Celtics begin road trip in Chicago

Boston Celtics (15-13) at Chicago Bulls (24-7)
Thursday, February 16
8:00 PM ET
Game #29,  Road Game #10
Radio:   WEEI,  WMVP
United Center
Referees:  Eddie F. Rush,  Eric Dalen,  Eric Lewis
After playing 20 of their first 29 games at home, the Celtics are about to venture out on the road for a 5 game road trip that starts in Chicago.  The Bulls, on the other hand, are in the midst of a 6 game home stand. 

The Celtics face the Bulls for the second time this week and this time it's in their house.   The Bulls are still stinging from the loss the Celtics handed them on Sunday and they will be looking for revenge in this one.   There will be no lack of effort on their part - I'm not sure what we'll get from the Celtics.  One night they try, the next they don't. 

The Bulls had Wednesday night off and the Celtics lost at home to a Detroit team that had just 2 wins on the road previously.  Although the Celtics lost, they didn't put out much effort in the game in doing so.   Hopefully that will stoke their competitive fires to come out strong in this game.

KG missed the game vs the Pistons and hopefully he will return for this one and be rested and healthy.  The Celtics certainly need him against the Bulls strong front line.    Paul Pierce,  Ray Allen and Jermaine O'Neal all played poorly against the Pistons and need to have a bounce back game in this one.

Winning at the United Center is a tall order as the Bulls have lost just once there all season so far.  They are 10-1 at home while the Celtics are just 4-5 on the road.  The Bulls are 7-3 in their last 10 games while the Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10.  The Celtics will have to play a lot better than they did against the Pistons if they want to get a win in this one. 

Probable Starters

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

C:  Jermaine O'Neal

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

Coach: Doc Rivers

Boston Reserves
Mickael Pietrus
Chris Wilcox
JaJuan Johnson
Greg Siemsma 
E'Twaun Moore
Avery Bradley
Marquis Daniels
Keyon Dooling

Sasha Pavlovic (wrist) day to day
Kevin Garnett (hip) day to day
Brandon Bass (knee)  out

Probable Starters

PG:  Derrick Rose............................................. SG:  Ronnie Brewer

C:  Joakim Noah 

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

Coach:  Tom Thibodeau 

Bulls Bench
John Lucas III
Omer Asik 
Kyle Korver
Taj Gibson
Jimmy Butler
Brian Scalabrine
CJ Watson

Rip Hamilton (groin) day to day
Derrick Rose (back) day to day

Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo  13.6 PPG,  9.6 APG,  4.6 RPG 1.7 SPG
Derrick Rose   22.0 PPG, 7.8 APG, 3.4 RPG  0.9 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 as the best.  Rose has been sidelined with a bad back and may or may not be back for this game.  But, after seeing Rondo school CJ Watson and come out with a triple double in Sunday's game, if there's any way he can get out on the court, I expect Rose to play.  He went through a short session yesterday and said that he had no pain afterwards, but the Bulls won't commit to whether or not he will play. 

Jermaine O'Neal  5.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG,  .4 APG 1.5 BPG
Joakim Noah   8.7 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.2 APG,  1.2 BPG 
Both of these centers have been struggling somewhat this season.  Oneal has been struggling with injuries (as usual) while Noah has been inconsistent this season for whatever reason.  JO has said that he expects to be able to play even though he is struggling with a sore shoulder and 2 creaky knees. He played terribly against the Pistons so maybe Doc will do the smart thing and start Wilcox and bring JO off the bench.    Whether it's JO or Chris Wilcox in the starting lineup, he MUST box out and keep Noah off the glass and out of the paint.    
Honorable Mention

Paul Pierce  18.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 5.7 APG, .421 FG%
Luol Deng    16.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.5 APG, .439 FG%
In Sunday's game, Pierce scored just 9 points but he also held Deng to just 10 points.  Their defense canceled each other out.  Pierce did a lot of standing around and didn't move without the ball in the Pistons' game and so was not effective at all.    Pierce needs to be careful to take what the game gives him and not try to force things but at the same time he needs to at least try.  . 

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.  If Rose's back injury keeps him out, CJ Watson may once again get the start.  We saw in Sunday's game what a focused and aggressive Rondo can do.   However,  Rondo needs to balance his own scoring with setting up his teammates.  Against the Pistons, there was no ball movement and that led to a loss.  Whether Rose plays or not, Rondo needs to once again be aggressive and set the pace of the game, balancing scoring and setting up his teammates. . 

Limit turnovers - The Celtics have been turning the ball over way too much.  They have been making sloppy passes and not taking care of the ball when dribbling.  Much of this is focus and the Celtics have it in some games and lack it in others.  They had 18 turnovers in the last meeting between these two teams.  And, although they won the game, that is too many turnovers.  They make their jobs much harder by turning the ball over and allowing the other team to get extra possessions and fast break points.    They must take better care of the ball. 

- The Celtics have to do a better job of rebounding the ball.   They were out-rebounded 47-34 by the Bulls in their first meeting.   They were out-rebounded 42-34 by the Raptors and 55-45 by the Lakers.  They won the battle of the boards in Sunday's game vs the Bulls. They were out rebounded by the Pistons on Wednesday 44-33 and once again lost the game.   It isn't a coincidence that they win when they out rebound the other team and lose when they are out-rebounded.  The Celtics have to concentrate on boxing out and grabbing the rebounds.   Much of rebounding is desire and effort.  When the Celtics show both on the boards, that translates to the rest of their game and they usually get the win. 

Focus - The Celtics have got to focus on playing the team game.  They have been sloppy and passive and lethargic at times in games.  Their ball movement was almost non-existent against the Lakers and Raptors and the Pistons.     Instead of moving the ball and finding the open man, they dribbled too much and tossed up shots that didn't go in. Against the Pistons, Rondo looked to score rather than to find the open man.   They found that focus against the Bulls on Sunday but lost it again against the Pistons.    They need to focus and play their team game.  

Official Report
Eddie F. Rush
Fouls Called on Home Team: 20.2
Fouls Called on Road Team: 22.8
In addition to being a member of the NBA officiating staff for the past 24 seasons, Eddie F. Rush has also been a FIBA official for 12 years. While with the NBA, he has officiated 1,508 regular season and 166 playoff games, including 11 NBA
Finals games. Rush was also a member of the crew that officiated the 1994 Japan Games in Yokohama, and the 2000 and 2008 NBA All-Star Games. He also officiated in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Rush has four years officiating experience in the CBA, where he worked playoff and finals games. Prior to that, he spent four years officiating at the collegiate level, and four years at the high school level. Eddie F. Rush officiated the last game of the NBA Finals for five seasons in a row (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009). He was the least liked ref by Cavs fans when they still had LeBron because he was the only ref that called more losses for them than wins. He is also one of Tommy Heinsohn's least favorite refs and there are several rants on file of Tommy complaining about Rush's ineptness. The Celtics are 0-1 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Rush on the court. The game this season was the home loss to Indiana. The Bulls are 5-5 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 10-7.

Eric Dalen
Fouls Called on Home Team: 18.7
Fouls Called on Road Team: 20.5
Dalen has been a referee in the NBA since 2008. Eric Dalen officiated 172 regular season games in his first three NBA seasons. Prior to the NBA, Dalen worked for five seasons in the NBA Development League and officiated the 2008 D-League All Star Game and the Finals. He also officiated for three years in the Southeastern Conference. Dalen was a two-year letter winner at the University of Minnesota where he played tight end for the football team. I couldn't find much on the guy other than an article where Andrew Bynum was complaining about Dalen calling all 6 fouls on him in a game in 2008. The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games with Dalen. They are 3-0 this season with the wins coming against the Wizards,Raptors and Knicks. In the 3 games, the Celtics shot 71 free throws to 57 for their opponents. The Celtics are 8-2 in their last 10 games with Dalen. The Bulls are 4-6 in their last 10 games with Dalen officiating. They are 1-1 this season. His home W/L record this season is 18-5.

Eric Lewis
Fouls Called on Home Team: 19.6
Fouls Called on Road Team: 20.2
his is Lewis' seventh season as an NBA official. He has 427 regular season games and six playoff games. Prior to the NBA he worked three seasons in the NBA Development League, where he worked the 2004 D-League Finals and the 2003 and 2004 Playoffs. He also has 8 years experience calling college games and 6 years officiating high school games. In the offseason he works with troubled teens. The Celtics are 0-1 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games with Lewis as a ref. The loss this season was at home vs Cleveland. The refs in that game were terrible and allowed hacking all night by the Cavs. Their failed to call a very obvious foul against Pierce in crunch time. The Cavs took 20 free throws to 14 for the Celtics. The Bulls are 6-4 in their last 10 games and 0-2 this season with Lewis. His home W/L record this season is 12-11.

Focus and Passion
They showed both focus and passion against the Bulls on Sunday.  They showed that they wanted the game more and they got it.   They have to want to win more than the Bulls in this game also and for that, they must look within.  This will be especially important in this game as the Bulls still have a fresh memory of the recent loss and will be looking for payback.