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Celtics Aim for 10 Straight in Windy City

Boston Celtics (18-4) at Chicago Bulls (8-13)

Saturday, December 12, 2009


TV: Comcast SportsNet; Radio: 850 AM WEEI

Venue: United Center

The Boston Celtics look to make it 10 straight wins when they battle the Chicago Bulls at the United Center tonight at 8:00pm.

The Celtics are coming off one of their closest calls of the season, as they squeaked by the Washington Wizards by a mere basket on Thursday night, 104-102. Rajon Rondo paced Boston with 21 points and 11 assists, while Kendrick Perkins also posted another double-double with 16 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots.

While the Celtics' record has been nearly flawless the last 10 games (9-1), the same cannot be said for the Bulls, who have won just two of their past 10 contests. Despite retaining the majority of the core that pushed the Celtics to the brink in the opening round of the playoffs last season and retaining a healthy Luol Deng, it appears as though the loss of prime time scorer Ben Gordon - who opted to test the free agent market and sign with Detroit - has hindered the Bulls' offense this season. The Bulls are currently averaging 12 points less per game than they did last year.

Chicago did manage to knock off the Golden State Warriors in overtime last night, 96-91, behind 21 points from Deng.

The key matchup tonight once again focuses on Rondo, who will go head-to-head with sophomore stud Derrick Rose. Rose's numbers have been formidable this season (16.0 points, 5.6 assists, 2.9 rebounds), but are also slightly down from last year. Nevertheless, these two put on quite a show in last year's postseason and tonight should be no different.

Kendrick Perkins will also have his hands full in the middle tonight with the always eccentric Joakim Noah, who has matured into one of the league's most formidable rebounders. His 11.7 rebounds per game average is good for fourth in the league and he has also posted 10 double-double so far this season. As a team, the Bulls sit eighth in the league in total team rebounding (42.9 rebounds per game), while the Celtics have fallen to dead last (37.9 rebounds per game).

Projected Starters:

Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Bulls: Derrick Rose, John Salmons, Luol Deng, Brad Miller, Joakim Noah

Health Check: For the Celtics, Glen Davis (thumb) and Marquis Daniels (thumb) are both out.

For the Bulls, guards Kirk Hinrich (thumb) and Jannero Pargo (hip) are listed as day-to-day, while center Jerome James (achilles) and forward Tyrus Thomas (left radius fracture) are both out.

Keep It In Mind: Four of the five Bulls' projected starters played over 40 minutes against the Warriors last night.

Who's Hot: For the Celtics, Rajon Rondo shot 10-20 against the Wizards on Thursday and finished with 21 points and 11 assists.

For the Bulls, Joakim Noah shot 9-14 against the Warriors last night and finished with 18 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks.

Who's Not: For the Celtics, Rasheed Wallace, Eddie House and Shelden Williams were a combined 3-10 against Washington on Thursday.

For the Bulls, John Salmons is shooting just 38.7 percent from the field this season, 33 percent from three-point nation and is coming off a 4-16, 11-point effort against the Warriors.

Key Matchup: Rajon Rondo vs. Derrick Rose

Honorable Mention: Kendrick Perkins vs. Joakim Noah and Paul Pierce vs. Luol Deng

Skinny: For the second consecutive game, the Celtics must be weary of the rebounding battle, as Chicago gets after it on the boards. However, the Celtics managed to out-rebound the Wizards on Thursday, 40-34, after the Wizards entered the game as the league's seventh-best rebounding squad.

The Bulls are currently ranked 28th in the league in team scoring (90.85 points per game) and have only reached the century mark twice. If the Celtics can clamp down on the defensive end (preferably early on), they shouldn't have too much trouble walking out of Chicago with their 10th straight win.

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