The Celtics close out their 3 game road trip in Chicago as they take on the Bulls in the third of 4 games this season. The Bulls handed the Celtics their first loss this season, beating them 120-102 in Chicago on October 24. Boston’s 9 game win streak began at the expense of the Bulls when the Celtics beat them 123-119 on Nov. 4. They will meet for a 4th and final time in Boston on January 8
Both of these teams last played on Friday. The Celtics won their 9th straight game while the Nets lost their 4th game in a row. This is the second straight home game for the Nets and they will head out on a 6 game Western road trip beginning on Wednesday. This is the final game of a 3 game road trip for the Celtics and they will begin a 6 game home stand on Wednesday.
The Celtics are 1st in the East, 1.5 games ahead of the second place Milwaukee Bucks and 3 games ahead of the third place Atlanta Hawks. The Celtics are 7-2 on the road and 9-1 in their last 10 games. The Bulls are 12th in the East, half a game behind 11th place Miami and 1.5 games ahead of 13th place Orlando. They are 4-5 at home and 3-7 in their last 10 games.
Marcus Smart missed the last 2 games for the Celtics with an ankle injury but was off the injury list on Sunday and should start in this one. Robert Williams III (knee) remains out, although reports are that he is getting close to a return. Danilo Gallinari (knee) is out for the season. For the Bulls, Lonzo Ball remains out after knee surgery with no time table as yet for a return.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Robert Williams III (knee) out
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Bulls Starters
Derrick Jones, Jr
Lonzo Ball (knee) out
Jayson Tatum vs DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan is averaging 25.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.0 steal per game. He is shooting 52.4% from the field and 21.7% from beyond the arc. In the game on November 4, DeRozan scored 46 points. His 3 point percentage is n’t great but he can hit them if he left open. Needless to say, slowing him down needs to be a focus for the Celtics.
Jaylen Brown vs. Zach LaVine
LaVine is averaging 20.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.1 steals per game. In the last game between these two teams, he put up 16 points and 7 rebounds. In Friday’s game against the Magic, LaVine was just 1-14 and was upset to be benched for the final 3:43 of the game. He will want to try a point in this one and I expect him to look to have a big game. It will be up to Jaylen Brown and the Celtics to prevent that.
Al Horford vs. Nikola Vucevic
Vucevic is averaging 15.8 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 2.9 assists. He is shooting 46.3%% from the field and 38.2%% from beyond the arc. He is a threat to grab rebounds and also to block shots so Horford needs to stay with him in the paint and he can also hit from outside so he can’t be left open on the perimeter.
Keys to the Game
Defense – Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics have been slowly climbing once again in the defensive ratings. They are 14th in the league with a defensive rating of 111.4. The Bulls, however are 11th in the league with a defensive rating of 110.9. They need to get a strong defensive effort from every player on the court and they need to get back to making defense a priority throughout every 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 beat the Bulls on the boards. The Celtics are pulling down 42.8 rebounds per game, which is 22nd in the league. The Bulls are 21st with 42.9 rebounds per game. The Bulls set a season high with 60 rebounds in their first game against the Celtics. The Celtics have to put out more effort to get to the rebounds before the Bulls and give themselves extra possessions.
Take care of the ball – The Celtics still go through periods where they turn the ball over too much and either allow their opponent to build a lead or allow them to come back from a deficit. They need to focus on making good passes and on not dribbling into a crowd. It’s hard to win a game when you give the opponent 20+ extra possessions by turning the ball over. The Bulls are 3rd in the league with 20.7 points off turnovers a game and the Celtics have to focus on taking care of the basketball to limit those extra points for the Bulls.
Be Aggressive – The Celtics have to come out and be aggressive right from the opening tip. They have to be aggressive on defense, driving to the basketball, rebounding, diving for loose balls and just playing harder in general. They need to get off to a strong start and play hard right up until the final buzzer. They can’t let the Bulls outwork them for any period of time. At the same time, they have to defend without fouling as the Bulls are 8th, averaging 19.6 made free throws a game.
Road game and fatigue – The Celtics are playing in the final game of a 3 game road trip. They have had travel between the cities and have had to stay in hotels and play in front of hostile crowds. The Celtics need to focus on the game and not on the distractions of travel and playing in an unfamiliar arena in front of hostile fans. The Celtics’ depth could give them an advantage here.
Revenge and Pressure – The Bulls handed the Celtics their first loss of the season. They avenged that loss in their next meeting, but they certainly don’t want to lose a second game to the struggling Bulls. They may also be feeling a bit of pressure to continue the win streak. Hopefully they can go out and play the right way and just win and not allow the pressure to get into their heads.
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. If the calls are bad, they just need to play harder to make up for them and not waste time arguing with the officials, especially since the refs have been quicker to call techs for complaining.