Celtics-Wizards preview: C's looking to bounce back quickly

Celtics-Wizards preview: C's looking to bounce back quickly

Returning home following a 114-108 loss at Toronto, you always wonder about how a team will respond the second night of a back-to-back, particularly coming off a loss.

“It’s hard. But you know, this is the way the NBA works,” Boston’s Al Horford told reporters following the Toronto game. “We have another one (tonight). A team that beat us pretty bad the first time. We need to get back home, rest up and get ready for (tonight).”

While fatigue is always a concern, the second night of back-to-back games seems to create a greater level of focus which usually results in wins.

Boston comes into tonight’s game against Washington with a 5-3 record on the second night of back-to-back games, with their last second night of a back-to-back being a 117-108 win over New Orleans on Jan. 7.

As far as any residual effect following Tuesday’s loss, a game in which the Raptors closed out the game by outscoring Boston 23-6, that seems unlikely with this team.

“We’ll leave it here,” Thomas told reporters in Toronto following the loss. “Once we get on that plane it’s on to the next one; focus on Washington. This week is big for us. Take care of home court (tonight) and go into Atlanta and get one there.”

While that may be the goal, it’s a lot easier said than done.

This is especially true for tonight’s game against the Wizards (19-18) who are currently eighth in the Eastern Conference after winning six of their last eight games.

During those eight games, Washington has been an effective team at both ends of the floor. Offensively they are shooting 50.1 percent in that span which ranks fourth in the NBA. And the Wizards’ effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG%) is .562.

Defensively, Washington has limited opponents to 36.9 made baskets which is the sixth-lowest total in the last eight games in the league. In addition, the Wizards have a defensive rating of 102.7 which ranks fifth in the league in the last eight games.

And that defense can only be helped by watching the video from Boston’s loss to Toronto on Tuesday.

Toronto did more than just beat the Celtics.

They showed exactly how effective a team can be which makes a strong, conscious effort to keep the ball out of Isaiah Thomas’ hands.

The Raptors didn’t come up with the “Thomas Rules” or anything like that.

After all, Thomas still made an impact scoring the ball as he finished with a team-high 27 points on 8-for-19 shooting. Thomas also had seven assists with just one turnover.

You can rest assured that the Wizards will also try and get the ball out of Thomas’ hands as much as possible, and force Boston’s other players to step up and make plays which was something they did not do enough of on Tuesday.

“We have to figure out how to play when guys do that,” Thomas said. “Guys have to make plays on that end.”

Dissecting all that went wrong in Tuesday’s loss as a precursor to tonight’s game, can be an exhausting endeavor that doesn’t necessarily bring about any closure or improvement for the Celtics.

“My biggest thing is we have to get a lot better,” Stevens said. “I probably saw more encouraging signs of progress than I did negative.”

Blakely: Thomas' dribbling should be least of Hoiberg's concerns after Game 4

Blakely: Thomas' dribbling should be least of Hoiberg's concerns after Game 4

CHICAGO – The Chicago Bulls have dropped two straight to Boston, both at home, and this best-of-seven series shifts back to Boston for Game 5 with the Celtics clearly having all the momentum with the series now tied at two games apiece.

These are desperate times for the Bulls, which might explain why their head coach Fred Hoiberg went on a rant about Isaiah Thomas supposedly carrying the ball.

“Let me say this: Isaiah Thomas is a hell of a player, an unbelievable competitor, a warrior, everything he's going through right now,” Hoiberg said. “He had a hell of a game tonight.”

Wait for it … here it comes …

But, “When you’re allowed to discontinue your dribble on every possession, he's impossible to guard. Impossible to guard,” Hoiberg added. “When you're able to put your hand underneath the ball, take two or three steps and put it back down. It's impossible to guard him in those situations."

Of all the rants and things for Hoiberg to be bothered by in Game 4, he picked one of the lowest hanging fruits to get worked up about trying to explain why his team was torched (again) by Thomas who had 33 points on 10-for-21 shooting.

First of all, if the officials started to call a carry every time they saw one, NBA games would become longer than overtime football games or baseball games with extra innings.

And again, Thomas’ alleged carrying the ball aside, that doesn’t explain how Hoiberg has yet to figure out how to successfully adjust to Boston’s small-ball lineups or how Gerald Green lit them up for 16 first-half points in Game 4 on jumpers and drives to the rim, or how Chicago had a 12-10 advantage on offensive rebounds but Boston outscored them 17-10 on second-chance points, not to mention getting out in transition more which led to them winning the fast-break battle, 17-9.

Those are real, in-need-of-fixing-type problems that should be given more thought by Hoiberg than whether Thomas is carrying the ball.

Hoiberg won’t admit it, but the bigger problem with Thomas is that the Bulls simply don’t have a player who can slow Thomas down – not even Butler who is one of the best two-way defenders in the NBA.

“Not one man can guard me,” Thomas said. “That’s just the confidence I have.”

So far in this series, he’s right.

The Bulls have been in help mode when Thomas has the ball in his hands throughout this series, showing elusiveness off the dribble while managing to find just the right angle to toss up shots against the long, outstretched arms of defenders.

Hoiberg has gone with size, length, speed, you name it and he’s tried it against Thomas.

Nothing has worked to slow down Thomas which may be at the heart of Hoiberg’s public gripes about Thomas carrying, with the goal for the Bulls and his rant being to hopefully influence the officials who will work Game 5 on Wednesday.

“That’s not the reason why I’m an impossible cover,” Thomas said. “It is what it is. I don’t know. I’ve been dribbling that way my whole life. I don’t know what to say to that stuff."

Game 4 Highlights: Boston Celtics 104, Chicago Bulls 95

Game 4 Highlights: Boston Celtics 104, Chicago Bulls 95

Boston Celtics take care of business in Game 4 against the Chicago Bulls to tie up the series 2-2.