Pregame Post-Ups: Chicago's Front Court Gets a Boost, while Boston's Takes a Hit

Saturday, Dec. 8 - Celtics at Bulls

Pregame – Chicago's Front Court Gets a Boost, while Boston's Takes a Hit

CHICAGO – The Boston Celtics blew out the Chicago Bulls by 29 points back on Nov. 14, but it’s worth noting that Chicago was without its reigning leading scorer and rebounder during that beatdown. Lauri Markkanen will be present, however, in Saturday night’s rematch at United Center, and his presence alone could make for a much more competitive battle.

Markkanen missed the first 23 games of the season with a right elbow injury, and the Bulls struggled during that time going 5-18. The sophomore forward returned to action last week, and already Chicago has looked like a stronger team.

Markkanen was reinserted into the starting lineup Tuesday night in Indiana, where he tallied 21 points and 10 rebounds in a six-point loss to the fourth-place Pacers. Last night, he made an even bigger impact against the Oklahoma City Thunder, pouring in 24 points, along with seven rebounds, to help lead Chicago to its first win since Nov. 21.

“They looked like they played with great purpose last night, great effort, great togetherness,” C’s coach Brad Stevens said ahead of Saturday night’s tip-off. “They obviously have a lot of talented, young guys and Markkanen makes a big difference. His ability to stretch the floor is a little bit unique even to most 4s because you can be there, but he can still get it off. It’s hard to challenge his shot because he’s so tall.”

The 7-footer has already connected on 11 3-pointers during his first three games back, and the Celtics know first-hand just how dangerous he can be beyond the arc. Markkanen shot 53.8 percent from deep last season against the C’s, while averaging 14.7 points per game.

While Markkanen should give the Bulls’ front line a boost Saturday night, the Celtics will be severely depeted in that area of the court. Aron Baynes will be sidelined with an ankle injury, Al Horford was a last-minute scratch due to knee soreness, and Robert Williams is out due to personal reasons. This just means that the Celtics will have to buckle down even more, as they look to cool off Markkanen’s hot return.

- Taylor Snow