The Celtics return home to TD Garden after a 111-99 loss in Philadelphia to face the first place Chicago Bulls. This is the second of 3 games between these two teams this season. The Bulls won the first meeting 128-114 in Boston on November 1. They will face each other one more time in Chicago on April 6. Chicago won the series last season for the first time since 2014-15. The Celtics lead the series 127-107 all time and 71-39 when playing in Boston.
Both teams are playing on the second night of back to back games. The Bulls lost to the Golden State Warriors 138-96 at home on Friday night and had to travel to Boston afterwards. The Celtics played the 76ers in Philadelphia on Friday night and also had to travel afterwards. Both teams are 5-3 on the second night of back to back games. This is the first road/home set for the Celtics and the Bulls are 1-0 when the games are home/road.
The Celtics have slipped to 11th place in the East. They are 13-8 at home and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 15-12 against other Eastern Conference teams. They won 3 straight games before losing to Philly on Friday. The Bulls are first in the East. They are 12-7 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 18-8 against other Eastern Conference teams.
Marcus Smart was put into health and safety protocols on Wednesday and is questionable for this game. Other than Smart, the Celtics are at full strength. For the Bulls, Patrick Williams is out with a wrist injury. Former Celtic Javonte Green is out with a groin injury. Derrick Jones, Jr is out with a knee injury and Alex Caruso is out due to health and safety protocols.
Zach LaVine left the game against the Warriors with a knee injury after just 3:32 in the first quarter and did not return. The Bulls didn’t feel that it was a major injury and described it as discomfort but will err on the side of caution and he will have an MRI on Saturday. It should be noted that this is the same knee that LaVine tore his ACL in 2017. As of now, LaVine is not planning to travel with the team and is expected to miss this game.
Lonzo Ball is a late scratch for this game. After Friday’s game against the Warriors, he had some soreness in his knee and was listed as questionable but later downgraded to out for this game. I’ll guess that Coby White will start in place of Lonzo and that Ayo Dosunmu and Troy Brown, Jr will start in place of Derrick Jones and Zach LaVine.
Probable Celtics Starters
Marcus Smart (covid) out
Probable Bulls Starters
Derrick Jones, Jr (knee) out
Alex Caruso (covid) out
Javonte Green (groin) out
Patrick Williams (wrist) out
Tyler Cook (ankle) out
Zach LaVine (knee) out
Lonzo Ball (knee) out
Two Way Players
Al Horford vs DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan is leading the Bulls with 26.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. He is shooting 49.2% from the field and 35.2% from beyond the arc and he has hit several game winners for the Bulls in recent games. Horford will need to play tough defense to keep DeRozan from having a big game in this one.
Robert Williams III vs Nikola Vucevic
Vucevic is averaging 15.9 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.1 blocks per game. He is shooting 49.2% from the field and 33.5% from beyond the arc. Timelord has been playing very well for the Celtics and they will certainly need him to continue that high level of play in this game to keep Vucevic from having a big game.
Dennis Schroder vs Coby White
White is averaging 12.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game. He is shooting 46.6% from the field and 37.5% from beyond the arc. White came off the bench to score 20 on Friday as he filled in for the injured Zach LaVine. Dennis Schroder is coming off of one of his worst games as a Celtics where he finished with 1 point, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 turnovers while his counterpart on the Sixers finished with 23 points while shooting 71% on 3 pointers. The Celtics need more from Schroder in this game.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics have been playing good defense during their 3 game win streak. They are 5th in the league with a defensive rating of 106.9 while the Bulls are 11th with a defensive rating of 108.5. The Celtics are 19th in the league, averaging 107.8 points per game while the Bulls are 8th in the league averaging 111.5 points per game. The Celtics will need to keep playing hard on the defensive end to get a win over the Bulls who are strong offensively.
Rebound - Much of rebounding is effort and every player must put out extra effort and hustle to crash the boards and grab rebounds. The Celtics average 45.7 rebounds per game while the Bulls average 43.1 rebounds per game. The Celtics must rebound as a team and limit the rebounds for the Bulls, who will turn those rebounds in to extra points.
Take Care of the Ball - The Celtics have to move the ball and make the extra pass to find the open man but they have to make careful passes and not turn the ball over. The Celtics are averaging 14.1 turnovers per game while the Bulls average 13.3 turnovers per game. The Celtics turned the ball over 20 times against the 76ers and they must tighten that up against the Bulls who are 6th in the league with 18.5 points off turnovers per game and will make the Celtics pay if they get careless with the ball.
Effort and Focus - The Celtics have played hard and looked focused in some games and in others, including their loss to the 76ers, they have looked flat with not enough effort or focus. They need to especially put out effort on the defensive end and to beat the Bulls to rebounds. They also have to focus on their shooting and take good shots and make them. If the jumpers aren’t falling, they need to go to the basket. With a bit more focus, they should be hitting those shots they missed against the 76ers.
Back to Back - Both teams are playing on the second night of back to back games. The Celtics have the advantage of playing at home but both teams had to travel after Friday night’s game. The Celtics should get a boost from being at home but they still need to play hard and stay focused if they hope to win this game.
Officiating - The officiating can be an x-factor in every game. Some crews call the games tight while others let them play. Some crews favor the home team while others not so much. Some crews are quick to call technicals while other crews will give players more leeway. Regardless of how the game is called, the Celtics must adjust to it and not allow no calls or bad calls to take away from their focus on the game.