Stars, studs and duds: 'Bad call' costs Celtics in loss to Bulls

Stars, studs and duds: 'Bad call' costs Celtics in loss to Bulls

The Boston Celtics didn’t play their best game on Thursday night against the Chicago Bulls, making the kind of mistakes you expect just before the all-star break.

But their 104-103 loss at Chicago left a truly bitter taste in the Celtics’ mouth and it wasn’t just because of their four-game winning streak being snapped.

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It had more to do with the questionable call against Marcus Smart defending Jimmy Butler, a play in which official Zach Zarba called a foul with 0.9 seconds to play.

“Horrible call,” Isaiah Thomas told reporters after the loss. “Bad call cost us a game, cost us a game. That’s horrible.

Thomas added, “You see him raise his hand up like it was a foul; the Bulls were even shocked. That’s horrible man. It cost you a game you should have won. That’s a bad call.”

Replays showed that the contact Smart was whistled for came with 1.0 to 1.2 seconds to play.

But the call from Zarba came with less than a tenth of a second to play, a call made that wasn't made until Butler’s shot attempt clearly going to come up short.

“When Jimmy shot the ball, I heard him scream, ‘no foul?’” Smart told reporters. “As soon as he said that, the whistle blew and I looked and I saw him (Zarba) raise his hands. I couldn’t believe it. He made the call. You gotta live with it.”

Said Kelly Olynyk: “We thought we won the game. A roller coaster of emotions; it’s tough.”

As disappointed as they are with the loss, the Celtics know there’s nothing they can do about it other than use it as added motivation going forward to play better throughout the course of the game so that the outcome doesn’t come down to possibly being decided in such a questionable manner.

“It’s part of it; you move forward,” Celtics’ Brad Stevens told reporters after the loss. “I thought we played a pretty good game. All things considered, being six (games) in nine (days) I was proud of the way we competed. I’m not going to let that (questionable call), de-rail that. I feel good about our team and I feel good about the direction we’re headed.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds in tonight’s game against Chicago.

 

STARS

Jimmy Butler

Regardless of the questionable call in the final second of play, Butler still had to make the game-winning free throws to get the win. He finished with 29 points and seven assists.

Isaiah Thomas

He finished with 29 points, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter. He also had seven assists with three rebounds.

 

STUDS

Robin Lopez

His activity around the rim was huge for the Bulls, as he finished with 15 points and eight rebounds with two blocked shots.

Kelly Olynyk

He continues to give the Celtics a nice lift off the bench. He had 17 points on 6-for-10 shooting against the Bulls, in addition to seven rebounds and four assists.

Bobby Portis

The Celtics had problems most of the game keeping Portis in check. He finished with 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting with eight rebounds.

  

DUDS

Al Horford

Rough, rough night for Horford against the Bulls. He had just seven points while missing seven of his 10 shot attempts which included a potential game-winner as the final horn sounded. Just as bad, he was a non-factor on the boards which is where Boston desperately needed him to step up and help.  

Celtics defensive rebounding

Boston’s inability to keep the Bulls off the offensive glass was a huge factor in the game’s outcome. The Bulls’ control of the offensive boards resulted in a 22-4 advantage on second-chance points.

Sources: Bulls asking for picks, young veterans in trade for Jimmy Butler

Sources: Bulls asking for picks, young veterans in trade for Jimmy Butler

NEW ORLEANS – All-star weekend is winding down and the Boston Celtics once again are seemingly at the epicenter of most trade discussions.

That’s in part because they have the pieces to help pull off a blockbuster deal for themselves, or become the third team to help facilitate a trade coming to fruition. 

But in talking with league executives and scouts this weekend in New Orleans, all agree that the Celtics are focused more on making a blockbuster-type move, rather than a deal that could make them slightly better than they are now. 

“Anything is possible as you know,” said one Eastern Conference executive. “But they’re not Toronto which is basically 'all in' this year to try and get past Cleveland. Boston’s in the thick of it all, but not pressed to do anything unless it makes them a lot better and to be frank, there aren’t a lot of those potential deals out there for them.”

That’s because the Celtics (37-20) have the second-best record in the East despite their preferred starting five (Isaiah Thomas; Avery Bradley; Jae Crowder; Al Horford and Amir Johnson) having played a very limited number of games (21) together thus far this season.

Even when everyone’s healthy, Boston understands that they still may not be enough to get past the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers. So the addition of a likely role player at the cost of one or more of their major assets (this year’s right to swap picks with Brooklyn or next year’s Brooklyn pick outright), is reason enough for Boston to pause and assess whether the benefit outweighs the cost of what they will have to give up. 

Boston can make a push for Denver’s Danilo Gallinari or his teammate Kenneth Faried who are both available and would help Boston’s overall talent base. They could also revisit Jahlil Okafor discussions or Nerlens Noel with Philadelphia, too.

But for what they need to significantly improve upon where they are now, they have to add a game-changing difference-maker to the mix. 

Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Indiana’s Paul George and Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins are three players who on paper at least, would meet that criteria. 

Multiple league sources this weekend confirmed that each of their respective teams isn’t making a push to trade them. But like every team in the league, they will certainly listen to any and all offers. Only Indiana and Sacramento have come out publicly to say they are not planning to trade their players, with the Pacers indicating they’re willing to give up their first-round pick in order to add a stable, proven talent to the mix in order to help George going forward. 

Meanwhile, the Bulls have been somewhat indifferent to potentially moving Butler, who is playing his third all-star game tonight. 

That’s why several teams, the Celtics included, have inquired about Butler’s availability. While the Bulls haven’t set any specific parameters, league executives believe they are seeking some combination of high draft picks and young veterans (players with experience who are either near the end of their rookie deals or have team-friendly contracts) just to consider moving Butler.

Boston has exactly what the Bulls are looking for if they decide they are going to move on from Butler and rebuild, but how much are the Celtics willing to give up?

That more than anything else, is what will ultimately determine if a deal between the Bulls and the Celtics comes to pass. Boston loves Butler, and believes he could be part of their continued surge towards becoming an elite team that can bring home Banner 18. But the Celtics are not convinced that the addition of Butler would necessarily catapult Boston to the same level of Cleveland or ahead of them. 

Even if the Celtics decide to stand pat with its team as they are now and let the Feb. 23 trade deadline pass without making a move, the Celtics are still working from a vantage point that few teams in the NBA can work from – a team near the top of their conference with relatively young players all with good team-friendly contracts, and draft picks in the next two years that are each likely to be high lottery (top-14) picks.

"They’re well positioned for the future,” said Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors and the West all-star team. “Because of the young talent, because of the coach (Brad Stevens) and because of the draft picks that they have coming up. They could end up with the number one pick in the draft which is remarkable.”

Kerr added, “That doesn’t happen often when you’re talking about a team that’s one of the best in the league already. Boston’s in a great place.”

Wojnarowski thinks Celtics are perfect candidate for Jimmy Butler trade

Wojnarowski thinks Celtics are perfect candidate for Jimmy Butler trade

Most NBA teams would benefit from adding Chicago Bulls guard Jimmy Butler. But few NBA have the assets to acquire him. The most legitimate suitor in the NBA resides in Boston.

"The potential of a Boston-Chicago deal for Jimmy Butler -- I think it will loom over the entire week," Yahoo! NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski said Saturday. "These teams have engaged on the potential of this trade. They have not gotten far down the road on it. There still needs to be alignment within the Bulls organization -- from ownership to management -- that they want to make the decision to enter a full rebuild.

He added: "But the poential of this deal really illustrates the State Farm right combo, because these are two teams that have exactly what the other wants. Boston has been hoarding assets for years for a couple of season, trying to get in the position to get a star player."

Wojnarowski suggested the first building block for the Butler trade would start with either the 2017 or 2018 Brooklyn Nets' first-round pick, which the Celtics acquired in 2013 in the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade.

"And Jimmy Butler in Boston, paired with Isaiah Thomas and this Celtics team -- it would put this Celtics team in a position to seriously challenge Cleveland [Cavaliers] in the east, not only in the short term, but also in the long term."

Butler's contract extends to 2020, and then Wojnarowski explained Boston could then sign the guard to another long-term deal. In the meantime, he could help Boston surpass a vulnerable-looking Cavaliers team.