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Celtics hoping to avoid 3rd straight loss as they host the Chicago Bulls

The Celtics host the Bulls for the second of four games this season.

NBA: Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

This is the second of 4 games between these two teams this season. The Celtics lost 108-85 to the Bulls in a game they played without Kyrie Irving on 12/11. They will meet again in Boston on April 6 and once more in Chicago on March 5. Last season The Celtics and Bulls split the season series 2-2 with each team winning on their home court.

The Bulls are the youngest team in the league with an average age of 24.5 years old. All of their players are under 30 years old and 10 of their 17 players are under 24, which is the most players under 24 on any team in the league. Since getting Nikola Mirotic back from injury, the Bulls went on a 7 game win streak that was broken on Thursday when they lost 115-112 to the Cavs. They are no longer the terrible team they were to start the season.

The Celtics have lost 2 straight for the first time this season after losing to both the Heat and the Knicks. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games and 13-4 at home. The Bulls had won 7 straight games before their loss to the Cavs and are 3-13 on the road. Chicago defeated Charlotte, New York, Boston, Utah, Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Orlando during its streak. The Celtics have won 4 straight against the Bulls in Boston.

Zach Lavine (ACL) and Cameron Payne (foot) are both out for the Bulls. Gordon Hayward (ankle) is out indefinitely for the Celtics. Marcus Morris is out for the Celtics with continued soreness in his knee. He is targeting Christmas for a return. Jaylen Brown missed Thursday's game with Achilles soreness and is listed as probable. Shane Larkin is listed as questionable with knee soreness. He was scheduled for an MRI on Friday.

Nikola Mirotic started for the Bulls in their last meeting but is expected to come off the bench in this one. Their starting lineup listed here is the one given in their game notes. If Jaylen Brown can't go for the Celtics, expect Marcus Smart to once again start at shooting guard in his place.

The Celtics recent slide has brought the Celtics to just 1 game ahead of the Cavaliers, who have been playing very well. The Raptors have been winning also and are just 1.5 games back of the Celtics. Philly is playing at the Raptors, while the Cavaliers are off.

Celtics Reserves
Abdel Nader
Semi Ojeleye
Guerschon Yabusele
Terry Rozier
Marcus Smart
Daniel Theis

Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Marcus Morris (knee)out
Shane Larkin (knee) questionable
Jaylen Brown (Achilles) probable

Two Way Players
Kadeem Allen
Jabari Bird

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Bulls Starters

Bulls Reserves
Kay Felder
Christiano Felicio
Jerian Grant
Nikola Mirotic
David Nwaba
Cameron Payne
Quincy Pondexter
Bobby Portis
Paul Zipser

Zach Lavine (ACL) out
Cameron Payne (foot) out

Two Way Players
Ryan Arcidiacono
Antonio Blakeney

Head Coach
Fred Hoiberg

Key Matchups

Al Horford vs Lauri Markkanen
Al will be matched up with Bulls Rookie Lauri Markkanen, who has been playing very well. Markkanen is averaging 14.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.4 assists. Markkanen scored a team-high 25 points against Cleveland on Thursday. That was his 5th 20+ point game this season.

Kyrie Irving vs Kris Dunn
The Celtics faced the Bulls the first time without Kyrie in the lineup. Dunn is averaging 13.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 2.0 steals. Kyrie has scored 30+ points in his last 3 games and should be ready to help his team get some revenge for that blow out loss without him.

Honorable Mention
Celtics Bench vs Bulls Bench
The Celtics reserves have been struggling of late. This is especially true when the Celtics have injuries to the starters. The Bulls have Nikola Mirotic coming off their bench and in their last meeting, Mirotic finished with 24 points on 9-14 shooting along with 8 rebounds. Bobby Portis also torched the Celtics with 23 points on 10-15 shooting with 4 rebounds and 1 assist. The Celtics must get more out of their bench if they want to get back to winning.

Keys to the Game
Rebound - The Celtics must box out and crash the boards. They can't score without the ball and it will take extra effort on their part to grab the rebounds. The Celtics have been slipping on the boards recently and that has shown in more losses recently. The Celtics are grabbing 43.8 rebounds per game while the Bulls are averaging 44.5 rebounds per game.

Be Aggressive - I already mentioned that the Celtics must be aggressive on the boards, but they also must be aggressive on defense, in going after loose balls, and just all around going all out. They have to aggressively attack the basket. They need to start the game with that aggressive attitude and be aggressive through the whole game with no let up. The Celtics have been allowing other teams to outwork them in recent games and they can't let the Bulls outwork them in this or they may end up with yet another loss.

Play Defense - Defense wins games. The Celtics are now tied with the Warriors with a defensive rating of 101.0. They have been letting their defense slip in recent games, which may be the result of too many games with not enough rest or practice in order to right the ship. They have to get back to making tough in your face defense their priority.

Move the Ball Carefully - The Celtics need to move the ball and find the open man. When they move the ball, good things usually happen. When the ball stops and players try to do too much, the offense bogs down and the Celtics have trouble scoring. They need to play the team ball that has gotten them the best record in the league. Again, they have let this slip in recent games with too much dribbling and not enough passing.

Play Hard 48 Minutes - The Celtics have gotten into the habit of only playing hard for part of the game. Either they get out to a fast start and then let up and allow the opponent to come back or they dig themselves into a hole and have to work extra hard to try to catch up. They have to play hard for the entire game and not allow their opponents to gain any confidence. Play hard from the opening tip to the final buzzer with no let ups.

Fatigue - The Celtics have played 8 games in 12 days including 3 back to back sets. Their shot have been short and they haven't played with the kind of energy that they did during their win streak. They have to dig deep and find that energy once more, especially on the defensive end.

Revenge - The Celtics have played two teams in a row that they owed a bit of revenge too for earlier losses. Once again they are facing the Bulls who gave the Celtics a beat down in their first meeting. At that time, the Bulls had won just 5 games. Hopefully the Celtics will take them seriously because they have been on a win streak since that game and the Celtics need to be ready for them. They won 7 straight and only lost to the Cavs by 3 so the Celtics definitely need to take them seriously.

Home Game - The Celtics are back home and should get motivation from the home crowd. The Bulls are just 3-13 on the road and are a young team. Young teams often can get rattled on the road and hopefully the Garden crowd will be loud and give the home team a boost and rattle the young Bulls at the same time.