The Boston Celtics continue their three-game home stand tonight when the Chicago Bulls visit the TD Garden at 8:00pm.
Boston takes the court tonight fresh off a dominating win over the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday, in which they held Larry Brown's team to a franchise-low 59 points. The Bulls find themselves in the second game of a back-to-back after impressively vanquishing the San Antonio Spurs in Chicago in their first game of the season last night, 92-85. Chicago saw six players score in double figures last night, including 17 from a healthy Luol Deng.
This marks the first game between these two squads since last season's Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, which went the full seven games and featured seven overtime periods. The Celtics were fortunate to move on from that series, but not before it became clear Chicago point guard Derrick Rose was perfectly capable of carrying a team on his own. Rose averaged an eye opening 19.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.4 assists as a rookie in last year's opening round loss to the Celtics, and engaged in a memorable one-on-one war with Rajon Rondo.
Rose scored 13 points to go along with seven rebounds and seven assists against the Spurs last night, so expect him and Rondo to renew their personal rivalry in tonight's game, which will take center stage amidst all of the media hype.
Don't sleep on the Paul Pierce - Luol Deng matchup, as Deng has proven to be one of the few defenders capable of bothering Pierce's offensive game in the past. Deng missed the 2009 postseason, but the Duke product seems poised to make amends for lost time.
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins
Bulls: Derrick Rose, John Salmons, Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah
Health Check: For the Celtics, guard Tony Allen (ankle), forward Brian Scalabrine (ankle), forward Bill Walker (knee) and forward Glen Davis (thumb) are all out.
The Bulls are healthy.
Keep it in Mind: Ben Gordon, Chicago's leading scorer in the playoffs last year (24.3 points) is now a member of the Detroit Pistons.
Who's Hot: For the Celtics, Rajon Rondo shot 5-6 from the floor against the Bobcats on Wednesday, totaling 10 points to go along with 11 assists.
For the Bulls, Luol Deng shot 8 of 13 en route to his 17 points against the Spurs last night.
Who's Not: For the Celtics, Ray Allen amassed 18 points against Charlotte, but had to shoot 17 shots to get there, making only six of them.
The Bulls as a team last night shot only 35-84 (41.7 percent) from the floor.
Key Matchup: Rajon Rondo vs. Derrick Rose.
Honorable Mention: Paul Pierce vs. Luol Deng and Kendrick Perkins vs. Joakim Noah
Skinny: The Bulls are a high energy team (regardless of their game last night) with guys like Rose, Noah and and Tyrus Thomas leading the pack, so expect them to come out hard in the first quarter tonight. The Celtics need to be ready to combat that energy early and try and stifle Chicago's offense and rhythm in the opening frame.
Chicago's coming off of an impressive win after taking down one of the Western Conference's best squads and even with Kevin Garnett back in the lineup for the C's, don't expect Chicago to be intimidated at any point during this game tonight.
Expect the Rondo - Rose matchup to live up to the expectations, but be sure to keep an eye on Pierce and Deng as well. Another interesting matchup will be Thomas against Garnett, as Thomas is arguably more adept at perusing the perimeter. Let's see if Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro tries to draw Garnett away from the paint to better free up his main slasher in Rose. Keep in mind though that Charlotte employed a similar strategy with Boris Diaw on Wednesday night and Garnett still finished with three blocks.
The Bulls clearly have a strong collection of players who are capable of scoring the basketball, but in the Celtics' first two games this season, opponents have shot a combined 36.1 percent from the field and have scored an average of 74 points. Defense will once again take priority tonight, but Boston will be up against a much more offensively capable team compared to the Charlotte squad they saw on Wednesday night.
Who Will Win Tonight's Game?
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