Watch It! - Celtics at Bulls
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls meet at 8 p.m. tonight night at the United Center.
Step up the Defense
Following a 107-102 loss at the hands of the Bulls on Sunday, Celtics.com asked Brad Stevens what his team must improve upon in order to take Chicago down on Monday.
“If they score 107 we will get beat,” Stevens responded. “There’s no way you can depend on scoring up in the 100s to beat these guys.”
The reasoning behind Stevens’ comments is the fact that Chicago is one of the top defensive teams in the league. It heads into Monday’s action ranked second in the league in both opponent scoring and opponent field goal percentage.
This Bulls team is a lot like the Celtics were during the Big Three era. It’s in its comfort zone when it’s playing a game with the score in the 80s and low 90s. As Stevens alluded to, Boston cannot depend on its offense to win this game. That won’t work. The C’s will only win this game if their defense plays at a much higher level than it did on Sunday.
Chicago’s Top Gun
You probably didn’t know heading into Sunday night that D.J. Augustin is the leading scorer for a Bulls team that is fighting for the third seed in the Eastern Conference. That fact sure couldn’t have shocked you after watching his performance at TD Garden.
Augustin was the driving force behind Chicago’s 107-102 victory over Boston. He scored a game-high 33 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter alone. His 33 points were nearly double the amount of the game’s second-leading point total, which was Rajon Rondo’s 17.
The Celtics could not contain Augustin on the perimeter or off of the dribble. He shot 3-of-4 from long range and forced Boston into sending him to the line for a game-high 10 free throw attempts.
That’s the kind of scoring night a team’s top offensive option puts up. Augustin proved to everyone who watched Sunday’s game that he’s the top gun in Chicago.
Beating the Bulls on the Boards
One of the positives Boston can take away from Sunday’s loss is the fact that it outrebounded the league’s ninth-best best team on the glass. The Celtics grabbed 39 rebounds while limiting Chicago, which averages 44.8 per game, to just 31 boards. Those numbers even popped off the stat sheet for the winning coach.
“We’ve got to correct our rebounding,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said after the game.
Doing so tonight may prove to be a difficult task for the Bulls. Jared Sullinger excelled on the glass Sunday night, hauling in a game-high 10 rebounds. Kris Humphries also pitched in eight boards. Meanwhile, for Chicago, not a single player totaled more than eight. Securing the advantage in this department tonight would certainly give Boston a much better chance of splitting this home-and-home series.
Limit Their Free Throws
It’s difficult to beat a team when it’s shooting the ball with the level of efficiency Chicago showed off on Sunday. When that team is also getting to the line at a high rate, you can pretty much forget about grabbing a win.
Chicago’s 31 free throw attempts last night nearly doubled Boston’s 16. Augustin and Joakim Noah each attempted 10 free throws, while no Celtics player attempted more than eight freebies. The Bulls essentially scored a quarter’s worth of points from the stripe by hitting 25 of their 31 attempts.
We’ve already highlighted the fact that the Celtics need to limit Chicago’s shooting efficiency. It also needs to limit the amount of times the Bulls head to the free-throw line.
Don’t Fall in Love with the 3
One of the reasons why Boston had a chance at winning the front end of this home-and-home was its 10 makes from 3-point range on Sunday. The C’s made 10 of their 29 attempts on the night.
Jeff Green was the key cog in Boston’s solid performance from downtown. His four made treys and eight 3-point attempts were each game highs. Sullinger also contributed two 3s late in the fourth quarter to keep the Celtics within striking distance.
Those 3-pointers certainly helped to give Boston a chance at winning last night’s game. The Celtics, however, cannot allow that fact to make them become trigger happy from long range during tonight’s contest. We’re 73 games into the season and Boston has the third-worst 3-point shooting percentage in the NBA, at 33.1 percent. The 3 is simply not a high-percentage look for this team.
Boston needs to put the ball through the basket from inside the arc first and foremost. If it can do that, it should open things up for some uncontested looks from long range.