Celtics trampled by Bulls, 93-86

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Celtics trampled by Bulls, 93-86

CHICAGO A tale of two halves.

It has been the story of the Boston Celtics' season, and it was story of their second straight loss as the Chicago Bulls rallied from a double-digit Celtics lead at the half, for a 93-86 win.

Boston (30-24) has now lost two in a row, both in large part because of one poor half of play.

In Wednesday's 87-86 loss to San Antonio, a horrible first half proved to be too much for the Celtics to fully overcome as they seemingly ran out of steam in the game's closing minutes under the strong finish by the Spurs.

On Thursday, the C's had similar struggles in the second half as the Bulls ratcheted up the defensive intensity.

In a back-and-fourth tussle for most of the third quarter, Chicago seemed poised to pull away after a pair of mid-range jumpers by Luol Deng gave Chicago a five-point lead with more than eight minutes to play. He led all scorers with 26 points.

There was still plenty of time remaining, but there was no doubt the game's momentum had clearly shifted towards the home team.

After a Celtics shot clock violation, the Bulls seemed prepared to take their biggest lead of the night.

However, Boston's newest full-time starter, Avery Bradley, had a steal and subsequent lay-up that cut Chicago's lead to 78-75.

Bradley got the starting nod ahead of Ray Allen, who came off the bench for only the fifth time in his career (a span of 1,145 games) and the first time as a Celtic.

Rivers' decision to start Bradley instead of Allen seemed a good one in the first half which saw the C's spend the bulk of the time with a lead.

And as far as far minutes were concerned, both played 15 minutes in the first half with Bradley tallying four points and an assist while Allen led the Celtics' second unit with five points and two rebounds which also led the team's backups. Bradley, who was in foul trouble in the second half, had nine points in 27 minutes while Allen finished with 14 points in 31 minutes.

The game's focus could have easily been on the Bradley-Allen swap, but truth be told, this game in the first half was all about Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo dominating the action.

Pierce had another big scoring half, leading all players with 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting. And Rondo was well on his way to another double-double with eight points and seven assists which played a major role in Boston's 49-38 halftime lead. He finished with a team-high 22 points while Rondo had 10 points and 12 assists.

Of course the C's caught a break of sorts with reigning league MVP Derrick Rose remaining out with a groin injury that has sidelined him the last 12 games.

His replacement, C.J. Watson, had a decent first half with nine points. Watson finished with 15 points and eight assists.

But if there was as area that spoke to why Boston was in control, it was rebounding.

Despite Boston being the worst rebounding team in the NBA, they literally met the Bulls rebound-for-rebound, grabbing the same number of boards (20) as Chicago did in the first half.

In addition, the Celtics were able to capitalize on Chicago's mistakes, converting the Bulls' eight turnovers into 15 points all the while limiting their miscues to four turnovers which generated just six points for the Bulls.

Cassidy: Bruins 'have got to have a stronger mental capacity'

Cassidy: Bruins 'have got to have a stronger mental capacity'

BOSTON – While there were some warning signs over the last few weeks that the Bruins might be getting away from their game, it didn’t really hit home until Thursday night’s frustrating loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

The Bruins blew through three different one-goal leads in the second period in the 6-3 loss to the Bolts at TD Garden, and each time surrendered a tying goal to Tampa in less than two minutes after initially scoring. It was a clear indicator that the Bruins weren’t fully focused on the task at hand despite having already lost three games in a row, and that their ability to bounce back from adversity is going away from them again. 

That much was obvious when the bottom dropped out in the third period, and Jonathan Drouin and Nikita Kucherov turned into a two-man Lightning wrecking crew outscoring the Bruins by a 3-0 margin in the final 20 minutes. 

“I think the frustration is more in-game, where we’ve got to have a stronger mental capacity to handle those [challenging] situations in-game. Let’s face it, when you get on a bit of a losing streak, all those things creep in, whether it’s in October or whether it’s in March,” said Bruce Cassidy. “You have doubts, you start pressing, and again, it’s my job to alleviate the kind of attention in those situations.

“But, as I told you, we all have to be accountable and be responsible for ourselves, and that’s where we just need to have better focus and better discipline in those areas. It was there when it was 3-3 [on the scoreboard]. We’ve got to push back after they score, and that’s where I thought we started to come apart a little bit where we should’ve stuck together and stuck with the program. [We needed to] get ourselves slowly back into the game. We had 10 minutes to even the score, and we weren’t able to do it.”

Clearly this wasn’t just the coach alone in his pointed observations, however, as the lack of focus showed unfortunately in a rudderless second period for the Black and Gold where they couldn’t gain any separation from Tampa Bay despite scoring three goals. 

“[It’s] not being focused, not being sharp, and obviously at this time of the year it’s unacceptable, and it’s up on us to be better,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “Those kinds of situations shouldn’t happen. So, for sure, we need to address those things and hold each other accountable.”

One thing is clear: The Bruins have a lot of work to do if they hope to avoid the same kind of late season tailspin that doomed them each of the last two seasons, and already seems to be happening over their last four losses to varying levels of hockey talent. 

Talking points: Tuukka Rask wasn't good enough vs. Lightning

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Talking points: Tuukka Rask wasn't good enough vs. Lightning

Here are the talking points from the Boston Bruins' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.