Keys to the Game: Bulls at Celtics (11.02.16)

Tonight the Chicago Bulls (3-0) tip-off for the second time in less than a week against the Boston Celtics (2-1), however this evening’s contest is being played in Boston.

Chicago won the first get-together at the United Center, 105-99. Jimmy Butler paced the Bulls’ attack with 24 points, which included the two-time All-Star going 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. Dwyane Wade also put forth a terrific effort, notching 22 points, including a game-clinching long ball with just 26.3 seconds left to play. Like Butler, the three-time NBA champion also shot 4-of-6 from downtown. Chicago strongman, Taj Gibson, also added 18 points and 10 rebounds while veteran point man, Rajon Rondo, dished 9 dimes, picked two Boston pockets and snared six boards in the winning effort. Fiery Beantown floor general, Isaiah Thomas, led Gang Green’s assault with 25 points, while backcourt mate Avery Bradley chipped in 16 and forward Jae Crowder posted 14 points and six rebounds.

The Celtics received some good news yesterday as it looks like super-sub Marcus Smart will make his first appearance on the season this evening. Smart, who was forced to miss Boston’s first three games while nursing a badly sprained ankle, was the C’s top bench option a year ago, averaging 9.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.5 steals over 27.3 minutes. However, it’s his defense that truly distinguishes Smart’s play, and thus his return will undoubtedly boost Boston’s ability to wreak havoc at the other end of the floor.      

Chicago, on the other hand, lost the services of primary backup point guard, Michael Carter-Williams, due to an ugly fall that resulted in a badly bruised knee and sprained wrist the other night in Brooklyn. The Bulls also could be without fellow off-the-bench helper, Doug McDermott, who got popped in the head against the Nets, and wasn’t able to practice yesterday.  McDermott entered the NBA’s 24-hour concussion protocol program yesterday morning, however both he and the Bulls are optimistic that he will be cleared in time to play this evening after passing the league’s mandatory medical tests.

The last time the Bulls and the Celtics met, Chicago pounded the boards to the tune of a 55-36 advantage. On the offensive glass, it was an even bigger thrashing, as the Bulls completely dominated, 18-3, which led to them cashing in on 18 second-chance points. As a team, Chicago also shot the ball with precision from long range, hitting 11-of-25 (.440), compared to Boston’s 8-of-23 (.348).

In order for the Bulls to continue their winning ways, they’ll once again need to go all out and outhustle Boston in every conceivable way. Defensively, Chicago will need to keep its aggressive mindset intact. The Bulls simply cannot allow the Celtics easy scoring opportunities. Every shot and pass Boston attempts has to be challenged. One of the keys to Chicago’s quick start this season has been the team’s scrappiness at both ends of the floor. To be successful, the Bulls have to be unselfish, unyielding, hardnosed, blue collar and smart with the ball. 

Offensively, they need to continue swiftly moving the ball from player-to-player and from side-to-side. With Rondo behind the wheel, it would be a disservice to slow the pace by walking the ball up the floor only to fall into a trap of playing a one-on-one game. The ball cannot get stuck in anyone’s hands for too long. It needs to be freely shared while everyone moves about, cutting in and out of the paint and around the arc.

The Bulls need to force opponents to expend extra energy at the defensive end of the floor in order to succeed. Thus tonight, against a deep and talented Boston squad, there will be no exception to that rule.

Related Content