Celtics Take on Bulls in the Windy City

Boston Celtics (28-7) at Chicago Bulls (23-12)
Saturday, January 8
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #36. Road Game #18
Radio:  WEEI, WMVP
United Center
Referees:  Ron Garretson,  Tommy Nunez, Jr,  Sean Wright 
This is the 3rd meeting between these two teams with Boston winning the first two.   Both teams are playing in back to back games and both teams had to travel overnight as Chicago played in Philly on Friday.  So, the fatigue factor should be even.

Both teams are 7-3 in their last 10 games.  The Bulls have been tough at home with a 15-3 record while the Celtics are 12-5 on the road.    Both teams will be without a key big man with KG still out for the Celtics and Noah out for the Bulls.  In their first meeting, the Bulls were missing Boozer and in their second one,  Boozer was just back from his injury.   A healthy Boozer could be big for the Bulls and the Celtics will need Big Baby to step up in this one.    Both teams have been winning in spite of injuries to key players this season.

The Celtics have won 4 in a row while the Bulls have lost their last 2.  The Celtics are coming off a blowout win against the Raptors.  Doc was able to keep the starters minutes fairly low with Big Baby playing the most (33 minutes) and Pierce (29), Ray (29), Rondo (26) and Shaq (20) all stayed under 30 minutes.  In the Bulls' loss to the Sixers,  Deng, Rose, and Boozer all played 35+ minutes.

After a tough win over the Spurs and a blowout win over the Raptors, the Celtics might be tempted to take this game for granted, but the Bulls, even without Noah in the middle, are a very good team and the Celtics have to come out strong and play them tough.  

Probable Starters

PG: Rajon Rondo..................................................SG Ray Allen

C:  Shaquille O'Neal

SF:  Paul Pierce ................................. ............PF Glen Davis

Coach: Doc Rivers

Boston Bench Mob
Marquis Daniels
Luke Harangody
Nate Robinson
Von Wafer
Semih Erden
Avery Bradley

Kendrick Perkins (knee) out
Delonte West (wrist) out
Kevin Garnett (calf)  out
Jermaine O'Neal (knee) questionable

Probable Starters

PG:  Derrick Rose............................................. SG:  Keith Bogans

C: Kurt Thomas  

SF:  Luol Deng .................................................. PF:  Carlos Boozer

Coach:  Tom Thibodeau

Bulls Bench
Omar Asik
James Johnson
C.J. Watson
Kyle Korver
Ronnie Brewer
Brian Scalabrine
Taj Gibson

Joakim Noah (thumb)  out  

Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo  10.7 PPG,  14.0 APG,  2.4 SPG
Derrick Rose   23.8 PPG, 8.3 APG, 1.1 SPG
This is one of the premier point guard matchups in the league.  There is a lot of discussion about whether Rondo or Rose is the better PG and in a head to head matchup, expect both players to do their best to make their case.  These two PG's are also locked in a very close race to start the All Star Game.  

Big Baby Davis  12.6 PPG   5.6 RPG   0.4 BPG
Carlos Boozer    19.7 PPG  9.9 RPG   0.4 BPG
Boozer has been playing well for the Bulls, although he was benched for the 4th quarter in the game vs the Nets on Wednesday due to matchup issues.  Big Baby will need to be tough on defense to prevent a big game by Boozer, especially on putbacks.

Honorable Mention
Doc Rivers (14-4) vs Tom Thibodeau (9-7)
After working with Doc for 3 seasons, Thibs is now coaching against him.  This coaching matchup will be an interesting one to watch.  After losing the first two meetings against the Celtics, you know that Thibs would love to get this one in the W column.

Keys to the Game
Rondo/Rose Matchup -  This is not only a key matchup, but one of the keys to the game.  Both point guards control the tempo of their team and both are key to their team's success.  The Celtics will need Rondo to play at a high level, which he usually does against the top PGs in the league.

- The Celtics have to rebound the ball.   When the Celtics win the battle of the boards, they usually win as that means that they are putting out the effort and energy needed to rebound and it transfers to every other part of their game.  They have been out rebounded in every game since KG went out.  Someone needs to step up and put in the extra effort to grab the rebounds.

Defense - The Celtics must come to play defensively against the Bulls.  You know that Thibs will have the Bulls playing defense and the Celtics have to match that defensive intensity.   When the Celtics kick up their defense,  it also feeds their offense.  Defense wins games is a lot more than just a saying.  It is a rule.  

Play in the Paint - The Celtics have been winning by outscoring opponents in the paint by large margins.  They have to continue to take the ball to the hoop and not just settle for outside shots, especially on the road, where sometimes  shots don't fall as easily as they do at home.

Focus and Effort
The Celtics must come into this game focused and keep their focus through the whole 48 minutes.   The Bulls are a tough team, even missing Noah.  If the Celtics lose focus or don't put out top effort in this game, they will come out with a loss.