The Basics: Boston (50-17) at Chicago (30-37). The Celtics are 23-11 on the road, while the Bulls are 20-11 at home.
Advanced stuff: Boston is ranked 5th in Offensive Rating (scoring 110.6 points per 100 possessions) and 1st in Defensive Rating: (giving up 101.5 points per 100 possessions). Chicago is rankled 20th (106.9) and 17th (108.2), respectively. So, in addition to teaching us that creating a monster out of spare body parts and then shoving a burning torch in its face is probably a bad idea, science has shown pretty conclusively that the Celtics are a better team than the Bulls. Yay, science.
Trends: The Celtics have lost three of four and set their season low for points (77) when they lost to the Bucks in Milwaukee on Sunday. And that whole “scoring” thing has been a problem for them lately: The C’s have been held under 80 in two of their last four games.
Meanwhile, the Bulls have dropped seven in a row on the road while winning five straight at home…their longest home streak since 2006-07. That run includes victories over the Nuggets, Magic, Rockets and Hornets, and three of those wins were blowouts.
The season series: The Celtics lead it 2-0 after winning twice in Boston, 96-80win in Boston on October 31 (as Kevin Garnett became the youngest player to log 1,000 career games) and 126-108 on December 19 (thanks to a career-high 25 points from Kendrick Perkins).
Recent history: The Bulls have lost six straight against the Celtics since
Kevin McHale gave them Danny Ainge acquired Kevin Garnett from Minnesota before last season. To that point, Chicago had won the previous eight matchups.
The Stakes: Boston is three-and-a-half games behind Cleveland for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. More importantly, though, is the fact that they’re only a half game ahead of Orlando, which means they need this game just to hold their ground. The Celtics have gone 6-5 without Kevin Garnett– who’s still out with a sprained right knee — and they seem to be reeling. But you can never underestimate the heart of a champion, right? And their defense — with or without KG — always makes them dangerous.
The Bulls, meanwhile, will be facing a must-win situation pretty much every night for the rest of the season. They’re basically tied with the Bucks for the East’s final playoff spot…and the Bobcats, Knicks, Nets and Pacers are all snapping at their heels.
Injuries: For the Celtics: Glen Davis (ankle), Brian Scalabrine (concussion), Kevin Garnett (knee), and Tony Allen (thumb) are out, while Eddie House (ankle) is probable. For Chicago: Luol Deng (stress fracture) and Jerome James (Achilles) are out, while Kirk Hinrich (munchies) is probable.
Falling stars: This should be a matchup of two of the league’s elite young point guards. Assuming they pull their games out of the trash. RajonRondo is 4-for-17 from the floor with 9 turnovers in his past two games and Derrick Rose is 14-for-40 in his past three. They aren’t shooting with their eyes closed…are they?
Player(s) to fear: Kendrick Perkins improved on the career-high he set against the Bulls earlier this season by scoring 26 points (9-for-16) against the Bucks on Sunday. But now we have Brad Miller to throw against hi…never mind. Oh, and Ray Allen had averaged 27.0 points over three games before his meltdown in Milwaukee (8 points on 2-for-11 shooting). It’s hard to imagine Ben Gordon checking him.
TrueHoop Network: Zach Lowe of CelticsHub said: “About the Bulls: They are a team whose offense lives in the worst place to live: the land of two-point jump shots. They shoot very few three-pointers (24th-most in the league, actually) and they are in the middle of the pack in terms of getting shots near the rim. For all of the changes this season–Derrick Rose, more minutes for Ty Thomas and Joakim Noah–this is a team that still loses most of the time if they don’t make jump shots. That bodes well for Boston, which has handled the Bulls easily since the start of last season. Both games this year have been laughers, with the C’s holding Chicago to 29.8 percent shooting in a 96-80 win on Halloween and resting the starters during a 126-108 laugher in December. KG had one rebound in that game, and the biggest story was Rajon Rondo challenging Usain Bolt (who visited the C’s locker room) to a race. Some hilarious knee-slapping ensued. It’s tough to read anything into those games. Rondo has contained Rose, and the C’s have limited Ben Gordon to fewer than 12 points in each game. But the games were so uncompetitive that those numbers mean very little.”