Game Preview: Celtics at Bulls
The Chicago Bulls have shown improvement on the road, but they can't seem to shake out of a slump on their own floor.
Having made a habit of letting leads slip away, the Boston Celtics are hoping to put together a complete performance Thursday night when they seek their second win in eight visits to Chicago.
Despite the return of leading scorer Luol Deng, the Bulls (12-18) managed 37 second-half points and shot 36.6 percent overall in an 85-79 loss to visiting Toronto on Tuesday.
Deng, averaging a team-high 19.4 points, had missed the previous five games and nine of 12 with an Achilles injury. He finished with a team-high 16 points, but couldn't help the Bulls avoid their sixth loss in seven home contests.
Although they've averaged 94.0 points with a 43.9 field-goal percentage in their last six road games, the Bulls have scored just 81.4 per game and shot 38.8 percent in the past seven at home.
Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Kirk Hinrich combined to go 4 for 27 overall Tuesday, and Chicago missed 20 of 24 shots in the fourth quarter.
"The fourth quarter has got to be your best quarter," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "You have to have more intensity, your decisions have to be quicker. We have to finish strong, we can't just flip the ball up there."
Boozer has been particularly bad at home, averaging 10.0 points while shooting 33.8 percent from the field in his last five. He missed his first seven shots on the way to matching a season low with four points against the Raptors.
Boozer has fared better against Boston, averaging 17.8 points, 11.2 rebounds and 53.9 percent from the field in his six home meetings while with Chicago. Boozer and Deng each scored 21 in a 100-89 win in the Celtics' most recent visit Dec. 18, 2012.
Deng has averaged 23.8 points while hitting 10 of 22 from 3-point range in his last five home games in this series. The Bulls have limited Boston (13-18) to 87.0 points and 42.5 percent shooting while winning six of seven meetings at the United Center.
They'd be wise not to give up on a comeback attempt in this contest. The Celtics gave up an 18-point lead on the way to a loss on Tuesday, 92-91 to visiting Atlanta.
They also surrendered a 21-point lead in a 107-106 loss to Detroit on Dec. 18 and an 18-point lead in a 106-99 loss to Washington three days later, then nearly coughed up a 22-point advantage in Saturday's 103-100 win over Cleveland.
Jordan Crawford finished with eight points while missing 12 of 15 shots Tuesday, including two potential go-ahead buckets in the final eight seconds.
"I felt like it was a good opportunity. Jordan lives for that," coach Brad Stevens said. "I think he'll probably beat himself up over it, but that's OK. We play again on Thursday."
Kelly Olynyk finished with a career-high 21 points and shot 8 of 11, while fellow reserve Kris Humphries had 18 points and 10 rebounds.
While the Celtics limited the Hawks to 36.3 percent shooting and 5 for 29 from beyond the arc, the Bulls have held opponents to 88.6 points and a 32.5 3-point percentage while winning three of five overall.
The Celtics totaled a franchise-low 19 points in the second and third quarters of a 71-69 win in Boston on Feb. 13, the teams' last matchup.
Chicago has won seven of 10 meetings overall.