Game Preview: Bulls at Celtics

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BOSTON – One of the better matchups in the NBA will be showcased at 7 p.m. tonight in TD Garden when the Boston Celtics (20-18) collide with the Chicago Bulls (22-15).

These two teams have been in the midst of a heated relationship ever since their epic seven-game playoff series in 2009. There are plenty of holdovers from those 2009 rosters and that’s why the fire still burns when they meet on the court.

We’ve been given two examples of this rivalry this season. The Celtics traveled to Chicago on Novemeber 12 and knocked off the Bulls by a score of 101-95. All five of Boston’s starters scored in double-figures during that contest, including a team-high 20 points from Rajon Rondo. The Celtics won that game despite being outrebounded by a count of 40-34.

Boston was on the wrong end of the rebounding differential yet again on December 18 in Chicago but it wasn’t able to overcome that fact. The Bulls won that game 100-89 thanks to 21 points apiece from Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer. Boozer and Joakim Noah combined for 25 boards in that contest, which was just 10 less than the entire Celtics team grabbed on the night.

Throughout both of those games, there was not a single quarter in which one of these teams outscored the other by more than six points. That tells you that both meetings this season were incredibly competitive. Neither team has dominated the other, and that’s what makes this rivalry fun to watch.

While we may enjoy watching these battles between the Celtics and Bulls but Doc Rivers isn’t exactly fond of playing against Chicago.

“Them and us, when we play right, I would say are probably teams you don’t ever want to play,” Rivers said. “But if you love competition, then yes, you do like it, because you know it’s going to be a competitive game.”

This season’s meetings between the Celtics and Bulls have been very competitive and we should expect that to be the case again tonight. Both teams head into tonight’s contest having won six of their eight games in January.

KG, Boozer

Kevin Garnett and Carlos Boozer will battle for rebounds when the Celtics and Bulls clash tonight.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

Rebounding

Ever NBA team puts rebounding at the top of its check list when it takes on the Chicago Bulls. Chicago ranks seventh in the league in rebounding with nearly 44 per game and it has three players grabbing at least 6.5 rebounds a night.

The Celtics are at the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to rebounding. They rank last in the league and their top rebounder, Kevin Garnett, averages just 7.0 boards a game.

Boston will need a collective effort tonight when it comes to rebounding. Everyone from Rajon Rondo to Jared Sullinger will need to contribute on the glass, or else.

As Doc Rivers put it, “Well, we better rebound.”

Boozer Has Been Bruising

Rondo on Thursday singled out one player on Chicago’s roster for his phenomenal play of late. That player was Carlos Boozer, who is averaging 24.0 PPG and 10.8 RPG in eight games this month.

Boston’s power forwards are going to have their hands full tonight. It’s likely that Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and Jared Sullinger will all square off against Boozer at some point of the game. Their ability to contain him will be critical for the C’s.

Bring the Shooting Back

As we detailed yesterday, the Celtics struggled to make shots Wednesday night against the New Orleans Hornets, particularly in the second half. Boston shot 45.9 percent from the floor overall but made just 40.5 percent of its shots over the final two quarters.

The Celtics are known for two things: defense and shooting. The defense was on display Wednesday night, but the shooting skills were not. Bringing them back against a great defensive team like the Bulls will be a difficult yet crucial task.