The Celtics look for their 7th straight win as they host the Chicago Bulls. The Celtics and Bulls met in Chicago on January 25th. The Celtics won that game 119-103. Their game scheduled for January 12th was postponed due to too many players out due to health and safety protocols. That game has been rescheduled for May 7 in Chicago.
The Celtics and Bulls only faced each other twice last season due to the covid shortened season. The Celtics won both of those games. The Celtics have a 127-104 record all time against the Bulls. They are 71-37 all time when playing in Boston. The Bulls are playing in their 3rd game in 4 nights, having played The Grizzlies on Friday and the Cavaliers on Saturday, both games at home.
The Celtics were briefly in 4th place, but dropped back to 5th place when the Hawks won on Sunday. They are tied with the Hawks (4th) and half a game ahead of the Knicks (6th). They are 2 games ahead of 7th place Miami and 2.5 games ahead of 8th place Charlotte. The Celtics are 8-2 in their last 10 games and 18-10 at home. They have won 6 straight games.
The Bulls are in 10th place and would be in the play-in games if the season ended today. They are 3 games behind 9th place Indiana and 7 games behind 6th place New York. It is very unlikely that they would rise enough to avoid the play-in tournament but there is a danger of them dropping out of the play-in range. They are tied with the 11th place Wizards and half a game ahead of the 12th place Raptors. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games and 12-15 on the road.
The Celtics once again have some injury concerns. Evan Fournier is out of quarantine but will miss this game as he gets back into game shape. Robert Williams will miss his 3rd straight game due to knee soreness. Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker are both questionable with a non-covid illness. Jayson Tatum (ankle) and Jaylen Brown (illness) are both listed as available.
For the Bulls, their leading scorer, Zach LaVine, is out due to health and safety protocols. They will miss his 27.5 points per game. Garrett Temple should once again start in his place. I’m going to have some wishful thinking and include both Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker in the starting lineups for the Celtics. If both are out, then we should see a lot more of Payton Pritchard and Romeo Langford.
Probable Celtics Starters
PG: Kemba Walker
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jaylen Brown
PF: Jayson Tatum
C: Tristan Thompson
Evan Fournier (covid) out
Robert Williams III (knee) out
Marcus Smart (illness) questionable
Kemba Walker (illness) questionable
Jayson Tatum (ankle) available
Jaylen Brown (illness) available
Probable Bulls Starters
PG: Coby White
SG: Garrett Temple
SF: Patrick Williams
PF: Daniel Theis
C: Nikola Vucevic
Troy Brown, Jr
Zach LaVine (Covid) out
Tristan Thompson vs Nikola Vucevic
With Rob Williams out, Tristan Thompson should once again get the start at center. Vucevic is playing very well, averaging 24.1 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game. He is shooting 48.5% from the field and 41.7% from beyond the arc. He is a very good 3 point shooter and the Celtics need to defend him both in the paint and on the perimeter.
Jayson Tatum vs Daniel Theis
This is the first game against the Bulls since the Celtics traded Daniel Theis to them at the trade deadline. Theis is averaging 9.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. He is shooting 54.9% from the field and 32.5% from beyond the arc. The Celtics should be very familiar with his game since was a Celtic for 3.5 years. Players usually try extra hard against their former teams and I don’t expect anything less from Daniel Theis.
Kemba Walker vs Coby White
White is averaging 14.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game this season. He is shooting 40.8 points from the field and 33.6% from beyond the arc. Over his last two starts, he is averaging 17.5 points and 8 assists. Kemba may or may not start and his status is likely to be a game time decision. If Kemba doesn’t play, Marcus Smart should start at the point and be matched up with White. If both Marcus and Kemba are out, I can only guess that Payton Pritchard would get the start with either Tremont Waters or Carsen Edwards backing him up.
Keys to the Game Play
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics are 15th in the league with a defensive rating of 111.6 while the Bulls are 21st in the league with a defensive rating of 112.5. 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 averaging 112.2 points per game while the Celtics are averaging 112.7 points per game. The Celtics need to concentrate on getting stops and win this game with defense.
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 beat the Bulls on the boards. The Celtics are grabbing 44.2 rebounds per game while the Bulls are averaging 44.6 rebounds per game. The Celtics have to work hard to beat the Bulls to the rebounds and give themselves extra possessions.
No Let Down - The Celtics are coming off big wins over the Lakers and the Warriors . They have won 6 games in a row and can’t come into this game expecting to win without giving maximum effort. The Celtics can’t look at the Bulls record and let up on their effort and expect the Bulls to just let them win. The Celtics can’t take this team for granted and they must play hard from start to finish.
Move the Ball Carefully - The Celtics need to continue to move the fall and find the best possible shots. They can’t lapse back into hero ball as that rarely ends well. They also much take care of the ball because at times they get careless and turn the ball over too much and make things harder on themselves than they need to be. The Celtics average 14 turnovers per game while the Bulls average 14.9 points off turnovers. The Celtics have to move the ball but also be careful not to make careless passes.
Missing Players - The Bulls are missing their top scorer and so that will make things more difficult for them. In the worst case, the Celtics may be missing all 3 of their top scorers. It goes without saying that if Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, and Jayson Tatum are out, thing will be way more difficult for the Celtics. Hopefully they can all play, but if not, the rest of the team has to step up and play even harder to make up for their absences.
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.