Celtics

Bulls-Celtics Takeaways: Celtics aggressive play, improved effort fixing their recent issues

Bulls-Celtics Takeaways: Celtics aggressive play, improved effort fixing their recent issues

BOSTON -- When the losing streak for the Boston Celtics reached a season-high three games, there was concern for sure. 

But panic button time? 

Uh, nope. 

That’s because the losses by all accounts came down to the Celtics not playing with the kind of effort that we had seen previously. 

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And in the land of roster problems, improving effort is one of the easiest fixer-upper jobs out there. 

So it should come as no surprise that the Celtics have been able to quickly get back on a winning track with back-to-back wins, the last of which being a 113-101 victory over the Chicago Bulls. 

Despite the three-game skid, the Celtics (27-11) continue their back-and-forth status with the Miami Heat for the No. 2 spot in the East behind the Milwaukee Bucks. 

And the Bulls, even with yet another strong performance from All-Star hopeful Zach Lavine (30 points, 22 coming in the second half), continue to spiral downwards toward what’s likely to be another trip to the NBA lottery. 

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AGGRESSIVE ACTS, 2.0

While the numbers as far as points in the paint weren’t nearly as bountiful as they were over the weekend against New Orleans, the Celtics were still cashing in on attacking the Chicago defense off the dribble. 

Enes Kanter and Jayson Tatum set the tone with their work on the block posting up Chicago defenders at the start of the game, resulting in point-blank baskets and control of the game from the very outset. 

And as the Bulls adjusted and to some degree made those points at the rim tougher to come by, Boston’s aggressive play continued with better passing on the perimeter which often involved passing up good shots for great ones.

Because of that aggressive, attacking brand of basketball, the Celtics were able to withstand a Chicago surge in the third quarter by continuing to stay aggressive at both ends of the floor. 

ENES KANTER

With Daniel Theis (sore knee) out, Kanter got a rare start. And to his credit and his Celtics teammates, the opportunity was not wasted. 

Kanter has been a beast lately when it comes to impacting the game at the rim, whether it be scoring, rebounding or both. 

That’s exactly what he did on Monday, finishing with a near double-double of 15 points and nine rebounds. 

Kanter’s performance proved what Kanter has been saying about his play all season, and that is that it doesn’t matter if he starts or comes on as a reserve. He knows his role and that more than anything else involves him scoring at the rim and rebounding - two things he once again did at a high level. 

THE BENCH

When a starter goes down, the potential domino effect is not lost on the second unit. With Kanter going into the starting lineup, that left a huge scoring void on the second unit. 

And as we’ve seen so many times this season, the Celtics had plenty of willing and able bodies prepared to fill it as they outscored Chicago's backups, 36-31.

Among them was Grant Williams, the only player on the active roster in the blowout win against New Orleans who did not take a shot. 

He was definitely looking to be more impactful as a scorer on Monday as he finished the game with strong 11-point, 5-rebound, 3-assist performance.

Williams’ play was just one of the many success stories for Boston’s second unit. 

And it was an encouraging sign for a unit that wasn’t at full strength against the Bulls. And with the way this month is shaking out schedule-wise, chances are high that there will be more games this month when the second unit isn’t whole. 

But as we saw on Monday, not being whole doesn’t mean this group can’t cause opponents a whole lot of trouble. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Pistons-Celtics, which tips off Wednesday at 6 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Scal have the call at 7 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Watch the teaser for Kevin Garnett's upcoming Showtime documentary

Watch the teaser for Kevin Garnett's upcoming Showtime documentary

The first teaser for Kevin Garnett's upcoming Showtime documentary dropped Monday, and it looks like a must-watch for basketball fans.

In the trailer, KG tells a story about encountering NBA legends Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen at a gym in Chicago in 1995 and how that was where he found out he could enter the NBA Draft straight out of high school.

"We get in there, Mike Jordan in there. Scottie Pippen was in there," Garnett says.

"I jumped in, I tied my [shoes] up, and then Jordan was like 'let's go.' I just remember Pippen saying that I was too young to be out here ... and it was Isiah Thomas like, 'I saw you play Scottie Pippen, you could play in the league right now. And when he said that, the world stopped ... He said, 'Boy, do you know you can go to the league from high school?'"

Watch below (video contains explicit language):

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Knowing how great of a storyteller Garnett is, this documentary definitely won't lack in entertainment value.

The last couple of weeks certainly have been notable for KG. On Feb. 13, the Celtics revealed they will retire his No. 5 jersey. The following day, Garnett was named as a finalist for the 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame class.

Showtime's Garnett documentary is set for a Fall 2020 release.

NBA Power Rankings: How things change after All-Star weekend

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

NBA Power Rankings: How things change after All-Star weekend

BOSTON -- The 69th NBA All-Star delivered something we haven’t seen in quite a while - a competitive game. 

The final score, a 157-155 win for Team LeBron, underscores how the NBA found the cheat code in balancing entertaining basketball with a legitimately competitive game. 

There will likely be some tweaks made for next year’s game (suggestion: Games have to end on a field goal made, and if a team fouls a player when the game is within one possession, the player has to go to the bench for the rest of the game).

Now that the All-Star game is in the rearview mirror of the season, the focus for many shifts almost entirely towards the postseason. 

The last week leading up to the All-Star break did little to shake up the upper chambers of the NBA standings, but the jockeying among teams with middle-of-the-pack status, as well as those on the outside of the playoff picture looking to get in, will provide much of what we saw in the All-Star game - a competitive, entertaining brand of basketball.

Click here for A. Sherrod Blakely's NBA Power Rankings