Celtics in 0-2 series hole after 111-97 loss to Bulls

Celtics in 0-2 series hole after 111-97 loss to Bulls

BOSTON – For most of this season, the Boston Celtics have managed to claw their way out of self-inflicted struggles eventually.
But the hole they’re in now will be unprecedented for this franchise following Tuesday’s 111-97 loss to the Chicago Bulls.


You have to go back to the 1969 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers the last time a Celtics team trailed 2-0 in a best-of-seven series and rallied to win it.
But those two losses back in 1969 were on the road, and these two were on the Celtics’ home floor.
And unfortunately for the Celtics, 1969 Bill Russell and 1969 Sam Jones aren’t walking through the door.
Only 18 teams in NBA history have ever come back from a 2-0 series deficit which has happened each of the last two seasons. (Cleveland last year against Golden State, and Portland against the Los Angeles Clippers in 2015).
But this series, while far from over, has a feeling of when – not if – the Bulls will become the latest eighth-seed to knock off a top seed in the first round.
The formula for Chicago’s success – rebounding and solid defense – served the Bulls well in Both Games 1 and 2.
But on Tuesday, the Celtics continued to fight back in the fourth quarter in what was an uphill climb all game.
After falling behind by double digits in the third and early in the fourth quarter, Boston was within 89-80 following a 3-pointer by Kelly Olynyk with just over 10 minutes to play.
Following a Bulls time-out, ex-Celtic Rajon Rondo scored on a scoop shot over Kelly Olynyk.
Boston could have made it a single-digit game again, but Jae Crowder’s 3-pointer was off the mark and in a scramble for the loose ball it wound up going off a Celtics player.
It has been that kind of series for the Celtics.
When opportunities present themselves to make potential momentum-shifting plays, they shriveled up like a slug dipped in salt water.
The Celtics didn’t get the deficit down to single digits until a 3-pointer by Marcus Smart made it a 95-86 game.
But the Bulls once again countered with good defense and better offense, forcing the Celtics to call a time-out following an uncontested dunk by Cristiano Felicio that capped off a 7-0 Bulls run that made it a 102-86 game with 6:01 to play.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens called a time-out, hoping that maybe just maybe, his team could at least make a solid finish.
Sadly, it was more of the same for the Celtics as the Bulls got anything and everything they wanted at both ends of the floor.
And with the series now shifting to Chicago, things won’t get any easier for a Boston team that’s on the verge of being the rare No. 1 seed to get bounced in the first round of the playoffs.
Boston simply doesn’t have the muscle to contend with Chicago inside, and Chicago’s Big Three – Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and ex-Celtic Rajon Rondo.
Similar to how the Celtics began the game, they opened the third quarter with a nice 13-6 run to come within 60-59 following a lay-up by Isaiah Thomas.
At the start of the game, Boston came out with what looked like a clear mandate to be a more physical, aggressive team at both ends of the floor.
And it worked as they opened things with a 7-2 run.
But the Bulls soon got back to what they’ve done well – attack the offensive glass.
They soon began scoring around the rim, and led by as 12 points in the first quarter.
Robin Lopez continued to cause the Celtics problems around the paint which is where the Bulls outscored Boston 32-20 in the first half.
The Bulls shot 47.1 percent from the field in the first half, with strong contributions from their bench.
But instead of Bobby Portis who had 19 points and nine rebounds in Game 1, Paul Zipser chipped in eight points on 3-for-4 shooting.
As bad as Boston was playing, the Celtics did finish the first quarter with an 8-2 run to come within 31-26 after one quarter of play.
Boston usually starts the second quarter with Thomas on the bench.
But considering the deficit they were trailing by and the significance of this game, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens decided to keep his best scorer on the floor.
His presence was felt as the Celtics opened the second with an 8-2 spurt to lead 34-33 following a Marcus Smart put-back basket.
But the lead was short-lived after Portis drained a corner 3-pointer to put the Bulls back on top 36-34.
On Boston’s ensuing possession, Smart drove into the lane and found Jae Crowder open for a game-tying lay-up.
The Celtics would not get any closer for the remainder of the half.

Against Magic, C's do what they're supposed to

Against Magic, C's do what they're supposed to

Beating one of the few teams already eliminated from the playoff race is in itself not that big a deal.

It’s called doing what you’re supposed to do.

But for these Celtics, their 92-83 victory over the Orlando Magic on Friday night was more than just another victory.

It was the latest installment in a season filled with teachable moments and lessons that can bolster in some fashion their chances at a deep playoff run.

While there’s no way they’re going to go far without their core guys Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, getting guys to fill in for them and still manage to win, is important in this team’s overall development in both the present and future.

No one on the Celtics’ roster can score like Irving, the league’s 11th-ranked scorer at 24.4 points per game.

Still, getting his fill-ins Terry Rozier and Shane Larkin to go for 17 and 10 points certainly helps.

And Jaylen Brown’s ability to play both ends of the floor at a high level is huge, but rookie Abdel Nader has shown he too has some potential to be a solid two-way talent.

Smart’s defense sets him apart from others, but the Celtics collectively were able to make up for that with an impressive defensive rating of 83.1 against the Orlando.

And their collective efforts serve as yet another teachable moment for the Celtics.

Here are five takeaways from a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score might lead one to believe: 

There may not be another Celtic whose stock has risen more than Terry Rozier’s this season. He has become a reliable two-way talent off the bench whose capable of giving you starter-like production when needed. He had 17 points against the Magic along with seven rebounds and five assists.

With Marcus Smart (right thumb) out for the rest of the regular season, Terry Rozier in the starting lineup along with Marcus Morris, those are three really big chunks of Boston’s second unit no longer coming off the bench. The second unit players might have been different, but that didn’t affect the Celtics’ bench from impacting the game in a significant way. Against the Magic, they outscored Orlando’s backups, 39-28. 

He signed with the Boston Celtics at a time when a role for him was far from defined. His patience and Boston’s faith in him has paid for both as Larkin continues to be that utility player that Brad Stevens has leaned on at times. Larkin was solid off the bench, scoring 10 points.

This may be one of the closest Coach of the Year votes we have ever had in the NBA. Regardless how short the list may be, you can bet Brad Stevens will be on it. The way he has been positioning the Celtics to be among the last teams standing despite all the injuries they have endured this season, speaks to his ability to not just draw up X's and O’s but also his ability to develop players who when called upon to play, are more than ready for the challenge.

It’s fair to expect the Celtics are going to be short-handed for the rest of the season, which means those still around have to step their game up – Horford included.

For Horford, stepping up involves being more assertive as a scorer and not rely as much on his skills as a play-maker. We saw that from Horford on Friday, as he tallied a near double-double of 15 points and nine rebounds but more important, he took a game-high 18 shot attempts.


'Big Baby' busted with 126 grams of pot, $92K in cash

AP Photo

'Big Baby' busted with 126 grams of pot, $92K in cash

Former Celtics forward Glen "Big Baby" Davis was arrested last month in a hotel room in Aberdeen, Maryland, with more than 126 grams of marijuana and more than $92,000 in cash.

Davis, 32, who played on the Celtics 2008 championship team was last in the NBA with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2015, was arrested Feb. 7 after the hotel owner at the Aberdeen Hampton Inn smelled marijuana coming from Davis' room, WMAR-TV in Baltimore reported.

“They recovered 126 grams of marijuana,” Aberdeen Police Lt. William Reiber told WMAR. “In addition to that, there was a briefcase that contained 92,164 dollars of U.S. currency along with a ledger that contained language which is consistent with someone involved in the sale and distribution of narcotics.”

Davis is charged with seven counts of drug possession and distribution.

Police said the strains of marijuana were from a Los Angeles wholesaler that court records show Davis told police he was in business with.

He told officers he was visiting family in Maryland. Davis' attorney told WMAR the former Celtic (2007-11) adamantly maintains his innocence and looks forward to his day in court next month to clear his name.