Celtics hold on, beat Bulls, 95-91

669744.jpg

Celtics hold on, beat Bulls, 95-91

BOSTON When Rajon Rondo is in full-blown attack mode, the Boston Celtics are tough to beat.

Facing the C's without your best player only made Rondo's chances - and the Celtics, for that matter - much easier to come by.

A fast start and a solid finish was just what the Celtics needed to escape with a 95-91 win over the Bulls.

Rondo, who struggled mightily in Boston's loss at Toronto, responded with arguably his best all-around game this season. He was in triple-double range down the stretch before finishing with a season-high 32 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds.

The Bulls were once again short-handed with reigning league MVP Derrick Rose out for the second straight game with a back injury.

Boston wasn't at full strength, either. The left shoulder injury that kept Jermaine O'Neal out at Toronto last week, once again prevented him from playing. And Brandon Bass' left knee had more swelling in it. According to coach Doc Rivers, Bass will be out for at least seven games.

That created an opportunity for Chris Wilcox to start. He responded well, finishing with 11 points and 9 rebounds.

And off the bench, JaJuan Johnson made the most of his added minutes. He had 12 points and 4 rebounds.

Boston's control of the game was very much in doubt in the game's final minutes.

After trailing by as many as 14 points in the fourth, the Bulls cut Boston's lead to three, 89-86, following a free throw by Luol Deng with 1:43 to play. But moments later, Paul Pierce responded with a 15-footer to make it a two-possession game.

Chicago continued to march on.

A pair of free throws by Deng cut the lead back to three. A Celtics turnover gave it back to Chicago, with a chance to tie. However, C.J. Watson's driving lay-up attempt was off, and was rebounded by Kevin Garnett.

The Celtics did their part to keep the fans on their feet, as Pierce made an errant pass that was stolen by Carlos Boozer. The Bulls immediately called a time-out with 27.6 seconds to play.

With the amount of time remaining and it being a 3-point game, there was little doubt the Bulls would be looking for the long ball.

That's exactly what they did, but Watson's 3-point attempt barely grazed the rim.

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Pedroia (knee) out of lineup again after leaving game early Thursday

Dustin Pedroia is out of the lineup again tonight after leaving the Red Sox game Thursday night with knee pain in the fifth inning.

Josh Rutledge will start at second base as the Sox open a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park.  

The weather and sloppy field conditions were a factor in John Farrell deciding to get Pedroia out of the game Thursday and conditions haven’t improved significantly Friday. 

Pedroia (.288, two homers, 21 RBI) had surgery on that knee in October. It's the same leg that was hurt when Manny Machado slid into Pedroia at second base in April, the slide that sparked the plunking war between the Orioles and Red Sox.

The full lineups: 

MARINERS
Jean Segura SS
Guillermo Heredia CF
Robinson Canó 2B
Nelson Cruz DH
Kyle Seager 3B
Danny Valencia 1B
Taylor Motter LF
Ben Gamel RF
Mike Zunino C

Yovanni Gallardo RHP

RED SOX
Mookie Betts RF
Andrew Benintendi LF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Hanley Ramirez DH
Mitch Moreland 1B
Josh Rutledge 2B
Jackie Bradley Jr CF
Christian Vazquez C
Deven Marrero 3B

Eduardo Rodriguez LHP


 

Source: Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

Source: Celtics offseason focus is an All-Star frontcourt addition

WALTHAM, Mass. – No matter how an NBA team’s season ends, change is inevitable.
 
And while there’s no doubt that the Celtics are on the right track in terms of their ascension in the NBA, it's too soon to tell how many players on the Celtics’ 15-man roster that Danny Ainge, the president of basketball operations, will bring back next season.

MORE CELTICS

 
“One thing I do know. He’ll make the best decisions for the team and if players don’t end up being back here, I wish the best for them,” said Avery Bradley.  “Those are my brothers. We all had a special year. I appreciate everything, all the time I had with them. I’d love for all those guys to be back. We’ll see.”
 
And with Boston coming off its first trip to the Eastern Conference finals since 2012, adding just any player won’t cut it.
 
The Celtics’ mindset now isn’t just to improve, but get good enough to where they can better compete with the likes of Cleveland, which just ended the Celtics’ season with a Game 5 thumping.
 
The most significant move made by the Celtics last offseason was the signing of Al Horford to a four-year, $113 million contract.
 
Like most of his Boston teammates this season, Horford is eager to see what changes are in store this summer.
 
“We just have to wait and see,” Horford said. “We had such a good year. A lot of positive things. It’ll be interesting to see what Danny, the organization feels is going to be the next step.”
 
Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.
 
That makes sense when you consider how guard-dominant the Celtics were this season and how that had a negative impact on the team’s rebounding and, to a lesser degree, their defense as a whole.
 
Gordon Hayward has emerged as a target, but all indications – for now at least – point toward him returning to Utah.
 
The Celtics may pursue Los Angeles Clippers big man Blake Griffin. Although like Hayward, he too is expected to re-sign with his current team for a max contract (for Griffin that would be five years, $175 million).
 
While trades are certainly in the cards for Boston, at this point the Celtics seem more inclined to improve their overall talent base via the draft and free agency.
 
“It’s always a good thing when you have the opportunity to add value to your team and don’t have to change your team too much,” said Celtics’ reserve Gerald Green, who will be a free agent this summer. “I’m going to be very interested to see what they do as far as building a team. We’re in a good place right now as far as being where we want to be organization-wise. I feel like we’re one or two steps away from actually being at the Finals. I think Danny has some things to think about, but I’m sure he’s going to do the job. I’ve seen Danny go to work in these situations. He always makes the team better. I’m pretty sure he’s got something planned that, at the end of the day, is going to make this organization better.”
 
Indeed, the Celtics could very well strengthen their position for next season by simply locking up some of their core players who may hit the free agent market soon.
 
Boston may look to work out an extension with Isaiah Thomas before the start of this season. Because if he hits free agency in the summer of 2018, he will be poised to command a salary that in year one would be worth more than the entire four-year, $27 million deal he signed with Phoenix in 2014.
 
“Boston’s changed my career, changed my life,” Thomas said. “I would love to be here long-term and win championships here. But as you guys know, it’s a business and anything can happen. I know that and understand that. But I would love to be here. This has been everything to me. This city, this organization … it’s been good.”