This was a close one down the stretch, as neither team presented their ‘A’ game for the Garden faithful. Boston came back in the fourth to make it a game and take the lead, but through a series of poorly executed plays down the stretch, there was some bonus basketball. Then Marco Belinelli happened. The Italian hit a falling down jumper with 3.1 left, and the Celtics clanked a three-pointer at the buzzer, as they were unable to advance the ball with no timeouts remaining.
The Celtics had Avery Bradley sitting out tonight, and Leandro Barbosa started in his place. The Celtics looked a lot like the ‘pre-Bradley return’ Celtics tonight, sloppy and uninspired for long stretches of the game. Perhaps the start was a desperate attempt to appease Barbosa after rumors that he wants out of Boston. His dribbling penetration seems much better suited for the second unit; with Lee or Terry sliding into the starting unit in Bradley’s absense, but alas the pay Doc Rivers to be the head coach, not me. Bullet points– let’s do it:
- Rajon Rondo looked to attack the Bulls on both the transition and semi-transition (he finished with 30 points shooting an impressive 12 for 21.) I think Nate Robinson said something to him and for that– Nate Rob, we thank you. Rondo was the catalyst for the Celtics being competitive in this game, as Garnett and Pierce were offensively inefficient (a combined 10 for 33, and that includes KG getting hot in the fourth.)
- Pierce will get his own bullet point, as Luol Deng continued his stretch of great defense on Pierce, and PP never really got going, hurting the Celtics for long stretches of the game by forcing up shots.
- The guys the Celtics count on to bring energy off the bench did just that tonight– Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger continued to ignite the second unit with on-time defensive rotations, setting hard screens, and making smart decisions on both ends of the floor. I would love it if the Celtics ran some plays for Sullinger, his hustle warrants it. He finished with 15 rebounds and has single-handedly dragged the Celtics off the basement in rebounding stats, all while putting a body on Joakim Noah.
- The Chicago Bulls got a lot of wide open shots from the weak side, as the Celtics seemed to be having a staring contest with whoever had the ball. It was coming from a place of wanting to rotate effectively, but the defense still needs a little tweaking.
- This was one of those games where the Celtics continued to make mistakes and play mediocre basketball, but still find themselves within striking distance. Wait for it… and… the Bulls just turned the ball over again. Chicago finished with 21 turnovers for the game.
- Doc switched Rondo onto Rip Hamilton for much of the fourth quarter, good move as Rip was starting to get hot and Rondo’s tough D slowed the UConn product down.
- Garnett and Noah still don’t like each other, as evidence of their multiple scrums tonight after the whistle. Fun times.
- Tommy and Doc really hated a ref, who will only be referenced to and known as “Eli”. Suffice it to say he disagreed with a couple of “Eli’s” refereeing decisions. Let’s hope “Eli” does not referee a Celtics game again soon.
- Garnett finished with 39 minutes, with a long uncut stretch from the third quarter until the end of the game. How many minutes Garnett plays seems to be directly correlated with how much Doc wants to win the game.