Boston Celtics Status Check:
Road Record: 23-15
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Streak: Won 2
Last game: Won 99-82 over 76ers
PPG: 96.7 (22nd)
Opponents PPG: 90.8 (1st)
Offensive Rating: 106.7 (18th)
Defensive Rating: 100.1 (1st)
Pace: 90.3 (23rd)
Effective Field Goal Percentage: .521 (7th)
Turnover Percentage: .144 (27th)
Defensive Rebound Percentage: .749 (8th)
Offensive Rebound Percentage: .212 (30th)
Free Throws Per Field Goal Attempt: .232 (10th)
Opp. eFG%: .468 (2nd)
Opp. TO%: .149 (3rd)
Opp. FT/FGA: .235 (20th)
Leading scorer: Paul Pierce (18.8)
Stats from Basketball-Reference.com.
Boston Injury Report:
Shaquille O’Neal: strained right calf (will miss tonight’s game)
This may be Chicago’s most important game leading into the playoffs, and one of their most important games of the season. The Bulls have been struggling a bit as of late. Yes, they’re getting wins, but they aren’t coming as easy, or as convincing, as they should be.
Chicago has won 16 of 18. That’s an extremely impressive streak. It’s hard to be upset about something like that. But the Bulls haven’t exactly been blowing their opponents out of the water. In their last seven games the Bulls only commanding win was against the lowly Timberwolves. Even Butler’s championship performance gets a good laugh at the Wolves during some games.
The saying “a win is a win” is true, but, in many of these games, one possession could have been the difference between a win or a loss. That’s too close for comfort.
Chicago started this win streak with some flair. In March, they beat the Magic and Miami in the now-dreaded “Florida trip,” then came back home and beat the Hornets (Chris Paul was out with a concussion). Then the Bulls really got it going, beating their next five opponents by an average of 17 points. That’s dominating.
After that the Bulls fell in overtime to the Pacers, but bounced back well winning their next two games by 40 and 33 points.
That’s where the commanding wins stopped. The Bulls beat the surging Grizzlies by three points (solid win over a streaking playoff team). They then beat division rival Milwaukee by eight. The next game they came out flat and fell to the Sixers. And they followed up that letdown by sweeping the Wolves off the court.
But in their last three games, against non-playoff teams, Chicago has crushed the Pistons by five, the Raptors by seven and the Suns last night by three (thanks to some questionable decisions in the last thirty seconds by Phoenix).
They say the team that works harder gets the breaks, and Thibodeau won’t let the Bulls get out-worked. Maybe this is an overreaction and I’m picking nits, because Chicago has been getting the victories. But when the playoffs come around, things will be a lot tougher, and those one possession wins can easily become losses.
That’s why tonight’s game is so important. Chicago is looking to close out the Eastern Conference and close in on the Spurs for the top record. The Bulls play two more playoff teams after tonight (Orlando and New York).
Proving that they can beat the better teams in the East, will give them extra confidence going into the playoffs.
Boston is 8-8 over their last 16 games and a very pedestrian, for their standards, 23-15 since the All Star break (they started the season 31-8).
The Celtics have won two of the three matchups against Chicago this season, with the Bulls taking the most recent matchup (without Joakim Noah).
In the two losses, Rose averaged 3.5 free throw attempts. In the lone win, Rose went to the line 19 times, making 15 of those attempts. Derrick has gotten better at getting contact and the foul call as the season has progressed.
In the second game of the series, Rose managed an astonishingly bad plus/minus of -29. His counterpart Rajon Rondo managed a +29 (not great for the best PG debate, but that’s a discussion for another time).
The Bulls have out-rebounded the Celtics by an average of more than 7.7 per game. That’s something they have failed to do recently. The Bulls are the second best rebounding team in the league, but they have lost the rebound battle in three of their last five games, according to Stats LLC.
The rebounding should only improve with Noah getting back to full strength and finally (knock on wood) having the whole team healthy.
“It’s a lot of things we need to tighten up,” Deng said. “We all know that. We’re not panicking. The last few games, we’ve got to do a better job, especially in the second half. … It’s stuff that I’m sure we’ll sort it out.”
With five games left, the Bulls don’t have a lot of time to sort out their problems. But really, they don’t have many problems. And the ones that they do, well, I have a lot of faith they will figure them out soon.
About the Author:
Braedan Ritter was born and raised in Pennsylvania but was swayed by gifts from his aunt to follow the Chicago sports teams. It didn’t hurt that the Bulls had a guy named Michael Jordan playing for them, and the Sixers had…Derrick Coleman. Braedan has stuck with Chicago through thick and thin, and really thin (see: Chicago Cubs). And speaking of Coleman, Braedan is currently a student at Syracuse University.