Celtics may finally have groove -- and Hayward -- back
The Boston Celtics had some rust to knock off in their first game after the NBA's All-Star break.
Still, they came within a point of defeating the Eastern Conference-leading Milwaukee Bucks on the road Thursday night before falling 98-97.
The Celtics will continue their trip Saturday at Chicago and hope to have forward Gordon Hayward back. The forward missed Thursday's game because of an ankle injured suffered while practicing with teammate Semi Ojeleye over the break.
"(We) were just playing 1-on-1," Ojeleye told MassLive.com. "Just stepped on me wrong on defense. I didn't even see it. He was just like, 'Man, I rolled my ankle.' He'll be all right."
The Celtics have officially listed Hayward as probable for Saturday's game, and he told the Boston Globe that he expects to play.
Even without him, the Celtics had to chance to beat the Bucks, but Kyrie Irving's last-second drive to the basket misfired.
Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 30 points for the Bucks. Irving rebounded from a 2-for-15 shooting start to make seven of his last 12 and finish with 22 points. The Celtics' Al Horford added 21 points and a season-high 17 rebounds.
"Happens," Irving told NBA.com of the early struggles. "Just part of just being on break and coming off and playing the first game, kind of carving those out, missing four or five days on the basketball court, playing some great basketball. Of course everyone out there is going to try to get their rhythm, so, you know, stuff happens. But we still had a chance to win it at the end of the game. A few calls could have gone our way either way. It happens."
The Celtics felt that Irving was fouled by Milwaukee's Eric Bledsoe on his late drive, but nothing was called. Irving refused to say much about the non-call.
"I ain't ... " he said, stopping himself to avoid a fine from the league for criticizing officials. "I love my money."
The Bulls returned from their break Friday night in Orlando and came away with a 110-109 victory as Lauri Markkanen made 2 of 3 free throws with 1.5 seconds left after being knocked over by the Magic's Aaron Gordon on a 3-point attempt.
Markkanen missed the first free throw -- the Bulls' only miss of the game in 19 attempts -- but made the next two. Markkanen totaled 25 points and 11 rebounds, the fifth time in the past six games he has had 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds.
"Just wanted to make it a little interesting," Markkanen told reporters in the locker room. "It was loud. My ear is still kind of buzzing, but it didn't bother me."
Zach LaVine added 22 points for the Bulls, Robin Lopez had 18 and Otto Porter Jr. scored 17. The Bulls are 3-2 since acquiring Porter from Washington.
"He's really hot, that's why we're looking to get him the ball," LaVine told the Daily Herald of Markkanen. "Me or him, whoever's hot. I'm looking for him in the pick and roll a lot right now. That's how it should be going forward. We should be a really, really good 1-2 punch. We're getting that chemistry down."
The Celtics have won both previous meetings with the Bulls this season, 118-82 at home in November and 133-77 in December in Chicago. The Bulls are just 6-23 at home this season and have lost 11 of their past 12 games at the United Center.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 23, 2019