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Celtics look for 5th straight win as they visit the Chicago Bulls

The Boston Celtics look to go into the All Star break on a 5 game win streak as they take on Rajon Rondo and the Chicago Bulls.

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics (37-19) at Chicago Bulls (27-29)
Thursday, February 16, 1917
8:00 PM ET
Game #57, Road Game #29
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, WLS AM 890
United Center
Referees: Zach Zarba, JT Orr, James Williams

The Celtics travel to Chicago to take on the Bulls for the 3rd of 4 meetings this season. The Celtics won the series last season 2-1. The series is 1-1 after the first two meetings. The Celtics lost in Chicago 105-99 in the Bulls home opener and then won in Boston 107-100 two nights later. They will meet once more on March 12.

The Celtics are playing in the second of back to back games and then will be off until after the All Star game. Like last season, the Celtics seem to play very well in back to back games. They are 9-3 on the second night of back to back games this season and 4-2 when the games are home/road.

Rajon Rondo started in the first two games against the Celtics but he has hit a rough patch with his new team and has been coming off the bench for them, but is still playing well as a reserve. We all have memories of National TV Rondo, who could make an appearance in this game, since it is on TNT. The Celtics are 17-11 on the road while the Bulls are 16-11 at home.

Avery Bradley (Achilles) and Jaylen Brown (hip) will miss this game. Both are expected back after the All Star break. Gerald Green left Wednesday's game with a heel injury and is a game time decision for this game. Paul Zipzer (ankle) is out for the Bulls. Wade missed the past 3 games with a wrist injury and was able to get through at least part of Wednesday's practice. However, according to coach Hoiberg, Wade woke up with an illness that kept him out of this morning's shootaround and so he is expected to miss this game. Nikola Mirotic will return after missing two games with a back injury.

There is always a bit of worry when the Celtics face a team without one of their best players so hopefully they forget that Wade isn't playing and stay focused on getting the win. The Bulls are 4-4 this season without Wade but he has played very well against the Celtics and so he will be missed in this game. The last time the two teams played each other in Chicago's home opener, Wade scored 22 points, including a dagger 3-pointer in the closing seconds to help the Bulls secure a 105-99 win over the Celtics. Michael Carter-Williams will get the start in his place.

Probable Starting Matchups
Point Guard
Isaiah Thomas vs Jerian Grant

Shooting Guard

Marcus Smart vs Michael Carter-Williams

Small Forward
Jae Crowder vs Jimmy Butler

Power Forward
Al Horford vs Taj Gibson

Amir Johnson vs Robin Lopez

Demetrius Jackson
Jonas Jerebko
Jordan Mickey
Terry Rozier
James Young
Tyler Zeller
Kelly Olynyk

Avery Bradley (Achilles) out
Jaylen Brown (hip) out
Gerald Green (heel) game time decision

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Rajon Rondo
Isaiah Canaan
Michael Carter-Williams
Christiano Felicio
Doug McDermott
Bobby Portis
Denzel Valentine
Nikola Mirotic

Dwyane Wade (wrist) out
Paul Zipser (ankle) out

Head Coach

Fred Hoiberg

Key Matchups
Jae Crowder vs Jimmy Butler
The Bulls resident star is Jimmy Butler. There have been a lot of trade rumors swirling around him over the summer and again leading up to the trade deadline with many of them involving the Celtics. He even spent soom time working out with Celtics rookie Jaylen Brown over the summer. But for now, Butler is the enemy and it will be up to Jae to keep him from having a big game. Butler is averaging 24.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.9 assists, and 1.9 steals per game. He averaged 23.5 points in the first two games vs the Celtics this season.

Al Horford vs Taj Gibson
Taj Gibson is playing well for the Bulls, averaging 11.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. The Celtics especially need to keep him off the boards and away from the basket.

Honorable Mention
Terry Rozier vs Rajon Rondo
Even if Rondo comes off the bench, he will definitely want to get a win against his former team. He always seemed to play his best when on national TV and so Rozier, or whoever is matched up against him will need to keep him from having a big 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, for much of the season they have not played very good defense. Each player needs to make defense a priority and be sure to have each others' backs on team defense. The Bulls are 7th in the league, allowing just 102.8 points per game. The Bulls will be playing tough defense and so the Celtics must match their defensive intensity.

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. The Bulls are 2nd in rebounding with 46.4 per game and first with 12.8 offensive rebounds per game. The Celtics have to give that extra effort to go after rebounds.

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. They have to play like they want it more for 48 minutes.

Take Care of the Ball
- The Celtics turned the ball over 22 times against the Sixers and they have to take better care of the ball in this one. They have to focus on their passes and ball handling to keep the Bulls from getting fast break points off of Celtics turnovers.

Be Smart on Offense
- The Celtics need to move the ball to find the open man for easier shots. They have to take open shots when they get them and not be too unselfish. The Bulls are 6th in the league in defending the 3point line and allow just 8.9 per game and so if their 3's aren't falling, they need to take the ball inside.

Back to Back
The Celtics are playing in back to back games after a West coast road trip. They have been very good on the second night of back to back games and hopefully they can continue that in this game. Hopefully fatigue won't be a factor down the stretch.

Bench Play
The Celtics will need strong play from their bench. They are playing in back to back games and to keep fatigue from becoming a problem down the stretch, the Celtics will need their reserves to come in and give them good minutes. Also, the Bulls' reserves are playing very well and added 54 points, including 20 from Doug McDermott, 12 from Rajon Rondo and 10 from Cristiano Felicio in their recent win over the Raptors. The Bulls' bench outscored Toronto's by 20 points. Even with Avery, Jaylen and possibly Gerald Green, the Celtics reserves have to come up big for them to win this game.

National TV Rondo
When Rondo played for the Celtics he always seemed to have another gear that he went to when the game was on national TV. He has not been starting for the Bulls but still may have that extra level he can take it to, especially against his former team.

Officiating will always be an x-factor. Some crews call every little bit of contact that takes the flow out of the game. Some crews let them play. Some refs have an agenda against a team, a coach or a player. All of these things can alter the way a game is played and the ability of a team to play well.

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