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

Celtics aren't asking Al Horford to be 'anything more' than what he is

Celtics aren't asking Al Horford to be 'anything more' than what he is

WALTHAM -- From one media station to the next, Al Horford effortlessly moved about during Boston Celtics Media Day.
 
In between stations, I jokingly asked the nine-year veteran, "Been through a few of these before?"
 
"A couple," he quipped.
 
But Monday was different. And every other Monday going forward this season will be different, too, for the longtime Atlanta Hawks forward, who is now a member of the Boston Celtics after they signed him to a four-year, $113 million contract this summer.
 
With that significant increase in salary comes -- from those outside the Celtics program at least -- a higher level of expectations.
 
"We’re not asking Al to be anything more than him," said coach Brad Stevens.  "He’s a good fit for how we play on offense. He’s a good fit for how we play on defense. He’s a professional. He has a routine. He works hard at his craft. He’s a guy that guys can follow by example."
 
However, Horford joins a Celtics team that -- since the rebuild began in 2013 -- has yet to win 50 games in a single season or get past the first round of the playoffs.
 
And while it will certainly be a collective team effort for Boston to achieve those goals, make no mistake about it: Horford is expected to be the man leading the way.
 
"We need to start building good habits from Day One," Horford said.

Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, is a big fan of Horford’s character and versatility, which has been on display throughout his career.
 
"As much as anything he’s been very consistent over his career," Ainge said. "Shooting the ball, playing multiple positions. He’s a guy that fits in with our system with big guys handling the ball a lot."
 
Horford’s new teammate echoed similar sentiments about the four-time All-Star.
 
And when you listen to his new Celtics teammates talk about him and what he’ll bring to a roster that’s loaded with returnees, there are a couple of common themes that seem to develop.
 
"He brings leadership; hard work," said Avery Bradley.
 
Bradley had a chance to spend some time around Jeff Teague, one of Horford’s former teammates in Atlanta.
 
"He just told me I’m really going to enjoy having him on this team," Bradley said. "He’s going to open the floor for everybody. He’s a great player on the offensive end, defensive end. He knows how to play the game of basketball. To have him be a part of this team, I’m just happy about it."
 
So is Amir Johnson, who will likely start with Horford in the frontcourt for Boston.
 
Last season, Johnson was Boston’s primary rim-protecting big man. With the addition of Horford, Johnson won’t be relied on as heavily to be Boston’s last line of defense, which makes his life easier and, more importantly, makes the Celtics a better team defensively.
 
"[Horford] has so many skills he can contribute to the game," Johnson said. "He can run the floor, block shots, shoot the 3-ball, which is big now. He can do it all. It’ll be a big piece to carry us over the top. We just have to put it all together."