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Celtics beat the Bulls at home

The Boston Celtics utilized an unbelievably balanced scoring attack to hang on against the Bulls, overcoming Jimmy Butler's career night and winning, 105-100

In a battle of Eastern Conference playoff hopefuls, the Boston Celtics used a balanced attack to overcome Jimmy Butler's career night and pull out a 5-point victory.

On a night in which their usual leaders started out slow, Boston leaned on its deep front court and bench to pull through against a tough Chicago squad.  Both Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley started the game poorly on offense, with the two being held to a combined four first-quarter points, all of which came from Bradley.  The steady scoring of Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson kept Boston in the game, though, as both bigs finished the first half with double-digit scoring.  After an even first quarter, the Bulls were able to fight for the lead in the second, and went into the half leading, 54-51.

Speaking of bigs, there was quite a battle down low, as Jared Sullinger and Pau Gasol went toe-to-toe all night, consistently getting under each other's skin and showcasing their considerable skill sets.  Gasol had a strong night, finishing with sixteen points, fifteen rebounds, four assists, and two blocks.  However, Sully was able to frustrate him underneath consistently with his defense, as the Spaniard was only able to convert 41% of his looks from the field.  Similarly, Sully posted a double-double of ten points and sixteen rebounds, and tallied three blocks, as well.  He, too, was unable to knock down his looks at a high rate, finishing 4-of-11 from the floor.  Watching Sullinger go head-to-head against a player of Gasol's caliber was very encouraging, and speaks to his continued development.

The second half was when Boston started to assert themselves.  IT came out of the locker room ready to go, and began the quarter with an assist to Bradley, sandwiched between two made 3-pointers.  Isaiah scored nine points in the third quarter, en route to 20 total points, all of which came in the second half.

The solid second half was also a stage for the fantastic play of both Evan Turner and David Lee, both of whom played integral roles in keeping Boston ahead throughout the latter periods.  Evan Turner consistently almost turned the ball over, only to finish the play with a made jumpshot or a nifty assist.  Lee, on the other hand, showcased much of the game that had Boston fans so excited about his acquisition this offseason.  The wily vet finished with twelve points and six rebounds in a little under twenty minutes of action.

The final portions of the game were a clear indication of the offensive responsibilities of the rosters of each team.  While Boston maintained a balanced approach throughout the tense and hotly-contested final minutes, the Bulls largely turned to Jimmy Butler.  The Marquette product had a fantastic final quarter, notching seventeen points in the 4th, bringing his total to a career-high 36 points in the game.  However, his herculean effort was not enough, as Boston hung on to take the victory, 105-100.

Quick Notes

  • James Young looked like a real live NBA player!  He went scoreless in his sixteen minutes of playing time, but was a +15 in plus/minus, and played pretty solid defense for most of it.  One notable exception was going under a screen while guarding Doug McDermott, but one big mistake in over fifteen minutes isn't too bad from a player that many had written off.  It seems that James Young has finally earned enough trust from the coaching staff to develop on the floor without being a liability.  It will be interesting to see whether or not he keeps these minutes once RJ Hunter returns from his brief injury hiatus.
  • Jonas Jerebko was a virtual DNP, as the Swede logged a total of 36 seconds of playing time.  Will this trend continue, moving forward, or will Boston use more of him to help combat the small ball of Golden State?
  • There was a stretch of time in the fourth quarter, with around six minutes left to play, when the Celtics very clearly took their foot off the pedal.  They stopped going after loose balls, and were late on their rotations.  A well-timed timeout from Brad Stevens picked them back up a bit, but that is something that could definitely hurt them.  Let's hope it stays an isolated incident, instead of becoming a habit.
  • Every single Boston player who scored (sorry, James), scored in double digits.  We all knew that the Celtics had a balanced scoring attack, but I've never heard of a stat like that.
It was wonderful to see the depth of this team step up to help alleviate the early struggles of their more consistent performers.  With the current logjam in the East, every win is an important one, especially against other playoff hopefuls.  The Bulls will look to get back on track tomorrow against the Clippers.  The Celtics, meanwhile, will take their swing at ending the Golden State Warriors undefeated season on Friday.