The Celtics visit the Bulls for the first of 4 matchups this season. They will meet again in Chicago on March 15 and they will face off in Boston on January 13 and April 15. The Celtics won the series 2-1 last season. The Bulls won their last meeting last season with LaVine and Markkanen combining for 77 points and 21 rebounds.
The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games. Their game on Friday night against the Hawks went down to the wire with 4 of the starters playing 35+ minutes. The Celtics are 2-2 so far in the second game of a back to back. They are 1-0 in the second game when the back to back is Home/Road.
The Celtics remain in second place in the East while the Bulls are 10th. The Celtics are 10-6 on the road while the Bulls are 7-12 at home. The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 games and the Bulls are 5-5 in their last 10. The Celtics have won their last 2 games while the Bulls have lost their last 2 games.
Kemba Walker missed Friday’s game against Atlanta and did not travel with the team to Chicago. He will miss this game also. Tremont Waters was called up for Friday’s game but Carsen Edwards remained with the Red Claws for their game on Friday. He had 21 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in their win. He may be called back up for this game.
At this time it isn’t clear whether Edwards or Waters will be with the team for this game but with Kemba out again and it being the second game in as many days, I would expect at least one and possibly both of them to be on hand. Vincent Poirier (finger) and Robert Williams (hip) both remain out for this game.
Enes Kanter was hit in the chin and received stitches after the game on Friday. He was originally listed as a game time decision for this game, but he isn’t on the injury list posted today so I expect him to play. For the Bulls, Otto Porter, Jr (foot) is out. Zach LaVine (ankle), Wendell Carter, Jr (abdomen), and Ryan Arcidiacono (elbow) are all probable to play.
Probable Celtics Starters
Vincent Poirier (finger) out
Robert Williams III (hip) out
Carsen Edwards (on assignment with Red Claws) game time decision
Kemba Walker (flu like symptoms) out
Enes Kanter (chin) probable
Two Way Players
Probable Bulls Starters
Zach LaVine (ankle) probable
Wendell Carter, Jr (abdomen) probable
Ryan Arcidiacono (elbow) probable
Otto Porter, Jr (foot) out
Two Way Players
Max Strus (torn ACL) out for season
Jaylen Brown vs Zach LaVine
LaVine is averaging 23.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 42.7% from the field and 39.8% from beyond the arc. He is the Bulls leading scorer and can score inside and out. Jaylen must stay with him on the perimeter especially where he he is shooting almost 40%. The last time these two teams met, LaVine put up 42 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. The Celtics must slow him down if they want to get a win in this game.
Jayson Tatum vs Lauri Markkanen
Markkanen is averaging 15.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists. He is shooting 41.9% from the field and 34.8% from beyond the arc and so Tatum will have to stay with him from the paint out to the perimeter. In the last game between these two teams, Markkanen had 35 points and 15 rebounds. Tatum has to stay with him and try to limit his shots and rebounds in this game.
Daniel Theis vs Wendell Carter, Jr
Carter is averaging 11.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 1.2 assists per game. Depending on the decision on whether Enes Kanter can play or not, the Celtics may be very limited at their center position. They really need Kanter, who has been playing very well. If he can’t go, we may get to have a Tacko sighting.
Keys to the Game
Play Defense - Defense wins games. The Celtics are 3rd in the league with a defensive rating of 104.0. The Bulls are 5th in the league with a defensive rating of 104.8. The Celtics need to make defense a priority and they need a strong defensive effort from every player if they hope to win this game. The Bulls are going to play their best defense against the Celtics and the Celtics must match their effort on that end.
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 45.8 rebounds per game while the Bulls are averaging 43.9 rebounds per game. The Celtics have to work hard to beat the Bulls to the rebounds.
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 be careful with their passes and ball handling, however, since the Bulls lead the league in forcing turnovers at 18.4 per game and also in points off turnovers with 21.3 per game. If the Celtics get sloppy, the Bulls will make them pay.
Start Strong - The Celtics came out slow and played very sluggishly in the first quarter against the Hawks and it almost cost them the game. In their first 34 games, the Bulls are outscoring their opponents 908-862 in the first quarters. The Bulls are going to come out strong in the first quarter and the Celtics better match their effort or they may not be able to recover in this one.
Don’t Underestimate - The Celtics underestimated the 7 win Hawks and almost lost the game. They need to be sure not to underestimate the 13 win Bulls because they are very capable of playing up to the Celtics if the Celtics make the mistake of playing down to them. They have several players, including their rookie Coby White, who can put up a lot of points if not defended well. The Celtics have to take this team very seriously and play their best on both ends of the court.
On the Road - The Celtics are playing on the road once again. 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.
Fatigue - The Celtics are playing on the second night of back to back games. They had to play hard the entire game against the Hawks and the starters, other than Daniel Theis, all played 35 or more minutes. They also had to travel after the game, which can take a toll on a team as well. In their last back to back set, they came out totally flat against the Raptors. Hopefully that won’t happen in this one. The reserves need to come up big for the Celtics to allow the starters to have something left in the tank at the end.
Officiating - The officiating is always an x-factor. Sometimes a crew will call the game tight and blow a whistle on every play. Other times they will let them play and let the game get physical. The Celtics need to adjust to the way the game is called and not let missed calls or bad calls affect their focus.