Watch It! – Celtics at Bulls
Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls meet at 8 p.m. tonight at the United Center.
Six Days Rest vs. No Days Rest
The Celtics and Bulls’ players will be playing under much different circumstances when they face off tonight.
Chicago, which will be playing its first game of the regular season, hasn’t seen live game action since its preseason finale one week ago. Boston, meanwhile, was on the court less than 24 hours ago, after opening up its season with a 122-117 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
Of course, there are pros and cons to both scenarios.
The Bulls are fresh-legged and will have their home crowd behind them tonight, but they could also be a bit rusty after the week layoff. The Celtics, on the other hand, are not as fresh, having just played a game last night. However, Boston does have an advantage in that it has already seen its product on the court and knows what improvements it needs to make for Game 2 of the season.
The C’s also have a history of thriving during the second games of back-to-backs, and they won’t let fatigue be an excuse, especially this early in the season.
C’s Passing in Mid-Season Form
Boston’s offense was firing on all cylinders last night, and that was largely thanks to a dazzling display of ball movement.
The Celtics dished out 36 assists on 48 baskets, which were both opening night highs among the 26 teams who have played a game. The 36 dimes were actually the most by any NBA team on opening night over the last 15 years, and it was just three shy of Boston’s top tally from last season.
Nine of the 10 players who suited up for Boston last night had multiple assists, including a game-high nine by Isaiah Thomas, and six by Al Horford during his Celtics debut.
Rondo in Red
Speaking of passing, Chicago added one of the league’s premier playmakers to its roster during the offseason – a guy who the Celtics are very familiar with.
Rajon Rondo will make his Bulls debut tonight and it’s very fitting that it will come against the team that he spent the majority of his career with.
Rondo adds an interesting dynamic to Chicago’s starting rotation, which features other ball-dominant players in Jimmy Butler and summer acquisition Dwayne Wade. The point guard seems to be fitting in well as the Bulls’ primary ball handler, however, as he averaged the fourth-most assists per game during the preseason among players who appeared in at least two games.
Boston Block Party
While passing was one of Boston’s strengths last season, shot blocking was not. The Celtics finished in the bottom third of the league with an average of 4.2 swats per game, but during last night’s season opener they more than doubled that average with a total of nine blocks.
Boston surpassed nine blocks just once last season, but it had a dominant rim-protecting presence last night thanks to its new big man, Horford.
The four-time All-Star swatted four of Brooklyn’s shot attempts – all during the first half – which equaled Boston’s individual high from last season, set by Amir Johnson and Tyler Zeller.
The C’s rim-protecting success has a good chance of continuing tonight, considering that Chicago tied for the second-most blocks allowed per game in the league last season.
Starters to the Line
One of Boston’s offensive deficiencies during its season-opener was its inability to get to the free throw line.
The Celtics made it to the stripe just 18 times last night, and half of those attempts came from Thomas, who was 9-for-9.
Thomas, astoundingly, was the only starter who made a free throw. In fact, Amir Johnson was the only other starter who even attempted one – he was 0-for-1.
Boston doesn’t have a lot of slashers who drive to the basket, but it must do a better job of drawing contact around the rim tonight.