Celtics get payback vs Bulls with 117-92 win

Celtics get payback vs Bulls with 117-92 win

BOSTON – The Boston Celtics gave their fans an early Christmas present on Saturday – a blowout win. 

After a relatively close first half, Boston opened the third quarter with a powerful run which opened the flood gates to a comfortable 117-92 Celtics win. 

While players talk all the time about taking it one game at a time and not giving much thought to past performances, there was no way they could have gone into Saturday’s game and not looking to avenge a 23-point loss at Chicago earlier this month which was the worst loss for the Celtics this season. 

Mind you, the Celtics didn’t have Kyrie Irving (facial fracture) for that game but still … they shouldn’t have been blown out by 23 points. 

Well Irving was back in the lineup for the Celtics on Saturday, and his presence was definitely felt as Boston spent most of the second half in show-no-mercy mode against a Bulls team that has been among the hottest clubs in the league recently.

Boston (27-9) was led by Irving’s 25 points, but he was far from being the lone Celtics player causing all kinds of problems for the Bulls (10-22) who came in having won seven of its previous eight games. 

Jaylen Brown, who did not play in Boston’s loss at New York on Thursday due to a sore Achilles injury, returned to the lineup with a strong performance of 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting which included him canning 4-of-6 three-pointers with most being wide open shots.

Boston opened the third quarter with an 8-2 run capped off by an Al Horford lay-up, Jayson Tatum on the assist which gave Boston a 68-60 lead.

 The Celtics continued to surge ahead, with their lead peaking at 18 points on a couple different occasions before Boston took a comfortable 98-76 lead into the fourth.

The first quarter was a close, nip-and-tuck affair with neither team showing signs of pulling away and taking control of the game. There were six lead changes and five ties before Marcus Smart closed out the quarter with a 3-point play that gave Boston a 33-31 lead.

Boston’s finish to the first didn’t carry over into the second quarter which was similar to the first with neither team putting together enough plays to have even a semi-comfortable lead although the Bulls spent the bulk of the quarter with a slim lead.

And the reason?

Bobby Portis.

As was the case in Boston’s 108-85 loss at Chicago earlier this month, Portis was a problem that the Celtics never really had a solution to slow down.

Coming off the Chicago bench, Portis had 15 points at the half which included a string of three consecutive possessions in which he scored. But that would be the extent of the damage he caused, scoring just two points in the second half to finish with 17 for the game.


Blakely: Stevens has this coaching in March stuff down

Blakely: Stevens has this coaching in March stuff down

Sometimes we forget that a big part of why Brad Stevens is in Boston is because of what he has done as a coach this time of year.

He led a pair of Butler teams to deep postseason runs before coming up short in a pair of national title games.

Well, he’s embarking on a different kind of March Madness in leading the Celtics to a string of improbable wins, the latest being a 105-100 victory at Portland on Friday night.

It was the kind of victory that when you start to roll out the reasons why Stevens should be this season’s Coach of the Year winner, folks will use the win at Portland as an example.

The Blazers are not only one of the better teams at home, but they came in having won 13 of 14 games with the lone loss coming to Houston, which has the best record in the NBA.

But what made the victory so unexpected was the cut-and-paste lineup Stevens has employed because of a long rash of injuries.

Kyrie Irving missed his fifth consecutive game and is expected to be lost for another three to six weeks after having a procedure to on Saturday to help alleviate some of the soreness in his left knee.

Jaylen Brown has missed several games with a concussion, but he has progressed to where he's now questionable for the game in Sacramento on Sunday night. 

Boston was also without Marcus Smart (right thumb) who won’t be back until sometime in the playoffs.

And that doesn’t factor in Gordon Hayward (dislocated left ankle) or Daniel Theis (torn meniscus, left knee), both out for the season.

It’s easy to chalk up Stevens’ success to great Xs and O’s work.

But he’s doing more than that.

He’s inspiring a level of confidence in players that generated results exceeding all expectations; that is, expectations outside of their locker room.

Even when this team struggled with no clear signs of hope on the horizon, they didn’t blink.

Rather than use their less-than-ideal state as a justification for poor play, they funneled that energy and focus into becoming a better team - not better players, but a better team.

Because frankly, that is what we’ve seen from this group all season. Of course, you have your star in Irving, but this team has been a get-it-done-or-else squad all year that doesn’t get too locked into the success or struggles of any one teammate.

And that has allowed Boston to withstand the kind of injuries to key players that would have crippled many other teams.

But with the lack of bodies, there has been a lack of respect for how good this team really is.

Stevens has tapped into that and used it to help focus this team on playing great and most important, giving themselves a chance to win regardless of the opponent, regardless of how dire a situation may be.

And that has created the kind of March Madness Celtics fans are absolutely lovin’ right now.



Optimism that Kyrie will be back for playoffs

Optimism that Kyrie will be back for playoffs

Kyrie Irving underwent a left knee procedure on Saturday that will keep the five-time All-Star guard out for at least the start of the playoffs.

The Celtics indicated that Irving will be out for 3-6 weeks.

According to the Celtics, the procedure was to remove a tension wire in his left knee. The wire was originally placed there as part of the surgical repair of the fractured patella injury Irving suffered in the 2015 NBA Finals when he played for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Removing the wire is expected to lessen the irritation it was causing in Irving’s left patellar tendon.

The fractured patella injury from in 2015 has fully healed and, according to the Celtics, Irving’s knee has been found to be “completely structurally sound.”

The timetable for Irving's return is roughly the same as that of Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who last week had surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb. 

Irving, who turned 26 on Friday, finishes his first regular season with Boston appearing in 60 games while averaging 24.4 points per game on a career-best 49.1 percent shooting from the field.