-87 Celtics overtime loss), I thought they played very well and could have won that. Of course they won the nine out of ten -- Ill throw out the Toronto game (an 86-74 loss) because to me that was a scheduling game. Back-to-back, late start here, and then travel to Toronto, that was a tough game for them.
Theyre playing at a high level. When you have (Paul) Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin (Garnett), and (Rajon) Rondo running the team, their bench I think is playing very well, theyre getting a lot of contributions from a number of different people. So theyre going to be a dangerous team.
During the Bulls previous visit to Boston, in which they won 88-79, Thibodeau emphasized the impact Pierce has on the Celtics. Pierce was coming off a foot injury at the time and was still working to find his rhythm back on the court. Now that he has established it (he was recently named Eastern Conference Player of the Week), Thibodeau points to the Celtics captain as a major factor in their success.
He also noticed the improvements in the Celtics bench. Rookie JaJuan Johnson scored a career-high 12 points on Sunday and Chris Wilcox, moved to the starting lineup in place of an injured Jermaine ONeal, contributed 11 points and nine rebounds.
I think Paul is healthy, so thats the big thing, he said. Rondos healthy, Kevins been at a high level all year, and Rays had a spectacular year. But I think the big thing is their bench has had time now to get acclimated to their system and comfortable playing with each other. I think when you have a shortened camp like everybody did, if you have new players its going take time. But I think the big thing is Pauls health.
The Celtics (15-12) will face the Bulls (23-7) again on Thursday in Chicago.