Celtics

C's thriving on road, look to keep trend going vs lowly Bulls

tatum.jpg

C's thriving on road, look to keep trend going vs lowly Bulls

The Boston Celtics have spent a good chunk of the season playing away from the TD Garden which as we’ve seen, hasn’t been a bad thing.

Boston has an 11-3 road record this season, and are just one of three teams (Houston and Golden State) with double-digit road wins this season.

And while there’s no such thing as a given, the Celtics have to feel pretty good about their chances of getting road win No. 12 tonight against the Chicago Bulls (5-20) who are at the opposite end of the success spectrum this season.

Indeed, the Bulls – owners of the worst record in the NBA now – are a radically different team from the one that jumped out to a 2-0 series lead in their first-round playoff series last spring before the Celtics bounced back to win the next four to close out the series and eventually advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

The key in that series for the Celtics was their ability to win on the road (it didn’t hurt their chances that Rajon Rondo, a key to Chicago winning Games 1 and 2 in Boston, was unable to play in the last four games of the series due to injury). 

But as good as that team was, this season’s Celtics team seems more equipped to find success on the road in part because they have so many interchangeable parts up and down the roster.

And just as important, there’s more of a matter-of-fact mindset to what they do rather than feeling the need to prove themselves in comparison to other elite teams in the NBA.

Here are five under-the-radar story lines heading into tonight’s game between the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls.

 

ROOKIE STANDOUTS

There has been a lot of talk about Jayson Tatum’s breakout rookie season, but the Bulls have a star on the rise as well from the 2017 NBA draft class in Lauri Markkanen. Tatum leads the NBA – not just rookies, but the entire league – in 3-point shooting (51.8 percent) and averages 14 points per game. Markkanen, draft with the seventh overall pick by Minnesota (but traded to Chicago as part of the Jimmy Butler deal), averages 14.3 points and 7.9 rebounds which ranks fifth and second, respectively, among rookies. 

 

GOING BACK TO BACK 

This will be Boston’s fourth back-to-back this season. On the second night, the Celtics are 2-1 with the lone loss being Oct. 18 against Milwaukee which was the second game of the season along with the first game for Boston without Gordon Hayward following his season-ending left ankle injury. 

 

UP AND DOWN SHOOTING

There’s a certain ebb and flow all teams are looking for with their offense, but this is not what the Celtics had in mind when talking about shooting. After failing to shoot 50 percent or better in their first 20 games, the Celtics strung together five straight in which they reached the 50 percent or better mark. However, they are back to how they began the season, shooting less than 50 percent in each of their last three games.

 

TATUM CLIMBING THE CHARTS 

The 6-foot-8 rookie has scored in double figures 16 straight games. The last first-year player for Boston to have that many consecutive double-digit scoring games was Antoine Walker who reeled off 20 in a row in 1997.

 

SMART PASSES

There’s an obsession almost with fans when it comes to Marcus Smart and his shooting. But the stat that fans really need to keep an eye on is his assists total. Boston has a 13-1 record this season when Smart tallies five or more assists.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

The Patriots are trolling Eric Bledsoe with Drew Bledsoe

The Patriots are trolling Eric Bledsoe with Drew Bledsoe

The Patriots wished the Celtics and Terry Rozier good luck in Game 3 with a hilarious tweet featuring former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe.

After the Celtics' Game 1 win over Milwaukee, Rozier accidentally referred to Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe as Drew Bledsoe. After Game 2, Eric Bledsoe responded to a question about Rozier by claiming he didn't know who Rozier was.

So before Game 3, the Pats' social media team tweeted out this gem:

Well played, Patriots. Well played.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

No Henson for Bucks vs Celtics in Game 3, Zeller expected to start

No Henson for Bucks vs Celtics in Game 3, Zeller expected to start

MILWAUKEE – The Boston Celtics may see a blast from their not-so-distant past in ex-Celtic Tyler Zeller, who is expected to be in the Milwaukee Bucks’ starting lineup for tonight’s Game 3 matchup against Boston.

Zeller, who has averaged 1.0 points and 1.0 rebounds in the first two games of this best-of-seven playoff series, would potentially replace John Henson (back) who will not play tonight.

Milwaukee interim head coach Joe Prunty declined to say who would replace Henson, although it is expected to be Zeller or Thon Maker.

While Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton have been Milwaukee’s top performers, the loss of Henson will surely be felt.

The 6-foot-11 Henson has been one of the more consistent performers for Milwaukee outside of Antetokounmpo and Middleton, averaging 9.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 69.2 percent from the field.

With Boston holding a commanding 2-0 series lead, look for the Bucks to play with a greater sense of urgency which in all likelihood will lead to a more physical game.

“That’s just the playoffs,” Zeller said. “It’s not like the regular season, some nights are, some nights aren’t (physical); be ready to go every night. Be ready. You know they’re going to push and shove, and we can also do the same.”

Moving up in the player rotation off the bench for the Bucks will be Thon Maker. In addition, there’s a good chance we’ll see Antetokounmpo spend more time at the center position than usual.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE