Celtics

Celtics escape Chicago with a hard-earned win, 101-95

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Celtics escape Chicago with a hard-earned win, 101-95

CHICAGO You just knew that sooner or later the Chicago Bulls were going to make a run and force the Boston Celtics to scurry for defensive stops and a much-needed bucket or two.

It has been like that the last couple of years, especially at the United Center.

But rather than stick to the usual script, the Celtics ad-libbed this one and delivered an unexpected ending in Chicago - a Celtics victory as Boston managed to edge the undermanned Bulls, 101-95.

In addition to Derrick Rose (torn ACL, left knee), the Bulls (4-3) also played without Kirk Hinrich who was out with a hamstring injury. Replacing Hinrich in the starting lineup was former Celtic Nate Robinson, who had 11 points and seven rebounds.

Rajon Rondo led the way with a near triple-double of 20 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists.

His last assist came on a baseline dunk by Brandon Bass with 22.4 seconds to play that all but secured the Celtics' win.

Not only did Monday's victory push the Celtics (4-3) above-.500 for the first time this season, it also snapped a five-game losing streak at the United Center.

In addition, Boston's 101 points scored also snapped the Bulls 15-game streak (dating back to last season) of limiting opponents to less than 100 points.

But the Bulls did their best to keep the game interesting up until the very end.

With the Celtics ahead 95-91, Luol Deng missed a pair of free throws. The Celtics, about as rebounding-challenged a team as you'll find in the NBA, failed to secure the loose ball that ultimately wound up in Deng's hands for a lay-up.

And just like that, the Celtics' comfortable lead was a one-possession game, 95-93, with 49.5 seconds to play.

Doc Rivers called a time-out, knowing full well his team was on the verge of letting yet another game in his hometown, get away from his club.

But down the stretch, Boston got all the necessary stops defensively in addition to some much-needed free throws.

Chicago's late-game surge was indeed too little, too late on a night when the Celtics led from the very beginning.

Signs of a Bulls comeback surfaced in the third quarter when Chicago had trimmed Boston's lead which peaked at 14 points in the quarter, back to single digits.

It appeared that would be their deficit going into the fourth quarter, but a last-second 3-pointer by Jared Sullinger gave the Celtics an 82-70 lead going into the decisive fourth quarter.

Boston opened the game with a steady dose of timely shot-making and stellar defense as their lead peaked at 11 points in the first.

Baynes' play key for Celtics in 91-81 victory over Pistons

Baynes' play key for Celtics in 91-81 victory over Pistons

Aron Baynes was a game-time decision after taking a blow to the stomach against San Antonio on Friday.

He played on Sunday afternoon, and delivered one of his best games of the season which was indeed a kick in the stomach to Detroit whose fourth-quarter comeback efforts came up short in Boston’s 91-81 victory.

Baynes didn't score much (six points), but his defense and rebounding (13 rebounds) would prove pivotal in Boston's win. 

Boston (23-5) got off to a slow start but spent most of the game playing with a lead. Al Horford led the Celtics with 18 points, nine rebounds and six assists while Kyrie Irving chipped in with 16 points. Tobias Harris led all scorers with 19 points.

But Detroit, among the best comeback teams in the NBA, didn’t go down quietly.

Detroit (14-12), which has now lost six straight, were on the comeback trail with a 12-0 run in the fourth that coincided with the Celtics missing 12 straight shots.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens had seen enough when he called a time-out with 4:19 to play and Boston clinging to a 79-75 lead.

Jaylen Brown ended the shot-making slump for Boston with a driving basket to the lane, only for Andre Drummond to get a tip-in – his first points of the game – cut into Boston’s lead.

As Detroit fought back, the Celtics continued to make all the necessary plays which included a 3-pointer by Al Horford and a driving lay-up by Marcus Smart, the latter putting Boston ahead 89-80.

While they were getting it done down the stretch, the player of the game for Boston was easily Aron Baynes.

A game-time decision after taking a blow to the stomach at San Antonio on Friday, Baynes had six points and a season-high 13 rebounds in addition to doing an impressive job in limiting Drummond all game.

Drummond, who had 26 points and 22 rebounds against Boston on Nov. 27, was held to just six points and 15 rebounds.

Detroit opened the game with a 10-4 run, looking to pick up where they left off when the two met on Nov. 27 and the Pistons handed Boston a 118-108 defeat, Boston’s worst loss of the season.

However, the Celtics bounced back with a 11-0 run of their own and continued to play with a lead that slowly but surely, steadily expanded.

Leading 44-37 at the half, Boston scored the first five points of the third – a tip-in by Baynes, a Brown lay-up and a technical free throw by Kyrie Irving after Drummond was whistled for a technical with 10:23 to play in the third.

Boston would spend most of the third quarter milking a double-digit lead, with the quarter ending with the Celtics ahead 73-59 as Terry Rozier drained a 3-pointer that just beat the third quarter horn sounding off.

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Morning Skate: Hey ref, let the boys play

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Morning Skate: Hey ref, let the boys play

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while getting in the holiday spirit listening to “Merry Christmas, Baby” from Bruce Springsteen, my favorite holiday song even though I’m not really a Springsteen guy.

To tell you the truth, I didn’t give this Brad Marchand play a second thought as far as supplementary discipline goes. He was whacked with a five minute interference major, which I thought was excessive in the first place, there were no injuries and it ended a contentious shift between Marchand and John Tavares. Let’s not go crazy with the suspensions and hearings, shall we? Let’s keep a little bit of the fun, violence and mayhem in the game, and leave it with what the officials called on the ice at the time. Good call by the Department of Player Safety to leave this one alone despite Marchand’s longtime customer status, and to leave alone the weird head-butting call on David Backes as well.  

David Pastrnak has officially made it in Boston with a profile in the Improper Bostonian. I never knew that Pasta was an amateur artist, or that he now has a Porsche after the new contract. Not too shabby.

The Florida Panthers need a goaltender with Roberto Luongo down and out, and former Bruins goalie farmhand Mike Hutchinson is one of the lead possibilities to help the Panthers out according to recent speculation from many, including Pro Hockey Talk.

The Golden Knights are in the weeds again with another tweet attempting to be funny that angered the Nashville Predators media corps. Was it ill-advised and poorly executed? Certainly if it was taken seriously as something that was meant to be funny, and that is always a potential pitfall when trying to be funny and edgy on twitter. But it’s a little much to think this was going to be damaging to anybody in particular. At least the Golden Knights were adult enough to apologize that they were in the wrong, as opposed to milquetoast Montreal radio personality Connor McKenna, who tried to pull a similar lame stunt with the Bruins media a few years ago.

More thoughts on the body of work that Matthew Tkachuk is putting together this season along with other assorted hockey things in The Athletic notebook.

For something completely different: You’ve got to love the response by some athletes down in Tennessee to a video posted on social media of a sweet little kid getting bullied. This is the way to take a negative and turn it into a positive.

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