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Celtics Host New Look Bulls

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Chicago Bulls (25-36) at Boston Celtics (47-12)

Friday, March 7
8:00 PM
Regular season game #60, Home Game #32
Radio: WEEI, Sirius 153
TD Banknorth Garden
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Bulls Coverage:     Bull Riding     l    Blog a Bull  

For the second game in a row, the Celtics are catching teams on the second of back to back games.  This time, it's the Bulls coming into the Garden for a rematch against the Celtics.  The Bulls won a game fairly easily against the Cavaliers last night.   The Bulls are a young team and should be able to maintain their energy in this game, though.  This is the third meeting between the two teams.  The Celtics won both of the previous meetings. 
Since their last matchup, the Bulls have gone through a major Change as they traded Ben Wallace and Joe Smith to the Cavs for Drew Gooden, Cedric Simmons, Shannon Brown and Larry Hughes.  When these two teams last met, Hinrich, Gordon, Deng, Nocioni and Smith were the starting five.  For tonight's game, a rejuvenated Hughes has replaced Hinrich at the point and Hinrich has moved to shooting guard.  Gooden has replaced Nocioni who is coming off the bench, and Joakim Noah has moved up to starting center and is doing a good job there.  The Bulls have also changed coaches since that last meeting, so there isn't much to be taken from the earlier wins.
The Bulls have the youngest roster in the NBA at 24.38 years.  The Celtics have become a very veteran team and have the advantage in experience but the Bulls are young and athlethic, the type of team that has given the Celtics problems.   This could be a trap game if the Celtics let down after the big win over Detroit.  After the last big win over Detroit back in January, the Celtics suffered their only double digit loss of the season to the Bobcats.  They went on to lose 5 of the next 10 games.  They can't afford a let down like that at this point of the season and so hopefully will play every team they have left like they did the Pistons as every game from here to the end of the season is important as they try to build toward the playoffs. 
The Celtics have won 6 in a row and the Bulls have won their last 2 games.  The Bulls are 11-21 on the road and the Celtics are 27-4 at home. 

Probable Starting Matchups
PG:   Rajon Rondo vs Larry Hughes
SG:   Ray Allen vs Kirk Hinrich
SF:   Paul Pierce vs   Luol Deng
PF:   Kevin Garnett vs Drew Gooden
C:     Kendrick Perkins vs Joakim Noah        
Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo    PPG 10.7 RPG 4.30 APG 5.1 EFF + 14.29
Larry Hughes    PPG 12.9 RPG 3.60 APG 2.6 EFF + 10.87
Hughes has more experience than Rondo, but Rajon has the speed advantage.  He should be able to beat Hughes off the dribble every time down. 
Kendrick Perkins   PPG 7.4 RPG 5.90 APG 1.1 EFF + 11.58
Joakim Noah   PPG 5.2 RPG 4.90 APG 1.0 EFF + 8.44
Noah has been playing very well.  Both players are coming off 20 rebound games.  If Perk stays aggressive, he should be able to muscle his way past Noah for rebounds and to get inside to score.  Noah is faster and more athletic, but Perk has the strength and experience advantage.
Honorable Mention
Paul Pierce
   PPG 20.4 RPG 5.40 APG 4.7 EFF + 20.08
Luol Deng   PPG 17.0 RPG 6.70 APG 2.4 EFF + 16.88
This should be a good matchup of two similar players.  Pierce should have a good game after struggling somewhat against the Pistons. 
Also keep an eye on the Garnett/Gooden matchup as Gooden always seems to have big games against the Celtics. 

Keys to the Game
No Letdown  
This could be a trap game if the Celtics let down after the big win over the Pistons.  If the Celtics come out flat, the Bulls will make them pay.  They can't take any team for granted because every team is gunning for the Celtics and will play their best games against them. 

The Bulls are a very good rebounding team.  The Celtics need to concentrate on boxing out and beating the Bulls to the boards.  Perk should be able to feast on the boards if he continues to aggressively go after them.

The Bulls can score inside and they also have players who can hit the 3.  The Celtics need to defend on the perimeter as well as in the paint.   They have to cover Gordon especially on the perimeter as he always has big games from beyond the  arc against the Celtics. 

Fatigue - For the second game in a row, the Celtics are facing a team that played a tough game the night before.  If the Celtics run, they should have the advantage as the Bulls will be tired.   Also,  if Perk continues his strong play, he could be a big factor in this game.