Pregame Post-Ups: C’s, Bulls Both Missing Key Cogs

Monday, Dec. 11 - Celtics at Bulls

Pregame – C’s, Bulls Both Missing Key Cogs Tonight

CHICAGO – The Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls will both be missing key contributors tonight when they face off at United Center.

Boston will be without Kyrie Irving (quad) and Marcus Morris (knee), and could also be missing Al Horford (knee), depending on how the big man feels after warm-ups. On the other side, Chicago will be without rookie Lauri Markkanen (back spasms), who leads the Bulls in scoring (14.7 points per game) and rebounding (8.1 rebounds per game).

Irving took a knee to his left quad during yesterday’s matchup in Detroit, according to Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who is optimistic that it is not a major injury.

“They’ll work on it tonight probably during the game, and then again tomorrow,” Stevens said of the injured quad. “It didn’t seem like [a long-term injury], but who knows with muscular injuries?”

Not having to face Boston’s leading scorer is a break for the Bulls; however, head coach Fred Hoiberg believes his squad will still have their hands full facing the top team in the league.

“They’re going to start a really good player in that position (Marcus Smart), so it doesn’t change anything,” said Hoiberg. “They’re still a team that executes as well as any in the league. They’re going to get out and push it in transition. They’re going to play through their guys to get a lot of good looks, which they always seem to do throughout their offense. So it doesn’t change much as far as our game plan.”

Horford’s injury, like Irving’s, also occurred during yesterday’s matchup; he knocked knees with a Pistons player and was forced to exit the game temporarily. He was briefly checked out by team trainers in the visitor’s locker room, but returned to the court soon after.

Horford was a bit sore after the game, but Stevens says that veteran big man has progressed as the day has gone on.

Morris’ injury is more of a lingering one. He’s had an issue with his left knee ever since preseason and has missed 12 games over the last two months as a result. Morris also sat out of yesterday’s game against Detroit, and he will be reevaluated tomorrow when the team is back in Boston.

For the last-place Bulls (5-20), it may be challenging for them to overcome the absence Markkanen, who is having one of the best rookie seasons in the league. On the other hand, they are playing their most confident basketball of the season, having won two straight games largely thanks to the return of big man Nikola Mirotic, who had missed most of the season with a facial fracture.

“They have super energy,” said Stevens, whose Celtics own the best record in the league at 23-5. “Sometimes when you get a guy as good as Mirotic back and you can insert him into the lineup, it just takes pressure off of everybody else to do a little bit more.”

The shorthanded Celtics will look to short-circuit Chicago’s energy tonight by overcoming their absences and starting up a two-game winning streak of their own.

- Taylor Snow