Boston Celtics

Celtics-Bulls Game 3 preview: C's need to be 'more focused'

Celtics-Bulls Game 3 preview: C's need to be 'more focused'

CHICAGO –  There’s a pretty lengthy list of “we can do better at …” items for the Boston Celtics to think about heading into Friday night’s Game 3 matchup between the Celtics and the Chicago Bulls.
 
Near the top of that list if not at the top, will be Boston trying to play with an edge that’s closer to what we saw from them during the season.
 
When I asked Jae Crowder about areas the Celtics needed to improve upon, he didn’t hesitate in responding, “play with energy throughout the whole game; sustain it."
 
Crowder added, “I feel like those guys have been playing very hard. And at times we played hard, but they played harder than us.”
 
While there are players on the roster who can provide a boost of energy for Boston, it has to be a collective thing if it’s going to truly work.
 
“All five guys on the court being engaged,” said Crowder when asked about playing with an edge. “Knowing the task at hand and knowing each other and not getting down. Move on to the next play. If something bad happens, try to move on and win the next play.”
 
It’s easier said than done, especially at a time when all of the player’s focus isn’t fully where it should be following the death of Isaiah Thomas’ 22-year-old sister, Chyna J. Thomas, who died after a one-car crash which as one can imagine, has been difficult for Thomas to move forward from.
 
“It’s a lot going on these couple days right before the playoffs with the Isaiah situation,” said Boston’s Marcus Smart. “That’s a lot of burden on him. We feel it too; when he goes through something we all go through it. You can see it.”
 
Thomas was not with the team during their Thursday afternoon practice at the United Center in Chicago. Instead, he was on his way to Chicago on Thursday night to rejoin the team in plenty of time for tonight’s Game 3 matchup.
 
Thomas left the Celtics following their Game 2 loss on Wednesday and spent the day with his family in Takoma, Wash.
 
With the two-time All-Star spending time the past day or so with his family in Tacoma, Wash., the Celtics will get him back soon hopefully with a clear mind and a healthy body.
 
But they all know that they’ll need more than that to win.
 
“We need to be more focused than we were the first two games,” said Boston’s Al Horford. “We need to do all the little things. it’s tough winning on the road. In the playoffs it’s even harder.”
 
But the Celtics don’t have time to worry about that.
 
Instead, their focus has to be on one thing and one thing only – winning tonight’s game.
 
Because without it, they would find themselves in a 3-0 series deficit, something that no team has ever been able to fully overcome to advance in a playoff series.
 
“At the end of the day, it’s about how we play at 6 o’clock [Friday],” Stevens said. “Whenever you get beat, you’re antsy to get out there on the court and play. But we’ve been outplayed the first two games, there’s no question about it. And so you should have a little fire to get out there.”
 

NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety

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NBA adds 'Harden Rule' and 'Zaza Rule' for players' safety

NEW YORK - NBA referees will be able to call flagrant or technical fouls on defenders who dangerously close on jump shooters without allowing them space to land, as Zaza Pachulia did on the play that injured Spurs star Kawhi Leonard in last season's playoffs.

Officials will also make sure jump shooters are in their upward shooting motion when determining if a perimeter foul is worthy of free throws, which could cut down on James Harden's attempts after he swings his arms into contact.

The new rules interpretations are being unofficially called the "Harden Rule" and the "Zaza Rule". The Washington Wizards accused the Celtics' Al Horford of a dangerous closeout on Markieff Morris that injured Morris and knocked him out of Game 1 of their playoff series two weeks before the Pachulia-Leonard play.

Leonard sprained his ankle when Pachulia slid his foot under Leonard's in Game 1 of Golden State's victory in the Western Conference finals. After calling a foul, officials will now be able to look at a replay to determine if the defender recklessly positioned his foot in an unnatural way, which could trigger an upgrade to a flagrant, or a technical if there was no contact but an apparent attempt to injure.

"It's 100 percent for the safety of the players," NBA senior vice president of replay and referee operations Joe Borgia said Thursday.

The NBA had made the freedom to land a point of emphasis for officials a few years ago, because of the risk of injuries. 

Officials can still rule the play a common foul if they did not see a dangerous or unnatural attempt by the defender upon review. Borgia said Pachulia's foul would have been deemed a flagrant.

With the fouls on the perimeter shots - often coming when the offensive player has come off a screen and quickly attempts to launch a shot as his defender tries to catch up - officials will focus on the sequencing of the play. The player with the ball must already be in his shooting motion when contact is made, rather than gathering the ball to shoot such as on a drive to the basket.

"We saw it as a major trend in the NBA so we had to almost back up and say, `Well, wait a minute, this is going to be a trend, so let's catch up to it,"' NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell said.