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Celtics take on Rajon Rondo and the new look Bulls

The Celtics complete their first back to back set as they visit the Chicago Bulls for their season opener.

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics (1-0) at Chicago Bulls (0-0)
Thursday, October 27, 2016
8:00 PM ET
Game #2, Road Game #1
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, WLS-AM 890
United Center

Referees: Jason Phillips, Eric Dalen, Courtney Kirkland
The Celtics didn't have to wait long for their first back to back set of the season. After opening at home against the Nets, the Celtics traveled to Chicago for the Bulls home and season opener. The Celtics get to test their depth playing in the second of back to back games.

The Bulls have fashioned their own version of a big 3 with Dwyane Wade, Jimmy Butler and Rajon Rondo. Rondo has said that he thinks that these 3 will be as good as the Celtics big 3 in 2008. Some sports writers think that they will struggle to make the playoffs while others feel that will be one of the top teams in the league. I guess time will tell.

For tonight, the Celtics need to be ready to do battle with their former point guard and his new team. The Bulls added 8 new players in the offseason including starters Rajon Rondo, Robin Lopez and Dwyane Wade. They had a 3-4 record in the preseason but that might be expected with so many new players trying to learn a new system.

The Celtics won the series 2-1 last season but the Bulls are a very different team this season. They lost Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Mike Dunleavy, and E'Twaun Moore. The Celtics return with mostly the same core but have added some key players in Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Gerald Green.

The Celtics will be without Kelly Olynyk, who is still rehabbing his shoulder after off season surgery. He is expected back in mid-November. Marcus Smart will also miss his second game with the ankle injury that he suffered in the final preseason game. He is expected to be out another week.

Denzel Valentine injured his ankle in the Bulls' preseason opener and missed the rest of the preseason. He practiced for the first time on Tuesday and is probable for this game. Christiano Felicio also returned to practice after an elbow to the throat in the Bulls' preseason finale sidelined him. He is also probable for Thursday's game. If both return, the Bulls will be at full strength. They also are rumored to have signed former Celtic, RJ Hunter, but he may or may not be in uniform tonight.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Isaiah Thomas vs Rajon Rondo

Shooting Guard

Avery Bradley vs Dwyane Wade

Small Forward
Jae Crowder vs Jimmy Butler

Power Forward
Al Horford vs Taj Gibson

Amir Johnson vs Robin Lopez

Jaylen Brown
Gerald Green
Demetrius Jackson
Jonas Jerebko
Jordan Mickey
Terry Rozier
James Young
Tyler Zeller

Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) out
Marcus Smart (ankle) out

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Isaiah Canaan
Michael Carter-Williams
Christiano Felicio
Jerian Grant
Doug McDermott
Nikola Mirotic
Bobby Portis
Denzel Valentine
Paul Zipser

Denzel Valentine (ankle) probable
Christiano Felicio (throat) probable

Head Coach

Fred Hoiberg
Key Matchups
Isaiah Thomas vs Rajon Rondo
Rondo is excited about being in Chicago and playing with Wade and Butler, even though for years he couldn't say enough about how dirty Dwyane Wade was. Rondo averaged 9.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists in 25.1 minutes per game in the preseason. He hasn't improved his shot all that much but he can hit big shots when he needs to. He is also still very fast and when he feels like it, can still play good defense.

Avery Bradley vs Dwyane Wade
Bradley has always given Dwyane Wade fits as a defender and hopefully that still holds true. Wade averaged 12.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 4.2 assists in 21.8 minutes per game in the preseason. Avery is anxious to show off his improved shooting this season and hopefully he can wear Wade out and get the better of this matchup.

Jae Crowder vs Jimmy Butler
The Bulls resident star is Jimmy Butler. There were a lot of trade rumors swirling around him over the summer with many of them involving the Celtics. He even spent soom time working out with Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown over the summer. Now Jaylen will join Jae in trying to keep Butler from having a big game. Butler averaged 11.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in 25.3 minutes per game.

Keys to the Game

Defense - The Celtics have some very good defenders and could have one of the top defensive teams in the league. However, they didn't show much defense in Wednesday's 122-117 win over the Nets. Each player needs to make defense a priority and be sure to have each others' backs on team defense. The Bulls have much better defenders than the Nets and so the Celtics must match their defensive intensity. Defense wins games.

Rebound - The Celtics can't score if they don't have the ball. Much of rebounding is effort and desire and so the Celtics must put out the extra effort on the boards to give themselves extra possessions as well as to limit the Bulls fast break opportunities and second chance points. When the Celtics put out the extra effort to crash the boards, they usually play better all around as well.

Run and Move the Ball
- The Celtics play best when they run on every possession and run back on defense to get set before the Bulls can get into their offense. They also need to move the ball because when the ball sticks too much with one player then the offense gets stagnant. The Celtics had 36 assists on 48 baskets against the Nets and they need to continue that trend in this game. The Bulls will want to slow things down and make sure they limit the Celtics' opportunities. The Celtics need to push the pace and do some damage in transition.

Be Aggressive
- The Celtics must be aggressive on both ends of the court. They have to be the more aggressive team going for loose balls, on defense, on the boards, and in going to the hoop. Against the Nets they let up and almost let the game slip away. They have to play like they want it more for 48 minutes.

Get to the Line - The Celtics didn't do a very good job of getting to the line against the Nets. Isaiah was the only starter to make a free throw. The only other starter to take a free throw was Amir Johnson, who missed his only attempt. The Celtics don't slash to the basket much, but they need to do a better job of getting to the line and by doing so, getting their opponent in foul trouble.

Back to Back and TNT Game
The Celtics are already experiencing their first back to back set. Last season they made it a point of pride to win the second of back to back games.. Hopefully they can continue that this season. We all can remember National TV Rondo from his time with the Celtics. He seems to shift into a different gear on national television. The Celtics need to be ready for that.

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