C's and Bulls Face Off in Game with Playoff Implications

Boston Celtics (54-23) at Chicago Bulls (57-20) 
Thursday, 4/7
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #78. Road Game #39
Radio:  WEEI, WMVP
United Center
Referees:  Ron Garretson,  Mark Ayotte,  David Guthrie
This is the 4th and final meeting between these two teams and it is an important one.  The Bulls are 3 games ahead of the Celtics in the seedings and the Celtics are back to 1/2 game ahead of the Heat for the 2nd seed.  A Celtics win would move them to within 2 games of the top seed and a loss would drop them to 4 games back and pretty much eliminate them from any hopes of the top seed.  It would also drop them back into the 3rd spot, half game behind Miami once again.

The Celtics lead the series 2-1 and in case of a tie, a lead in the series would give the Celtics the tie breaker.  The Bulls won their last meeting, although both Noah and KG missed that meeting.  The Celtics don't want to go into the playoffs having lost 2 in a row to a team that they will more than likely need to go through to win the East.
Much has changed for the Celtics since that loss in January.  They had both O'Neals for that game but JO was injured and very limited.  KG didn't play and Big Baby started at PF along with Shaq at center.  The bench now has Jeff Green, Delonte, and Krstic off the bench in place of Quisy, Nate and Semih.   The Celtics were also playing in the second of back to back games in that one.   Even though they don't have Shaq the Celtics are a much better team going into this one than they were in that loss.  On the Bulls side, they were without Joakim Noah and the only change in their bench is that they have added Rasual Butler. 

The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games and have won 2 in a row.  The Bulls are 8-2 in their last 10 and have won their last 4.  The Celtics are 23-15 on the road while the Bulls are 34-5 at home.  This will be a huge game for both teams.  Both teams are talented and both teams are well coached.  The team that executes best on both ends of the court will get the win.  While neither team will call this a statement game, a win will send a statement nonetheless.   

Jermaine was quoted as saying that this isn't about the seeding.  It's about the message.  What message will the Celtics send?  If they play like they did against the Sixers and play as a team with as strong focus,  the message will be that they can beat the Bulls, home court or no home court.  

Probable Starters

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

C: Jermaine O'Neal

SF:  Paul Pierce ................................. ............PF Kevin Garnett

Coach: Doc Rivers

Celtics Reserves
Glen Davis
Jeff Green
Delonte West
Nenad Krstic
Von Wafer
Sasha Pavlovic
Troy Murphy
Carlos Arroyo
Avery Bradley

Shaquille O'Neal (calf)  out

Probable Starters

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

C:Joakim Noah

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

Coach:  Tom Thibodeau 

Bulls Bench
Omar Asik
Kurt Thomas
C.J. Watson
Kyle Korver
Ronnie Brewer
Brian Scalabrine
Taj Gibson 
Rasual Butler
John Lucas
Jannero Pargo

Keith Bogans (knee) probable

Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs Derrick Rose
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.  We have seen so many times that as Rondo goes, so go the Celtics and the Celtics will need an aggressive Rondo in this game more then ever.  In the last game, Rose had 36 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists while Rondo had 13 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists.  Rondo has to be aggressive and set the pace right from the beginning. 

Kevin Garnett vs Carlos Boozer
Both of these players have been playing well.  KG has a height advantage over Boozer and hopefully can get the best of this matchup.  In the last game Boozer put 22 points and 10 rebounds against Big Baby.  KG isn't a big fan of Boozer or of Noah and should be up for this game. 

Honorable Mention
Jermaine O'Neal vs Joakim Noah
Noah will be a challenge for JO and hopefully he is up to the task.  Noah is aggressive and plays with a lot of energy and the Celtics will need to try to limit him, especially on the boards for easy putback.  Noah hates the Celtics and said that he circled these games as soon as the schedule came out and so he'll definitely come to play.  The Celtics must do the same. 

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 play well in all areas 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 need to crash the boards to prevent second chance points and fast breaks for the Bulls.  The Bulls are out-rebounding opponents by a league best 5.56 rebounds per game and the Celtics must put out extra effort to win the rebounding battle. 

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. 

Team Play - When the Celtics play as a team they are hard to beat. They must move the ball and find the open man.  They can't afford any lapses into hero ball in this game.  They also must play Celtics team defense and be sure to cover each other's backs. 

Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the aggressors.  They have to be aggressive in beating the Bulls to loose balls and to rebounds and in going to the hoop.   The more aggressive team also tends to get more calls from the refs and the Bulls have had a big advantage in that area in their last two meetings.

Official Report
Ron Garretson
In his 23 NBA seasons, since 1987, Garretson officiated over 1,600 games, including 1,397 regular season NBA games, 157 playoff games and 11 Finals games. He also officiated the 1993 Europe Tour in London and the 1997 NBA All-Star Game. He is the son of former NBA referee Darell Garretson. Before joining the NBA as a referee, he spent two years officiating high school games in Arizona and two more in the Continental Basketball Association. One of the losses this season was the loss in Chicago where the Bulls shot 35 free throws to 22 for the Celtics. At one point just after the half, Derrick Rose alone had almost doubled the Celtics free throws as a team. That performance elicited these comments from Bulls fans:
Book these refs for the playoffs please

Who hired these refs? Lets give them promotion after the game
Wow have never seen Rose draw so many fouls and get so many FTs.

Ron Garretson, Tommy Nunez, Sean Wright
Best refs of all time.

Best refs EVAR!!!
Another loss was the Clippers game where the officiating was terrible both ways but the Clippers took 41 free throws to just 21 for the Celtics. The Celtics are 6-4 over their last 10 games and 1-3 this season with Garretson. The Bulls are 3-0 this season and 6-4 over their last 10 games with Garretson. Garretson is not affected by home crowds and is one of the few refs with more wins for the road team with a home W/L record this season is 28-37.

Mark Ayotte
This is Ayotte's 7th year as an NBA referee. He has 12 years of college officiating experience and 10 years of high school officiating experience before making it to the NBA. The Celtics are 2-3 this season and 5-5 over their last 10 games. In the 5 games officiated by Ayotte, the Celtics shot 89 free throws to 123 free throws for their opponents. The Celtics had a free throw advantage in just one game vs Minnesota. The Bulls are 1-0 this season and 5-5 over their last 10 with Ayotte. Ayotte tends to be influenced by the home crowd and has a home W/L record this season is 44-15.

David Guthrie
Guthrie began his career as a referee in the NBA in the 2005-2006 season. He has been a college, CBA and NBDL referee and he has also officiated the 2003 and 2004 NCAA Men’s Division I tournament. The Celtics are 4-0 this season with Guthrie calling the game including that OT Bulls game. In that game, the Celtics took 25 free throws to 18 for the Bulls. The Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 with Guthrie as a ref. The Bulls are 5-1 this season and 7-3 in their last 10 with Guthrie calling the game. His home W/L record is 34-23.

Officials and the Road
The Celtics are playing in the Bulls house and there should be a playoff like atmosphere there.  The Celtics will need to bring their playoff level focus and effort if they want to win this game and send a message that will carry into the playoffs.   In the Bulls first win in Chicago, Derrick Rose shot 19 free throws himself and the team shot 35 free throws to just 22 for the Celtics.  Over the 3 games, the Bulls have shot 87 free throws to just 69 for the Celtics.  If the Celtics are the more aggressive team, it will help with evening out those numbers.