Celtics-Bulls Preview: C's look to buck disturbing defensive trend

Celtics-Bulls Preview: C's look to buck disturbing defensive trend

BOSTON -- Michael Beasley lit the Boston Celtics up for 32 points on Thursday night.

Former Celtic Kelly Olynyk dropped a career-high 32 points in leading the Miami Heat to a win just 24 hours prior.


Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Memphis’ Marc Gasol had 38 and 30 points, respectively, against Boston in the two previous games.

Four straight games have featured at least one player lighting up the Celtics defense for 30 or more points, a disturbing trend for a team that prides itself on being an elite defensive squad.

Boston will once again find itself challenged defensively tonight against the Chicago Bulls.

While the Bulls’ overall record of 10-21 tells you this season has been for the most part a struggle for them collectively, more telling is that they’ve won seven of their last eight games which speaks to their improvement and why Boston has no reason in the world to think this will be an easy win.

Among those seven Chicago victories was a 108-85 thumping of the Celtics, the worst loss for Boston this season.

And while the Celtics recognize many of the problems that have contributed to them struggling lately, there’s not a whole lot they can do other than ride it out until the schedule loosens up for them to get more time to catch their breath and maybe just as important, clean up a few areas that have been problematic for them lately.

But head coach Brad Stevens is quick to point out that the challenges his team is facing, isn’t all that different than the rest of the league.

Although there is one noticeable difference – the Celtics have played more games (35) than any other team, and that has a way of wearing a team down to where they’re not as efficient with their play both as individuals and as a team.

“We’re all in this stretch now where you’re not able to do as much to prepare as you would like,” Stevens said. “Whether it’s prepare your own team or prepare for an opponent.”

One thing’s for sure.

The Celtics will prepare differently for the Bulls who are one of the hottest teams in the NBA.

Nikola Mirotic has been arguably the key to Chicago’s improved play of late. He was really good in Chicago’s win over Boston earlier this month when he had 24 points and eight rebounds. Arguably the key in Chicago’s win that night was the play of Bobby Portis who came off the Bulls bench and provided a much-needed burst of energy and production that catapulted them to a hard-earned victory.

Kyrie Irving is familiar with the red-hot shooting zones players get into.

Heck, he gets into them all the time.

Because of that, Irving’s words have great value when he speaks about the Celtics' expected growth and improvement going forward.

“We’ll continue to get better,” Irving said. “It’s on me to manage the game better; especially when they get going like that.”


Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

File Photo

Isaiah Thomas isn't ruling out return to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas back in green? Maybe there's a chance after all.

The former Celtics guard, now with the Lakers, started a Q&A session on Twitter and was asked whether he'd consider returning to Boston this offseason. This was his answer...

That's not a no.

Thomas has had a rough go of it since leaving the Celtics. His brief tenure in Cleveland didn't go according to plan, and things haven't gotten a whole lot better out in L.A. The 29-year-old is averaging 15.3 points per game just a year after averaging 28.9 with Boston.

Let the speculation begin.


Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Horford not making any excuses after C's rough outing vs Pelicans

Al Horford understands that there’s plenty of blame pie to go around following Boston’s 108-89 loss to New Orleans. 

Considering how Pelicans stud Anthony Davis dominated the game on so many levels Sunday night, Horford was quick to acknowledge his role in the loss. 

“[Davis] was able to get behind our defense a lot,” Horford told reporters after the loss. “Some mistakes on my end; gotta give him credit. He dominated tonight. I’ll definitely take the blame for that.”

Davis finished with a double-double of 34 points and 11 rebounds, a total that would have been higher if not for the game being so lopsided which allowed Davis to head to the bench early in the fourth. 

MORE - Blakely's stars, studs, and duds from C's-Pelicans

And Horford’s struggles defensively were just as problematic on offense as the five-time All-Star tallied just six points on 3-for-11 shooting to go with four rebounds and three assists. 

Boston has been a team whose collective sums have fueled their success. 

But Horford understands he has to be a high impact performer, a job that’s even more vital when key starters like Kyrie Irving (left knee soreness) and Jaylen Brown (concussion) are out as well as top reserves Marcus Smart (right thumb) and Daniel Theis (torn meniscus). 

And by Horford’s own admission, he just didn’t bring it on Sunday at a level to give him and the Celtics a legit shot at winning the game.

“Defensively we had too many breakdowns,” Horford said. “And the game got away from us in the second half. So there’s no excuses. I didn’t give us a chance, either; missing a lot of looks offensively. I just need to be better.”

And he’ll have to be if Boston (47-23) is to get back on track with a win on Tuesday against a talented Oklahoma City squad led by Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. 

At full strength, the Thunder would be a significant challenge for the Celtics. 

But having a roster with a number of key players out with injuries, it becomes even more imperative for Boston’s top players to elevate their play. 

And as you scan this Celtics roster and examine those who are healthy enough to play, it’s clear that Horford more than any other Boston player, has to find a way to become more impactful.

Certainly, more points and rebounds would help. 

But as we’ve seen time and time again with Horford, often his greatest contributions to winning games don’t necessarily show up in the final box score. 

That being said, a six-point, four-rebound game doesn’t cut it. 

Horford has to be better, something he knows better than anyone. 

“I’ll definitely look at the film and see how I can be better individually,” Horford said. “The good thing about the NBA, is we have a chance to play on Tuesday. Hopefully we’ll learn from this game and be ready to go Tuesday at home.”