Green's hot start sets tone for Celtics in 104-95 Game 4 win over Bulls

Green's hot start sets tone for Celtics in 104-95 Game 4 win over Bulls

CHICAGO –  Gerald Green was inserted in the Boston Celtics' starting lineup to help create better spacing for his teammates, but still being a viable option they could turn to, you know, just in case they needed a basket here and there.
Green wasn’t just a warm body moving about on the floor.
He was the one starter – not Isaiah Thomas, not Al Horford, not Avery Bradley or Jae Crowder – whose play set the tone in Boston’s 104-95 Game 4 win over Chicago.
Green finished with 18 points, including a jacuzzi-hot start in which he had 16 points in the first half as Boston's lead surged to as much as 20 points.
With the win, Boston has tied the best-of-seven series at two games apiece and regained home court advantage in this series.
Isaiah Thomas led all Celtics with 33 points along with seven assists. Al Horford had a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds along with four assists.
Meanwhile the Bulls were led by Jimmy Butler’s 33 points with Dwyane Wade chipping in with 11 points and six rebounds.
After Chicago came within 81-76, Thomas scored five straight that led to a Bulls time-out with 9:01 to play and Boston back on top by double digits (86-76).
Chicago continued to battle back, but every Bulls surge was met by an even stronger one by Boston.
After a solid first half by Boston, the Bulls opened the third quarter with a 7-2 run to come within 59-53. But a dunk by Green followed by a driving lay-up by Jae Crowder made it a double-digit game again.
The momentum was short-lived for the Celtics as the Bulls continued to chip away at their lead which stood at 53-58 following a 3-pointer by Isaiah Canaan with 7:41 to play in the quarter.
Prior to his 3-ball, Canaan drew an offensive foul against Isaiah Thomas which gave the Celtics’ best player four personal fouls for the game.
Chicago continued to close the gap, and eventually went ahead 65-63 on a lay-up by Robin Lopez.
Thomas, who was on the bench due to foul trouble, returned to the floor and scored four straight to put the Celtics back on top 67-65 which led to a time-out by the Bulls with 3:39 to play in the third quarter.
Boston would score 12 straight to lead 75-65 before the third quarter ended with the Celtics ahead 79-70.
The down-to-the-wire finish was very different from how the game started.
Boston began tonight’s Game 4 matchup against Chicago with a 14-4 run, similar to what they did in Game 3. And just like Game 3, Boston continued to pull ahead in the first quarter which ended with the Celtics ahead 30-18.
But there was a distinct difference in Game 4.
Butler, who had 14 points on 7-for-21 shooting in Game 3, was noticeably more aggressive looking for his shot. And it resulted in him getting to line a lot. In fact, he had more free throw attempts in the first quarter (8) than the entire Celtics team (7). For the game, Butler had 23 free throw attempts which ranks third all-time among Celtics opponents in the playoffs.
But it didn’t matter.
Because even though Boston wasn’t getting to the line, they were getting essentially whatever else they wanted to offensively.  
In the first quarter, they shot better than 50 percent from the field as part of a commanding start.
The second quarter saw Boston’s control of the game remain strong as the Celtics pulled ahead by as many as 20 points on multiple occasions.
And the intensity of the game really picked up after Marcus Smart and Butler got into a little dust-up in the second quarter that led to both players being whistled for technical fouls.
The incident fired up the Bulls initially, but not enough to where Boston’s lead in the first half was seriously threatened.

Blakely: Why Celtics should feel pretty lucky on St. Pat's

Blakely: Why Celtics should feel pretty lucky on St. Pat's

It’s hard being an NBA fan and not thinking about the Celtics on St. Patrick’s Day.

All that green, the shamrocks and the libations that so many of us enjoy even more today than most days, it’s pretty cool and certainly something – well, for me at least – to be thankful for.

The Celtics, yeah, they got a few – quite a few - things to be thankful for as well.

So what better day to point a few of them out than the unofficial holiday of the Celtics, St. Patrick’s Day.


When Danny Ainge drafted Terry Rozier three years ago, I admit I wasn’t a believer. You had guards, Danny Ainge. What do you need another one for? Draft Sam Dekker from Wisconsin, or UVA’s Justin Anderson. Hey, that kid Bobby Portis from Arkansas looks pretty good, too.

Ainge and the Celtics took a look at all those guys and came away convinced that Rozier was the best fit for what the wanted both in the short and long-term from that draft.

While Rozier has not emerged as a star, he has shown us all more than enough to know that he’s a pretty damn good player.

And throw in the fact that the dude was born on St. Patrick’s Day - as was Ainge - how can this guy not have a little bit of luck on his side?


LeBron James’ timing has been impeccable when it comes to leaving for greener pastures. So, when Kyrie Irving let the Cavs know he wanted out of Cleveland, it took a minute to sink that they were about to be LeBron’d by someone other than LeBron. But in making his desire to be traded, Irving was giving the Cavs an opportunity to get something in return for shipping him out to who knows where. The Cavs eventually wound up with a couple of draft picks, with one being a coveted first-rounder via Brooklyn in June’s NBA draft along with a trio of players headlined by Isaiah Thomas who was still on the mend from a hip injury.

The injury took longer to heal and the Cavs wound up trading Thomas and ex-Celtic Jae Crowder to teams out West.

Today, Cleveland is treading water as a middle-of-the-pack club that has shown very few signs of late that they will be nothing more than first-round fodder for some team with deep playoff aspirations and a roster ready to make that happen.

And Irving?

He was named to his fifth All-Star team and has spent most of this season playing for a Boston team that until recently held down best record in the East and currently sits in the No. 2 spot.

Irving is dealing with a sore left knee that has limited him recently to not playing, but it doesn’t appear to be an injury that will significantly impact what he does in the postseason for a Celtics team that, despite all their injuries, still holds out hope of making a strong postseason run.


Whenever you ask Brad Stevens about his decision to leave Butler for the Celtics in the NBA, he makes it clear from the outset how difficult a decision it was for him and his family.

Just imagine if Stevens had won a national title instead of having a pair of national runner-up finishes to his name? Leading a mid-major like Butler to an NCAA title, which would have meant slaying UConn or Duke in the process? Stevens would have been more than just a big deal on the Butler campus. He would have been seen as a basketball god who would have had an even tougher time walking away from what he had helped build at Butler.

So Celtics fans, be thankful for Duke and UConn because without their national title game wins over Butler, there’s a very good chance that Brad Stevens would not be coaching the Celtics now.


Remember back in 2013 when Danny Ainge had the serious basketball man crush on Duke’s Justise Winslow, a player that he was willing to trade plenty of draft picks (reportedly as many as four first-round picks) to acquire the rights to draft?

Ainge suspected the Miami Heat would select him with the No. 10 pick, so Ainge tried to swing a deal with the Charlotte Hornets who were in the No. 9 slot.

Charlotte liked Winslow, but they were more smitten with Frank Kaminsky. Because of that, they wouldn’t do a deal with the Celtics.

Not doing that deal allowed Boston to have the kind of assets to eventually acquire Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Irving, moves that have collectively led to Boston’s surge towards the top of the NBA standings despite having the fifth-youngest team in the NBA.

Winslow, selected by the Heat with the 10th overall pick, has come nowhere close to being the impact player Miami was hoping they would get. And while Kaminsky has had some decent stretches, he too has been a bit underwhelming. Meanwhile, Boston kept its 16th overall pick and used it to select Rozier who as it turns out, has arguably been the best player among the trio.

Having a good scouting staff is important, of course.

But a little luck every now and then doesn’t hurt, either.




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.