The Boston Celtics will welcome the Chicago Bulls and their NBA-best 5-1 record to town on Monday night. Despite major roster turnover since last season’s trade deadline, Chicago has raced out to their best start since Michael Jordan was leading the team to the NBA Finals.
Meanwhile, the Celtics come in 2-4, but have lost twice in overtime and a third time the game came down to the final minute Multiple Boston players and head coach Ime Udoka have said “We’re close”, and that seems to hold true.
Here’s what we’re watching for as the Celtics look to upset the Bulls:
1. Effort: Yup, we’re going back here again. Hopefully this time, it’s sustained. On Saturday afternoon in Washington, Boston came out playing hard and kept up the intensity for 58 minutes through a double-overtime game. Now, we want to see the Celtics do it in two straight games.
The Bulls don’t have great depth. If the Celtics can go hard all game long, they could wear down Chicago.
2. Attacking the Bulls inside: Can Boston get some stuff going at the rim? For a change, the Celtics will have the bigger team. That’s a rarity, but without Patrick Williams, the Bulls are pretty small. In addition, Nikola Vucevic isn’t exactly a renowned rim protector.
This is a game where the guys in green should be able to get downhill. Look for an emphasis on driving and cutting, and lots of shots at the basket for Boston. Also, if Boston can get Vucevic into foul trouble, Chicago is very limited behind him.
3. Everyone’s healthy: No one was on the one-day-out injury report for the Celtics. Bruno Fernando was recalled from Maine, leaving just the Two-Way players (Sam Hauser and Brodric Thomas) as definite inactive players. What does this do for Ime Udoka and the rotation?
Thus far, Udoka has preferred to run a nine-man rotation. With the Bulls going small, this could be a chance for the Celtics to run a lot of one-big lineups. That will likely depend on Boston’s ability to control the glass as a group. Chicago hasn’t gone to the offensive boards very much in their first six games. If the Celtics can go small and still rebound, they’ll be able to match a very good Bulls offense.
Bonus: Keep an eye on pace. Chicago likes to play it slow. They’re deliberate and methodical about finding good shots. Boston has been middle-of-the-pack in pace, but Ime Udoka is emphasizing that the team gets out and runs. The Bulls have a good halfcourt defense, but the Celtics can steal some easy offense if they run.
Look for Boston to rip-and-run off rebounds. That will get Boston up the floor before Vucevic can get back. Al Horford excels in this area, but it’s something Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can do quite a bit as well.