Notes: Celtics know they can't 'flip the switch'

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Notes: Celtics know they can't 'flip the switch'

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

CHICAGO The Boston Celtics suffered an embarrassing 97-81 loss to the Chicago Bulls on Thursday.

A year ago this time, the Celtics were dealing with similar disappointing defeats.

But that team managed to regroup in time to make an unexpected dash towards the NBA Finals where they came up short in Game Seven of the Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Because most of the core players from that team are still back, there's a sense that they too can ''flip a switch'' and start playing better basketball.

Rajon Rondo has been around this group all season.

He knows them better than most.

Rondo will be the first to acknowledge that this team isn't built to surge like that group did in the postseason.

"It's not the same team," Rondo said. "We're not going to be able to turn it on like we did last year. Even last year we came up short. I don't know what we're waiting on. But these type of games, we have to find a way to win on the road."

When Tom Thibodeau was a Celtics assistant, he rarely strayed from the task at hand.

Getting too high off a big win?

Not under Thibodeau's watch.

So even as the Bulls celebrated an impressive 97-81 win over Boston, Thibodeau wasn't much in the mood to reflect on the night's events. Instead, he was thinking about Chicago's next game, against Cleveland.

"You guys may think it is a cliche and maybe it is a cliche, but it's what's important," Thibodeau said. "The Cleveland game is just as important as this game. It's actually more important now because this one is gone. They carry the same weight. You have to understand, that's how we got here. It has been our attitude and our approach. We have to focus in and get ready."

As for the Celtics, having another game less than 24 hours after a disappointing loss has its benefits as well.

"You chalk it up in the loss column. That's how you move on," West told CSNNE.com following Thursday's loss. "Of course, No. 1 and No. 2 in the East, you would want to send a statement or something. But right now, it's not about sending a statement the rest of the league. For us, we need to send a statement to ourselves, a memo to ourselves.

West added, "That's how it goes. If you don't bring it, somebody's going to bring it to you."

There was no question the outcome of Thursday's game had value for both teams. But there was a sense among the players that the Bulls, frankly, wanted it more.

"We treated it basically like a regular-season game," West said. "But they came at it like they were trying to make a statement. And they did."

But West is quick to add that dwelling on the disappointment of Thursday's loss won't do them any good in preparing for Friday night's opponent, Washington.

"We'll see tomorrow what the edge will look like," West said. "We just have to understand that there are no teams out there saying, 'Oh, it's the big, bad Celtics. We're shaking in our boots.' They want to win. They want to beat us. They want to beat the reigning Eastern Conference champions. Ain't nobody scared of nobody right now. It's not about initiating fear. We have to get up and fight."

One of the Celtics' strengths on most nights has been their ability to generate offense from the inside, and then out. But far too often lately, it seems the Celtics forget about going into the post.

That certainly looked like it happened in Thursday's 16-point loss to the Chicago Bulls, a game in which Chicago outscored Boston, 44-22, on points in the paint.

A good chunk of those points came on driving lay-ups by Derrick Rose (30 points), but he wasn't the only Bulls player giving the C's fits around the basket.

Boston's lack of scoring punch around the basket was a direct reflection of a team that continues to lack the necessary focus to stick with the game plan laid out.

"We're supposed to be that post-and-drive team," said coach Doc Rivers. "But we didn't tonight."

Of course, Chicago and its highly-regarded defense certainly had something to do with that.

But it seemed the C's were too quick to go away from the post, when things didn't work initially.

"For most of the night, we probably did settle for outside jumpers," said Paul Pierce.

When Boston came out to start the third quarter, they immediately got the ball to Pierce on the post.

That led to a basket.

In a matter of minutes, the Celtics were back on top.

And then . . . they stopped feeding the post and making the second pass, which led to them losing the lead.

The C's were never the same afterward.

"We were clearly a front-running team," Rivers said. "Then right when we got the lead, you could see guys jumping around, puffing their chests out . . . and they made another run and we hung our heads again. So, I just thought Chicago was tougher in every way."

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

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

Celtics' team plane receives bomb threat

BOSTON -- There was a bomb threat to the Boston Celtics’ team plane to Oklahoma City on Saturday afternoon, but no one was injured.

The incident will be investigated by NBA security which will work in conjunction with the FBI on this matter which was one of several hoaxes called into airports across the country on Saturday.

News of the bomb threat was first known when Celtics forward Jae Crowder posted an Instagram photo showing players departing the plane with the caption, “BOMB THREAT ON US”.

Celtics officials declined to comment on the matter and instead referred all bomb threat-related questions to the league office.

Messages to the league office were not immediately returned.

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

Celtics' ball movement among NBA's best, with or without Thomas

BOSTON – When it comes to winning basketball, keep it moving – the ball that is – has become a staple of the Celtics this season. 
 
And lately they’ve had to do it without Isaiah Thomas, the team’s leading scorer at 26 points per game as well as their top assists guy (6.2) who will miss hish third game in a row Sunday in Oklahoma City because of a right groin injury.
 
The Celtics have split their first two games without Thomas, with the most recent being a 101-94 home loss to Toronto on Friday.
 
When it comes to this team and ball movement, fans are just as divided when it pertains to whether the Celtics move the ball better without the high-scoring Thomas in the lineup. 
 
Regardless of what fans think they know about this team and how they move the ball, the numbers paint a very clear picture that this team’s ball movement is among the best in the NBA, with or without Thomas in the lineup. 

And that will be important on Sunday against an Oklahoma City team that doesn’t rely on the ball swinging from one side of the floor to the other, nearly as much as the Celtics. 
 
The Thunder, led by MVP candidate Russell Westbrook, are dead-last in the NBA when it comes to passes made per game (267.1). 
 
Meanwhile, the Celtics are at the opposite end of the passing game spectrum, averaging 331.7 passes per game, which is second in the NBA (Philadelphia, 354.3).
 
And in the two games without Thomas, Boston has averaged 347.0 passes per game, which ranks second in the NBA in that period of time. 
 
In addition to missing his points and assists, the Celtics must also find ways to make plays in filling the void left by a player who has the ball in his hands a lot of the time. 
 
Thomas’ usage percentage (percentage of plays used by a player while he’s on the floor) of 32.9 percent ranks seventh in the NBA, ahead of notable stars such as San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (30.9 percent), Portland’s Damian Lillard (30.8 percent), New York’s Carmelo Anthony (29.5 percent), as well as Cleveland’s LeBron James (29 percent) and Golden State’s back-to-back NBA MVP Stephen Curry (28.2 percent).
 
So, considering how involved Thomas has been in the team’s offense, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the numbers in terms of passing and ball movement are better without him than they are when he’s on the floor playing. 
 
What should be surprising is that the gap statistically without him, isn’t greater. 
 
Boston has been a top five team when it comes to assists this season, currently third in the league with 24.7 assists per game. In the past two games without Thomas, the Celtics’ assists numbers have risen to 26.5 per game, but that only ranks fifth in the league in that span.
 
When it comes to potential assists and secondary assists (a.k.a. the “hockey” assist), Boston’s numbers have improved slightly without Thomas as well, but in each category Boston is ranked second in the league. 
 
And that ranking is with, and without Thomas in the lineup. 
 
While it’s not clear if Thomas knows just how close the numbers in terms of ball movement are with and without him playing, he is acutely aware that there are some who believe they are a better team in terms of keeping the ball moving without him.
 
“I can’t control that,” Thomas told reporters on Friday. “At this point, I laugh about it. I know what I mean to my teammates. I know what I mean to this organization, to Brad Stevens.”