12/8 Game Preview: Celtics at Bulls
CHICAGO -- The manner in which the Boston Celtics stumbled out of the gates this season wasn't what anyone connected to the organization had in mind.
The Celtics were among the favorites to contend for the Eastern Conference title, but instead they struggled to find much success.
However, after the slow start, the Celtics are beginning to resemble the team many expected from the start.
Boston will carry a four-game winning streak into Saturday's road test against the Chicago Bulls. At 14-10, the Celtics still aren't where coach Brad Stevens wants them to be, but considering how things started, the Celtics' recent success is a welcomed addition to a team that still has lofty expectations.
The Celtics enter Saturday's game coming off Thursday's 128-100 blowout victory over the New York Knicks in which Boston's offense - which struggled early in the season -- settled into the kind of rhythm that has led to the four straight victories and five wins in Boston's past six games.
Now, the Celtics hope to keep rolling against the Bulls.
"(We have to) keep that same energy," Boston's Kyrie Irving told reporters after the win over the Knicks, according to the Boston Herald. "I want that same competition and just seeing where we end up a few games from here. But we take it one game at a time, continue to get better and take advantage of the opportunity that we have every single night that we play against the great teams in the NBA."
The Celtics will likely face Chicago without center Aron Baynes, who left Thursday's game with an ankle injury. According to MassLive.com, Baynes suffered the injury in the first half when he came up lame on a roll to the basket and collapsed to the floor. He went straight to the locker room.
Stevens told reporters that Baynes wants to attempt to play through the pain.
"In typical Baynes fashion, he said he'll do three-on-three drills tomorrow after he does fullcourt sprints and runs a marathon and he'll be ready for the flight and will play on Saturday," Stevens said, according to MassLive.com. "I don't know if our doctors will agree with that, but we'll see. Baynes thinks he can play through anything."
The Bulls, who have had their fair share of injury issues this season, will be playing the back end of a back-to-back on Saturday.
On Friday, Chicago continued to play without Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis, both of whom are close to retuning from MCL injuries. The injuries continue to impact the Bulls (6-20), who nonetheless snapped a seven-game losing streak with Friday's 114-112 win over the Oklahoma Thunder. Lauri Markkanen's driving layup in the closing seconds gave Jim Boylen his first victory as Chicago's coach.
Boylen told reporters he wasn't sure whether Portis and Dunn would return to the lineup Saturday.
"They had a good day and that's about all I've got," Boylen said before Friday's game, according to the Chicago Tribune. "We have to wait until they respond (Saturday) morning. They have their check-in and we go from there. They got through the day and did well."