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 at the United Center.

Bulls Still Boarding

The Chicago Bulls, at 12-18, are not the team that everyone expected them to be this season. However, they’re still one of the best rebounding teams in the league.

Chicago enters tonight’s game as the eighth-best rebounding team in the NBA with an average of 44.6 boards per game. That’s a full five rebounds more than Boston grabs on average each night. The Bulls also rank sixth in the league in rebounding differential, as they outrebound opponents by an average of three boards per game.

Jared Sullinger takes a jumper against Cleveland

Jared Sullinger and the Celtics will play their first of 10 January road games tonight in Chicago.
Jared Wickerham/NBAE/Getty Images

Opponents have a difficult time containing the Bulls on the glass because Chicago is so balanced in that department. They have four players who average at least 6.3 RPG, led by Joakim Noah’s average of 10.0. In comparison, the Celtics have just one player, Jared Sullinger (7.0 RPG), who averages more at least 6.3 RPG.

Get Used To the Road

December was all about home cooking for the Celtics. Nine of their 12 games during the month were played in the confines of TD Garden.

January holds much different cards for Boston, to say the least. The C’s will be on the road for 10 games this month, including a season-long, five-game road trip that begins Sunday night in Oklahoma City.

The Celtics enter tonight’s game with a 5-9 record on the road this season. They’re going to need to get used to playing on the road, and quickly, if they want to come out of January with their head above water.

Bounce-Back Game for Crawford

Jordan Crawford has been fantastic for the Celtics this season. He’s already been named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week once this campaign, he’s third on the team in player efficiency rating, and he has handled the point guard role with grace while Rajon Rondo heals up. Tuesday’s game against Atlanta, however, was not one of Crawford’s best.

The point guard finished that game with just eight points in 33 minutes of action. He shot just 3-of-15 from the field, including 1-of-7 from long range, and missed three potential game-winning shots in the final 33 seconds of the game.

Crawford didn’t play well. Plain and simple. But tonight’s game serves as an opportunity to get back on track. Chicago is weak at the point guard position. Kirk Hinrich starts and D.J. Augustin backs him up. Crawford certainly has an opportunity to outplay both of them en route to a bounce-back game.

Restart the Starters

Crawford wasn’t the only Celtics starter who struggled on Tuesday. Unfortunately for Boston, the entire group put forth an underwhelming performance.

Boston’s starters totaled just 35 points in the loss to Atlanta. They combined to shoot just 25.5 percent from the field and all five players finished with a plus/minus rating of minus-14 or worse.

Everyone knows that a team’s starting unit is supposed to include its best players. Boston’s starters didn’t look like the team’s best players on Tuesday, but the hope is that they’ll be able to return to their accustomed level of play tonight.

Deng is Back

With Derrick Rose expected to be out for the remainder of the season, Luol Deng stands as Chicago’s best player. He’s coming off of two consecutive All-Star appearances and leads the Bulls in scoring by a wide margin this season with 19.4 PPG.

Chicago was forced to play without Deng for five straight games toward the end of December, and nine out of 13 games overall, due to an Achilles injury. Deng finally returned to the lineup on New Year’s Eve to score 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting.

There is no doubt that the Bulls are a better team with Deng on the court. He’s a great two-way player who will make a huge impact on this game.


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