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