Celtics look to bounce back as they visit the Bulls

Boston Celtics (30-23) at Chicago Bulls (42-13)
Thursday, April 5
9:30 PM ET
Game #54,  Road Game #26
Radio:   WEEI,  WMVP
United Center
Referees:   Monty McCutchen, Leroy Richardson, Sean Wright

This is the 4th and final meeting between these two teams this season.  The Bulls lead the series 2-1 with Chicago winning once in Boston and once in Chicago and the Celtics winning one game in Boston.  In their first meeting in Boston, the Bulls won by 9 and both teams were at full strength.  The second meeting was at Boston and the Celtics won by 4.  Rose and Bass were out.  Their third meeting was in Chicago where the Bulls won by 9 without Rose or Hamilton and the Celtics were missing Bass.   Once again, Rose is questionable for this game and the Celtics will be missing Pietrus. 

The Bulls are 6-4 in their last 10 games while the Celtics have won 7 of their last 10 games.  The Bulls are 21-6 at home and the Celtics are 11-14 on the road.  The Celtics are playing in the second of back to back games while the Bulls had Tuesday and Wednesday off after losing the the Rockets on Monday.  The Celtics expended a lot of energy playing right down to the wire against the Spurs and so hopefully won't run out of energy in this one. 

The Bulls are in first place in the East, 3 games ahead of Miami.  In the overall standings, they are tied with the Thunder in the loss column but they have played 2 more games than OKC.  After their blowout loss in Oklahoma this past week, I'm sure they would love to have home court advantage if those two teams meet in the Finals.  The Celtics are still in 4th spot by virtue of leading the division, but they are also tied with Atlanta for the 6th spot and 2 games behind Indiana for the 5th. 

Both teams need this game.  It will be a matter of which teams plays more aggressively and who wants it more.  This will probably be a grind it out close game similar to the one the Celtics won in Boston and hopefully will have the same result. 

Probable Starters

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

C:  Kevin Garnett

SF:  Paul Pierce ................................. ............PF Brandon Bass

Coach: Doc Rivers

Boston Reserves
Ryan Hollins
JaJuan Johnson
Greg Siemsma 
E'Twaun Moore
Avery Bradley
Marquis Daniels
Keyon Dooling
Sasha Pavlovic

Ray Allen (ankle) probable
Mickael Pietrus (concussion) out
Jermaine O'Neal (wrist)  out 
Greg Stiemsma (feet, thumb) probable

Probable Starters

PG: Derrick Rose ............................................. SG: Rip Hamilton

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
Ronnie Brewer

Derrick Rose (groin) game time decision

Key Matchups
Kevin Garnett vs Joakim Noah
Noah brings a lot of energy to the Bulls and he is a presence in the paint.  KG has to match his energy.  In the last game between these two teams, Noah got to the basket at will for rebounds and tip ins.  KG has got to box him out and defend the paint. 

Rajon Rondo vs Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose is expected to return for this game after a lengthy absence with a groin injury.   Rondo always gets up for the big PG matchups and this is a big one with the reigning MVP.  Rose may be rusty after being out so long and so Rondo must be aggressive and go right at Rose all game.   

Honorable Mention

Paul Pierce vs Luol Deng
Pierce and Deng are always a fun matchup to watch.  Pierce has quietly been having a great stretch and was just named Player of the Week for it.  Deng has been playing with a wrist injury and so hasn't been quite as effective as he normally is, but his defense is still very good.  He will make Pierce work for his points. 

Keys to the Game
Rebound -  The Celtics have been doing better on the boards in recent games but they still need to work harder.  The Bulls are the top rebounding team in the league, pulling down 46.1 per game while the Celtics still rank last with only 38.6 rpg.   The Celtics  have to box out and keep Noah from getting easy tip ins and to keep the Bulls from piling up the second chance baskets.  The Celtics have got to crash the boards as a team and not just expect the bigs to get the rebounds.  They are much more effective when the guards go up strong after rebounds as well. 

- Defense has been the key to the Celtics recent win streak.  They have worked hard on the defensive end to stop teams that are normally high scoring teams. They let up on defense against the Spurs and allowed too many easy baskets in the first half.  They can't do that against the Bulls.    In this game, they don't face a high scoring team but they face another defensive minded team.  The Bulls are rankes 2nd in points allowed (88.8) while the Celtics are ranked 3rd, allowing 89.8 points per game.  The Celtics are ranked first in field goal percentage, allowing teams to shoot only 42.0% while the Bulls are 4th allowing 42.8% shooting.  This one won't be a bar fight,  it will be all out war. 

Be Aggressive - It's no secret that the more aggressive team is gets the calls and usually the win.  The Celtics must start out being aggressive and that starts with Rondo.  They have to be aggressive on the boards, in defending, in going after loose balls, and especially in getting inside to the basket instead of settling for outside jumpers.  The more aggressive team will more than likely get the win. 

Official Report
Monty McCutchen
Monty McCutchen has officiated 1,085 regular season, 80 playoff, and four Finals games. He worked the 2007 NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas and was a member of the crew that officiated the 1996 and 1997 Mexico Challenges, as well as the 1998 Schick Rookie Game. Prior to joining the NBA, McCutchen spent four seasons in the CBA, where he worked the All Star game his second year and the playoffs all four years. He also officiated the CBA Finals the last three years he was with the league. McCutchen missed the 1998-99 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. He is a former elementary and middle school teacher and is fondly remembered by his students as a really nice guy. In searching for information on him, I found a Cavs' blog that blamed a loss to the Celtics on the officiating of Monty McCutchen. That was the game where Mike Brown was ejected and the Cavs made a furious comeback but fell short. Other than that, there's not a lot of controversy about McCutchen. The Celtics are 2-0 this season and 7-3 in their last 10 games with McCutchen on the court. One win this season was against the Knicks where they let them play and the Celtics shot 24 free throws to 21 for the Knicks. The second win was against the Bobcats where it was just the opposite. They called ticky tack fouls on both sides and let nothing go as evidenced by the 45 free throws taken by the Celtics and 35 by the Bobcats. The Bulls are 1-2 this season and 3-7 in their last 10 with McCutchen. His home W/L record this season is 28-15.

Sean Wright
Wright has officiated 353 regular season and five playoff games in his six seasons. Prior to joining the NBA, Wright was an official in the NBA Development League
where he participated in the playoffs in 2003-04 and the championship game in 2005.
Wright’s collegiate officiating experience includes working in the SEC, Colonial, Big South, Southern, Ohio Valley, Atlantic Sun and Southwestern Athletic Conferences. He participated in the Ohio Valley Conference championship in 2003 and the Men’s NCAA Division II tournament in 2004. He officiated the Eduardo Najera Foundation charity basketball game in 2006 and the Terrell Owens Foundation charity basketball game in 2005. The Celtics are 3-1 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 with Wright on the court. He officiated a win over the Nets this season in which the Celtics took 21 free throws to 10 for the Nets. Another win was also vs the Nets where the Nets shot 28 free throws to 17 for the Celtics. The third win was the Bobcats game with McCutchen where they shot a total of 80 free throws between them and they called every little foul all night. He also called a loss vs Detroit where the Pistons took 46 free throws to just 15 for the Celtics. Tommy Heinsohn called it the worst officiated game of the season. It was Sean Wright that Rondo threw the ball at resulting in his ejection and suspension (which apparently was only suspendable for Rondo since Noah also threw the ball at a ref and got no suspension). The Bulls are 2-0 this season and 7-3 in their last 10 games with Wright. His home W/L record this season is 26-17.

Leroy Richardson
Leroy Richardson served his country for 12 years in the United States Navy and was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal and two Good Conduct Medals. After leaving the Navy, Richardson decided to pursue officiating full time. Since joining the NBA staff, he has officiated 961 regular season games and eight playoff games over the past 16 seasons, and was a member of the crew that officiated the 2000 Schick Rookie Game, 2000 NBA All-Star Saturday and the 2003 Japan Games. Richardson has three years of CBA officiating experience as well as 10 years of Pro-Am officiating experience including the 1992 Pro Am Nationals. He also has three years of collegiate officiating experience and eight years experience
officiating in Virginia high schools, where he worked the VHSL State Tournament. The Celtics are 1-0 this season with Richardson. The win was against the Orlando and the Celtics shot 17 free throws to 30 for the Magic and the game was well officiated. The Celtics have an 9-1 record in their last 10 games with Richardson as a referee. The Bulls are 2-0 this season and are 8-2 in their last 10 with Richardson. He is one of the rare refs with more wins for the road team than the home team. His home W/L record this season is 17-23.

Focus and Fatigue
The Celtics are playing in the second game in as many nights and played hard right to the end against the Spurs.  Hopefully they don't run out of steam before the end of the game.  They can't let up against the Bulls and must play hard from start to finish.  They have to focus on playing their game and not let the refs or the Bulls take them out of it.