Celtics left behind by Bulls, 97-81

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Celtics left behind by Bulls, 97-81

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

CHICAGO There are times when no amount of words can do justice to what takes place on the basketball court.

But in describing Boston's 97-81 loss to the Chicago Bulls, coach Doc Rivers and the Celtics players were to the point in describing their pummeling at the hands of the Bulls.

"Keep it real," said Kevin Garnett. "We got our butt kicked tonight."

Said Rivers: "They were far more physical and better prepared than we were."

Added Jeff Green: "Look at the scoreboard. They outplayed us in every aspect of the game."

Coming into the game, the Celtics (54-24) had a slim chance of still landing the No. 1 seed in the East.

But with the loss, Chicago (58-20) would have to lose all four of its remaining games and the Celtics would have to win their final four - both scenarios highly unlikely to happen - in order for the C's to finish tops in the East.

Finishing with the best record in the East is the least of Boston's concerns right now.

The Celtics have to be worried about becoming a more consistent team, which has become a major issue in the past couple of weeks.

Throughout this final stretch of the season, the Celtics continue to play well in spurts, woeful in others.

On some nights, they time it just right and come away with a victory that usually takes more out of them than it should.

But far too often lately, it has resulted in disappointing play and even more disappointing results.

Aside from a short-lived lead to start the game and another one early in the third quarter, this game was all Chicago.

Derrick Rose delivered what may have been a signature performance in his MVP campaign on Thursday, as he had his way with Boston's Rajon Rondo.

Rose finished with 30 points to go with eight assists and five rebounds, while Rondo had seven points and just six assists - only one coming in the second half.

Chicago's Luol Deng also had a big game, scoring 23 points to go with six rebounds and two blocked shots. In addition, Carlos Boozer tallied a double-double of 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

"It was one of our better games," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, a former Celtics assistant.

And for the C's, it was yet another game in which the intensity and effort of their opponent was far greater than what they brought to the game.

With the playoffs only a couple weeks away, this is when teams are fine-tuning their rotations - not trying to figure out how to play harder.

Rivers recognizes his team isn't bringing as much fight to games as they need to.

But he remains steadfast in his belief that when the time is right, the C's will be ready.

"It doesn't matter at what point in the season it is," Rivers said. "It could be Game 1. It could be Game 82. You still have time. There's no panic button you're pushing, or anything like that."

Maybe not a panic button, but the concern meter has to registering some unusually high numbers about now when you consider how the Celtics were so thoroughly outplayed in such a big game.

"We need a better sense of urgency," said Rondo. "We have to play with a greater sense of urgency, and knowing our stuff better."

While that may be true, the Celtics were also hurt by missing a slew of lay-ups that could have kept the game closer, or in some instances, allowed them to take the lead or increase it.

Regardless, those missed shots can't explain away the lethargic effort put forth by the Celtics far too often on Thursday against a Chicago team that has established itself as the team to beat in the East this year.

"They outplayed us," Rondo said.

And if the Celtics aren't careful, they'll be saying the same thing in the playoffs, on their way home for the summer without Banner 18.

"It better be a wake-up call," Rondo said of the dominating fashion in which they lost on Thursday. "If not, we won't make it far."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Tyronn Lue says Celtics harder to defend than Warriors: 'They're running all kinds of s---'

Tyronn Lue says Celtics harder to defend than Warriors: 'They're running all kinds of s---'

The Golden State Warriors are the least of Tyronn Lue's worries, Cleveland Cavaliers coach explained Tuesday.

Even though Lue and the Cavs are up 3-1 in the Eastern Conference Finals, he is apparently overwhelmed with the Boston Celtics to the point where he isn't even thinking about Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and the 67-win Warriors.

"We're just focused on Boston," Lue said of the Warriors following the Cavs' Game 4 win, via ESPN.com. "The stuff they're running, it's harder to defend than Golden State's [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it's a totally different thing."

No, seriously.

"Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s---," Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens' schemes. "I'll be like, 'F---.' They're running all kinds of s---, man. And Brad's got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It's tough, you know, it's tough."

Without Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics finished Game 4 with four players who had 15 points or more. They also had six players who scored double digits in Boston's Game 3 win. Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Kelly Olynyk, Jae Crowder and Al Horford have made heavy offensive contributions. And they not just scoring. The Celtics are working hard off the ball by setting screens and cutting to the hoop to pressure the Cavaliers defense.

The Celtics may not have the Warriors' star power -- but Stevens and Boston are still managing to leave Lue in a state of clear befuddlement after a win.

LeBron James praised Stevens more directly when discussing how the Celtics "run different things" after losing Thomas to injury.

"So they had to kind of reshape, and that’s the beauty of having Brad Stevens as your coach," James told reporters. "You’re able to reshape what you do offensively and still be in a good rhythm. It’s been challenging for us to kind of — plays out of time-out, kind of been killing us on ATOs and keeping us off balance, but in the second half we kind of got a little bit of rhythm, and think we’ll be better in Game 5."