The Celtics continue their three game road trip with a stop in Chicago to take on the Bulls. Much has changed for both teams since they met in last year’s playoffs. Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo, and Dwyane Wade are no longer starting for the Bulls and the Celtics have done a complete makeover with 11 new players on the team. In fact, the Bulls have made several changes since they last met in December.
Last season The Celtics and Bulls split the season series 2-2 with each team winning on their home court. The Celtics won a hotly contested first round playoff series last season 4-2. This is the third of 4 games between these two teams this season. They will meet one more time in Boston on April 6.
The series is tied at 1-1 so far this season with each team winning on their home court. The Celtics beat the Bulls 117-92 in Boston on December 23 and the Bulls won in Chicago 108-85 on December 11. The Bulls are 13-3 vs the Celtics at the United Center since the 2008-09 season.
Chicago snapped a 5 game losing streak on Friday by beating the Dallas Mavericks. They have won just 3 out of their last 16 games. The Celtics snapped a 4 game win streak with a loss on Saturday to the Houston Rockets.
The Celtics remain in second place in the East now 2.0 games behind the Toronto Raptors. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games. The Bulls are 12th in the East 11.5 games out of the playoffs but just 2 games behind Atlanta in the race to the bottom for the top lottery pick.
Although he was cleared to play on Saturday, Daniel Theis received a DNP. He is listed as probable for this game. Guerschon Yabusele has been with the Red Claws and unless he is recalled at the last moment, he should remain with the Red Claws. Gordon Hayward remains out as he rehabs his ankle. Kyrie Irving is also being listed as out for this game with knee sorness that began in the Rockets game.
According to Brad Stevens, he may possibly miss the Timberwolves game as well. Kyrie also missed the last game in Chicago that the Bulls won by 23. There is no indication as yet as to who will start. Terry Rozier started 3 games earlier when Kyire was out but Marcus Smart wasn’t available for those games. It was Smart who started previous games when Kyrie was out and so I’ve inserted him into the starting lineup. Shane Larkin should be in line for increased minutes with Kyrie out and either Rozier or Smart moving into the starting lineup.
For the Bulls, Paul Zipser is doubtful with a foot injury. Robin Lopez has not been with the team for what are listed as personal reasons. However, the team pulled him from the lineup to play the younger players. Lopez said he was disappointed by being pulled from the lineup but he also understands. It’s obvious that the Bulls are tanking. The Celtics have no excuses to lose this one.
Probable Celtics Starters
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Guerschon Yabusele (G-League) day to day
Kyrie Irving (knee) out
Daniel Theis (hamstring) probable
Two Way Players
Probable Bulls Starters
Paul Zipser (foot) doubtful
Robin Lopez (personal) out
Two Way Players
Jaylen Brown vs Zach LaVine
LaVine missed the first two games between these two teams as he rehabbed from a torn ACL. He is averaging 17.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game. He is also shooting 38.5% from beyond the arc.
Al Horford vs Lauri Markkanen
Markkanen is averaging 14.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.2 assists. He is shooting 34.9% from beyond the arc.
Aron Baynes vs Bobby Portis
Portis has had 2 good games off the bench against the Celtics this season. After serving an 8 game suspension for punching Nicolas Mirotic, Portis has come off the bench. Now, with Mirotic gone and the Bulls looking to evaluate the young players on the team, Portis will get a start vs the Celtics. He scored 23 points in their win in Chicago and 17 points in their loss in Boston. He is averaging 13.2 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. He is shooting 35% from beyond the arc.
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 are grabbing 44.2 rebounds per game while the Bulls are averaging 44.9 rebounds per game. The Celtics were out-rebounded by the Rockets 40-38 and they will need to bounce back with a stronger effort on the boards in this one.
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. They can’t let the Bulls outwork them, or they may end up with a loss.
Play Defense - Defense wins games. The Celtics are tops in the league with a defensive rating of 101.4. The Bulls have a defensive rating of 108.4. The Celtics need to continue to make defense a priority and they need a strong defensive effort from every player.
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 helped them win 44 games so far this season.
On the Road - The Celtics are playing in the second of a 3 game road trip. They need to block out the distractions of playing on the road and in front of a hostile crowd and concentrate on playing Celtics basketball. The veteran players have to help the young guys focus since younger players often struggle more on the road.
Let Down - The Celtics are coming off a very tough loss to the Rockets. They played very tough for 48 minutes and just came up short to the team with the best record in the league. Now, they face one of the worst teams in the league and need to approach it with the same intensity as they did the Rockets game. The Bulls beat them once this season already and if they underestimate them and come in with less than 100% effort, they might beat them again.
No Kyrie - When the Celtics faced the Bulls on December 11, Kyrie was out and the Bulls blew out the Celtics by 23 points. When these two teams played again on December 23rd, this time with Kyrie, the Celtics won by 25. Hopefully they have figured out how to win without Kyrie at the helm for this one.