Celtics-Bulls review: Boston squeaks out win

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Celtics-Bulls review: Boston squeaks out win

BOSTON The basis for how a game looks often comes down to one's perspective; you know, that whole beauty in the eye of the beholder spiel.
But that wasn't the case on Wednesday.
Aside from the final score -- the Celtics won 71-69 over Chicago -- about the best-looking part of the game was the game clock displaying nothing but zeros indicating that it was finally, finally over.
"I told them that it was going to be an ugly game," said C's coach Doc Rivers. "I said you can just see the game is lending itself -- and this is before the game -- that it's going to be a nasty game."
It was a record-setting night on a number of levels for Boston, the kind of records the C's would much rather stay clear of.
In the second quarter, Boston scored a total of 11 points, which was the fewest they had scored in the second quarter of a game all season.
It got worst in the third as the C's totaled a season-low eight points. Fortunately for them, the Bulls weren't all that much better offensively during those two quarters.
The 19 points scored in the second and third quarters was the third-lowest scoring combined total for back-to-back quarters, in the shot clock era.
Certainly the fact that both the Celtics and Bulls rank among the league's best teams defensively contributed to the game being such a low-scoring affair.
But with this being the final game before the All-Star break?
Yeah, that was a factor, too.
"You've got two teams anxious to really get to the break, but still emotionally involved in the game," said Paul Pierce.
Added Rivers: "As we all know, before All-Star, before break, is a strange game. You've got half guys who are tired, you've got a group of guys who are already in the Dominican Republic, and then you have banged-up guys. So you have a lot of things going on in the game and you could see it."
Here are some other factors outlined prior to the game, and how they actually played out as the Celtics (28-24) squeak out a two-point win, their eight victory in the last nine games.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Two of the NBA's top scoring defenses, points will be hard to come by for either team. The Celtics are ranked 10th in the league, giving up 96.3 points per game. The Bulls are even better, with opponents scoring 91.9 points against them which ranks 3rd in the NBA.
WHAT WE SAW: Aided by poor shooting by both teams, Wednesday's game was one in which both team defenses shined. Boston shot just 36.8 percent from the field while the Bulls were even worst as they connected on just 36.5 percent of their shots. "You win games on the defensive end and that's what we did tonight," said C's guard Avery Bradley.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Avery Bradley vs Nate Robinson: The one upside to Rajon Rondo's injury has been how it has allowed Bradley to show that he's more than just a ball-hawking defender. Robinson, who was named Eastern Conference player of the week earlier this month, has been a major reason why the Bulls have remained among the Eastern Conference's elite despite former league MVP Derrick Rose being out all season.
WHAT WE SAW: This battle between Seattle-Tacoma natives was pretty lopsided in Bradley's favor in the first half. Bradley was particularly aggressive as a shooter, tallying eight first-half points compared to Robinson who was scoreless. Bradley finished with 10 points before fouling out for the first time this season, while Robinson had six points and six assists.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Brandon Bass is long, long overdue for a breakout game scoring the ball. His season-high scoring is 16 points, which he has done three times. In his first season with the C's last year, Bass eclipsed that mark three times within his first 16 games.
WHAT WE SAW: As brilliant as Kevin Garnett was down the stretch, it was Bass' play throughout most of the game that gave the C's a chance at victory. He finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, most of which came in the first half when the Celtics were desperate for some scoring punch and rebounding. "Before the game, KG didn't know if he was gonna be able to go our not, but he toughed it out," said Jason Terry. "And Brandon saw that and he held it down. That's what we called it - having each other's back. There was no bigger evidence of having everybody's back than what Brandon Bass did tonight in his performance."

STAT TO TRACK: The Celtics have to do a better job in the hustleeffort categories. In the 3-point loss to the Bobcats on Monday, Charlotte had more points in the paint (34-32), on fast breaks (15-9) and on second-chance opportunities (9-6).
WHAT WE SAW: The Bulls outscored the Celtics in points in the paint (38-24) and second-chance points (13-11), but Boston came out big winners in fast-break points with a 12-4 advantage.

Young getting on floor more for Celtics, including key fourth-quarter stints

Young getting on floor more for Celtics, including key fourth-quarter stints

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – For most of his life, basketball has come easy to James Young.
 
So, the idea that in training camp he wasn’t just fighting to get playing time but also to stay in the NBA, was a jarring eye-opener.
 
To Young’s credit, he rose to the challenge and beat out R.J. Hunter for the Celtics' final roster spot.
 
And while Young’s playing time has been sporadic, he has done a much better job of maximizing his opportunities.
 
So, as the Celtics roll into Detroit to face the Pistons, Young finds himself playing his best basketball as a pro, good enough to make coach Brad Stevens not hesitate to put him in the game in the fourth quarter of a close matchup.
 
“It’s exciting to come back home,” Young, who grew up in nearby Rochester Hills, Mich., told CSNNE.com. “A lot of my family will be there. I’m not thinking about me. I’m just trying to do what I can to help the team.”
 
And lately, he’s getting an opportunity to do just that beyond being someone who helps in practice.
 
We saw that in the 107-97 loss at Toronto on Friday. Young came off the bench to play four minutes, 36 seconds in the fourth quarter with only two other Celtics reserves, Marcus Smart (8:39) and Jonas Jerebko (5:10) seeing more action down the stretch.
 
“It means a lot,” Young said. “He’s starting to trust me a little bit more. That’s a good thing. I’m just trying to do little things; rebound, get defensive stops and score when I get a chance.”
 
The fact that his scoring is just starting to take shape helps shed some light on why he has been buried so deep on the Celtics bench.
 
For his first couple seasons, Young seemed a hesitant shooter physically overwhelmed by opponents too strong for him to defend as well as too physical for him to limit their effectiveness.
 
But this season, he has done a better job at holding his own as a defender while making himself an available scoring option who can play off his teammates.
 
Young is averaging just 2.9 points per game this season, but he’s shooting a career-high 48.9 percent from the field and 41.7 percent on 3’s, which is also a career-high.
 
Getting on the floor more often has in many ways provided yet another boost of confidence to Young.
 
“I’m getting used to the flow of the game playing more consistently,” Young said. “I know what to do. It’s slowing up a little more and it’s getting easier.”
 

Blakely: Raptors newcomers show Celtics what they're missing

Blakely: Raptors newcomers show Celtics what they're missing

TORONTO – It’s far too soon to say if the Celtics’ decision to stand pat at the trade deadline was a mistake.
 
But the early returns aren’t encouraging.
 
Their 107-97 loss Friday night to the Toronto Raptors wasn’t because of Kyle Lowry (right wrist), who didn’t even play, or DeMar DeRozan, who played out his mind while scoring a career-high 43 points.
 
The game will be remembered by the new guys Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, both acquired at the trade deadline by the Raptors.
 
Ibaka, who was a bad fit, and on most nights a bad player, in Orlando, looked like the O-K-C Ibaka while scoring 15 points to go with seven rebounds against the Celtics – numbers that were better than his two games combined against the Celtics this season with the Magic when he scored a total of just 12 points while grabbing eight rebounds.
 
And then there was Tucker, who got a crash video course on Raptors playbook just hours before the game, and proceeded to show the kind of toughness at both ends of the floor that has made him one of the league’s more underrated defenders as he finished with a near double-double of nine points and 10 rebounds.
 
It was their first game with their new team, but you would have thought they had been with Toronto all season long with how seamless they seemed to fit in.
 
Ibaka draining jumpers, Tucker causing chaos defensively, while absolutely crushing the Celtics on the boards...their play was a painful reminder of what could have been for the Green team.
 
Both were rumored to have been in the Celtics’ crosshairs prior to the Thursday 3 p.m. trade deadline. The Celtics were lukewarm at best on Ibaka (they didn’t want what would have been a 25-game rental) and just couldn’t quite strike a deal and cross the finish line for Tucker.
 
It’s too soon to hit the panic button and rip Danny Ainge for not getting a minor deal done like adding Tucker or Ibaka.
 
Still, his players have to embrace the truth behind what transpired this trade season.
 
Ainge went big-game hunting, focusing most of the team's efforts on landing a major difference-maker, a la Jimmy Butler or Paul George.
 
When that didn’t work out, he settled for the next best thing, which was to keep this group together.
 
The onus is now on them to prove that trust Ainge has in them, was well-placed.
 
Putting too much stock in the first game after the break is a risky proposition that no one should subscribe to.
 
But in the loss, it revealed many of the concerns and weaknesses of this roster that tend to get magnified in defeat while glossed over when they manage to win despite those flaws.
 
Isaiah Thomas may be the best scorer in the fourth quarter, but he’s human.
 
There will be games when Mr. Fourth Quarter can’t get it done.
 
Friday night was that kind of game for him. He scored just four of his team-high 20 points in the fourth.
 
And as the Raptors blitzed him repeatedly with two and three defenders, his teammates failed to step up when the opportunity was there to make impactful, game-altering plays down the stretch.
 
Watching the Celtics’ defense in the second half was painful.
 
DeRozan got whatever he wanted, when he wanted it.
 
And when he missed, the Raptors controlled the boards, got all the 50/50 balls and repeatedly out-worked Boston.
 
It exposed Boston in a way that’s painful to see, especially when those inflicting the greatest amount of damage could have been in the Celtics huddle and not the one on the other sideline.