Kanter Bullies Bulls with Another Strong Interior Effort

CHICAGO – There aren’t many elite back-to-the-basket players left in the NBA, but Enes Kanter is one of them.

The veteran center has made a career out of his physical, interior offensive play and his ability to rebound at a high rate on both ends of the floor.

“If you look at the league, there’s not many big men left playing with their back to the basket,” Kanter said Saturday night in Chicago. “But hey, I love that tough, back-to-the-basket game – rebounds, just like the old days.”

Kanter has displayed those traits throughout his first season with the Boston Celtics, and particularly during the last three outings, which have each featured a double-double performance.

The latest such effort – a 17-point, 12-rebound, two-block showing Saturday night at United Center – was one of the most impressive outings Kanter has had in a Celtics uniform. He bullied the Bulls inside the restricted area, where he bucketed seven shots and grabbed six boards on each end, while helping to lead the Celtics to a 111-104 win.

“We were trying to post him,” C’s coach Brad Stevens explained after the game. “That allowed us to sit a couple of our other wings a little longer, which was good. And he just kept scoring and making the right play down there.”

The third quarter was when Kanter made most of those plays, as he tallied nine points during that frame alone. His most impressive stretch was a personal 8-0 run near the end of the quarter, which included two and-one layups that helped Boston stretch its lead from four points to 12.

“It makes the other team have to make a decision when you’ve got a guy going like that,” Stevens said in reference to Kanter’s third-quarter effort. “And they did a good job. They changed personnel at first and brought (Wendell) Carter in, and then when [Kanter] scored again, they fronted him and were a lot more aggressive on him … But his physicality was a separator in us getting that lead in the third for sure.”

Gordon Hayward, who played with Kanter during his first few NBA seasons in Utah, suggested that some of Kanter’s low-post skill set on the block may have rubbed off from former Jazz teammate and former Celtic Al Jefferson.

“I don’t know if Enes will say that Al helped him, but certainly I think you can see some of Al’s game through Enes,” Hayward said. “To have a guy like Enes where you can throw it and slow the game down and he can get a bucket for you is huge. When we went to him tonight, he was big-time.”

Hayward and the rest of the group also played a role in helping to get Kanter going, according to the 6-foot-11 center.

“My teammates gave me a lot of confidence,” Kanter claimed. “They said, ‘Hey, if you’re down there, go one-on-one. If they come at you with a double-team, make the pass and make your teammates better.’ I appreciate my teammates always give me that confidence and it makes me feel very comfortable out there.”

When Kanter is comfortable, that typically means he’s wreaking havoc in the low post and showing why he’s one of the few remaining elite back-to-the-basket players in the NBA.

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