- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Celtics players as a whole are big fans of social networking, so let's put this in computer terms (in 140 characters or less): Somewhere along the line Thursday night, Boston players unfollowed @CelticsGamePlan.
That's one way to explain how the Green let Derrick Rose run wild at the United Center. After watching Rose attack the rim at will during their last visit to Chicago, the Celtics' defensive game plan scrawled out on a dry erase board called for limiting his drives and preventing trips to the charity stripe.
According to ESPN Stats and Info, Rose lived in the paint, connecting on 7-of-9 shots inside of five feet (including 6-of-7 in the first half). That's just one field goal less than his total in the previous three games. Rose generated 14 of his game-high 30 points close to the basket and 10 more of his points came at the charity stripe, where he made every freebie he attempted (many of which were the result of getting hacked on drives to the rim).
Meanwhile, offensively, the Celtics couldn't get anything going anywhere on the floor.
"Coach did mention throughout the game that, when we post the ball up, we shot a higher percentage," said captain Paul Pierce. "I thought for most of the night, we probably settled for outside jumpers."
The Celtics were outscored in points in the paint, 44-22. But they may have actually had a good reason to settle for perimeter shots. Boston couldn't get anything to fall around the hoop, missing a bevy of layups over the course of the game (maybe none more frustrating than Rajon Rondo's third-quarter buzzer beater that spun out keeping Chicago out front by double digits heading to the final frame).
According to ESPN Stats and Info, the Celtics made only 9-of-22 shots within five feet of the hoop and those 18 total points matched a season low (the 40.9 field goal percentage established a new single-game low, the previous mark being 42.3 percent vs. New Jersey on March 14).
Rivers said much of that trouble around the basket was a result of the Bulls' physicality. Pierce didn't disagree that the Bulls' defense made them uncomfortable.
"You've got to give credit to the Bulls," said Pierce. "They're an excellent defensive team. That's why they're one of the best in the league. I just think we didn't reach the pace we needed on offense, especially against a great defensive team. You know, one, two [passes and it was] shot instead of making the extra pass, which kind of led to the struggles offensively, and I think the struggles offensively led to our breakdowns defensively."
--BALL STICKS AGAIN AS C'S OFFENSE SPUTTERS--
Effusive in their praise of the Bulls' defense, the Celtics admitted that, for the second time in as many trips to Chicago this season, they simply didn't generate quality ball movement on offense. After posting a mere 12 assists in their first visit in January, Boston limped to a mere 14 assists in Thursday's loss.
What's more, Boston went an entire quarter's worth of time without a single helper in the second half. After Rondo assisted on a Ray Allen alley-oop with 3:35 to play in the third quarter, Boston didn't generate its next assist until Kevin Garnett fed Pierce on a 3-pointer with 3:34 to go in the game.
"It just seemed like we couldn't score," Allen said after the Celtics generated a mere 38 second-half points while shooting a gruesome 31.6 percent (12-for-38 overall) during that span. "Offensively, we couldn't score. We turned the ball over and then put them in transition and they scored. It was almost like giving up four points every time -- not scoring two and giving up two.
"I believe that they played tough defense on us, but I think we made it tough on ourselves, because, when the ball came around we didn't create a rhythm, offensively. We didn't move it around."
Allen finished 3-of-11 shooting, missing all three triples he attempted, for only seven points. It's only the third time since Jan. 30 he failed to reach double figures in scoring output, and first time since March 18 at Houston.
Even as he tries to pull himself out of his own mini-slump, Allen conveyed a simple message to his teammates.
"I just think everybody just needs to just kind of relax a little bit," said Allen. "Just let it all go."
--LAYUP LINE: PIPPEN HONORED AT HALF; THIBS FOR COACH OF YEAR?--
Chris Forsberg/ESPN Boston
Scottie Pippen's bronze bust was unveiled Thursday.* The Bulls honored Scottie Pippen at halftime, unveiling a bronze bust of him in a Bulls road No. 33 jersey (replete with familiar red wristband near his left elbow) that will be displayed near one of the gates at the United Center. A highlight reel of Pippen's top career moments played at the half as the crowd roared before Bulls vice president of basketball operations -- and Pippen's former teammate -- John Paxson introduced the guest of honor before unveiling the statue.
* Like a good politician, Rivers might have been pandering to the Chicago (media) masses when he suggested Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau could top his Coach of the Year ballot. Last month in Philadelphia, Rivers suggested Doug Collins was at the top of his ballot (with Thibodeau and Portland's Nate MacMillan in the mix). The Bulls late-season surge might be swaying Rivers.
"I said it earlier -- especially early on [in the season] -- I thought it was Doug. But [the Bulls] maybe winning the East, which would be tough for them to lose now, you have to put Thibs and Doug and Nate McMillan [at top of the ballot]. Those are the three I said and I don't think that's changed. I would be happy if Thibs won it ... I can tell you that. But any of those three, there's not a lot of argument."
* Rivers admitted before Thursday's game that not having Shaquille O'Neal, and the uncertainty of what he'll be able to contribute in the postseason, has been frustrating. But he does expect to have O'Neal when it matters.
"I don't know what to expect, I'd love to tell you," said Rivers. "But I think he'll be ready for the start of the playoffs. How long that lasts and what he can give us -- I don't know that answer. I wish I knew that answer, I just don't. I don't think anybody knows the answer."