Ford Keys to the Game: Celtics 80, Bulls 89

Ford Keys to the Game

Celtics 80, Bulls 89

Game Highlights

Photo of the Game

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo attempts to finish a drive to the basket underneath the outstretched arms of Chicago defender Luol Deng.
Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty

Key Moment

Thursday night’s 89-80 loss to the Chicago Bulls wasn’t an exact replica of Wednesday night’s loss to the Detroit Pistons, but it sure was close.

The Celtics played poorly enough during the first half on Wednesday night to make Doc Rivers tell his fellow coaches that it'd be difficult to pull out the win over the lowly Pistons. They played so poorly during the first half of tonight’s game that Rivers must have been thinking the same thing, considering that the team scored a total of just 35 points over the first two quarters.

Playing poorly in the first half is never a good thing, but you always have a shot to make a run in the second half and rectify the issues. Boston did against the Pistons on Wednesday thanks to its handy 2-3 zone.

Rivers has relied on that zone at times this season not only to help on defense, but also to preserve energy for the offense at the other end of the floor. It worked against Detroit, but the Pistons eventually figured the zone out and pulled away down the stretch.

Searching for some sort of spark for his sputtering offense, Rivers turned to that zone yet again on Thursday, and it did exactly what he had hoped for.

Boston trailed the Bulls by as many as 16 points in the second half of Thursday’s game but the zone sparked a huge comeback. The C’s turned that 16-point deficit into a one-point advantage, at 61-60, thanks to a Chris Wilcox slam that opened up the fourth quarter. The zone had paid its dividends to that point, but Rivers may have chosen to ride it too long.

Over the next few minutes of the game, Chicago began to figure out the zone thanks to some hot shooting from Luol Deng and great overall play from Mike James. Those two combined to be responsible, either by scoring or assisting, for 22 of Chicago’s final 25 points over the final 10:22 of the game. Deng scored 13 points and James added six to go along with three assists.

And while the Bulls got hot, the Celtics went cold. They scored just 11 points over the final 8:28 of the game, including a stretch in which they missed eight consecutive field goal attempts.

It was the same story for the C’s, just a different night. They played poorly in the first half, used a zone to battle back and hang around into the fourth quarter, and then allowed the opponent to pull away late. That has been the script for two consecutive games, and Boston will have to wait until Sunday evening to try to turn things around.

Key Box Score Line

Thanks to a tweak to his hip flexor, Kevin Garnett essentially played a home-and-home series with the Chicago Bulls this week. He logged a double-double against Chicago on Sunday and, after missing Wednesday night’s game, returned to the lineup and notched another one tonight.

Garnett looked fresh and spry tonight as he compiled Boston’s top box score, including team highs of 18 points and 10 rebounds. He also chipped in two assists, two steals and a block during his 32 minutes of action.

With Paul Pierce and Ray Allen struggling from the field, Garnett turned up the offense and made seven of his 13 field goal attempts. He was the only Celtic starter to shoot better than 50 percent from the floor.

The C’s struggled defensively without KG on Wednesday, allowing 98 points to the lowly Detroit Pistons. His presence tonight clearly made a difference, as the Conference-leading Bulls managed to score only 89 points on 39.5 percent shooting.

Box Score Nuggets

  • Two Bulls, Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer, tied for the game high in scoring with 23 points apiece.
  • Chicago's 27 assists nearly doubled Boston's total of 15.
  • The two benches combined to score just 30 points.
  • Both teams shot less than 40 percent in the game.
  • Both teams scored 12 fast break points.
  • Kevin Garnett led the Celtics with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
  • Boston was outrebounded by a count of 52-37.
  • The Celtics committed just nine turnovers.
  • Chicago shot just 39.5 percent from the field, but made 10 of its 21 3-point attempts.
  • Chris Wilcox led all reserves with nine points.
  • Mike James fouled out of the game in just 17 minutes of playing time.
  • Mickael Pietrus grabbed seven rebounds off the bench for Boston.
  • Deng led the game in assists with 10.
  • No Celtics player grabbed more than 10 rebounds, but two Bulls, Boozer (15 boards) and Joakim Noah (16 boards) each grabbed at least 15.
  • Rajon Rondo scored 17 points and dished out eight assists.
  • Six Celtics blocked at least one shot.

Quote of the Night

Doc Rivers on the zone defense has team has been running: "Yes, we played zone tonight, but I'm not for it most of the time, but this year with this many games you have to use it. If you stay in the zone long enough they will find the lanes and openings. Tonight they kept cutting and cutting and finally found openings."