Chicago Bulls (19-21) at Boston Celtics Game #41 9/1/23

The Celtics return home from their 4 game road trip to host the Chicago Bulls. This is the 4th and final game between these two teams this season. The Bulls won both games on their home court – 120-102 on October 24 and 121-107 on November 21. The Celtics won the game in Boston 123-119 on November 4.

The Celtics remain first in the Eastern Conference. They are 1 game ahead of the Nets who have won 18 of their last 20 games and 2.5 games ahead of the Bucks. They are 15-5 at home and 6-4 in their last 10 games. They are 15-8 against other Eastern Conference opponents. They have won their last 2 games.

The Bulls are 9th in the Eastern Conference and in play in range. They are 3 games behind 6th place and a regular playoff berth and they are 2 games ahead of 11th place and a lottery spot. They are 8-12 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 16-11 against Eastern Conference opponents. They have won their last 3 games and, unlike the Mavericks’ win streak, those wins are against good opponents including Brooklyn, Philadelphia and Utah.

The Celtics are playing in the first of 2 straight home games and will host the Pelicans on Wednesday before heading back out for 3 more road games. The Bulls are playing in the first of 2 road games and will head to Washington for a game on Wednesday before going home for 2 games. After that, they will play the Pistons in Paris, France.

Over their last 10 games, the Celtics have averaged 117.9 points, 47.6 rebounds, 27.7 assists, 7.1 steals and 5.9 blocks per game. They have allowed 113.5 points per game from their opponents. In their last 10 games, the Bulls have averaged 120.6 points, 43.1 rebounds, 22.5 assists, 7.3 steals, and 4.7 blocks per game. They have allowed opponents to score 117.9 points per game.

Danilo Gallinari remains out as he rehabs from an ACL tear. Marcus Smart left Saturday’s game with a knee contusion and is considered doubtful for this game. I’ve included him in the starting lineup as wishful thinking. If he can’t play, I expect Derrick White to play the point and Grant Williams or Robert Williams to be added to the starters. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Robert Williams join the starters after Jayson Tatum requested it after Saturday’s game.

For the Bulls, Lonzo Ball remains out as he rehabs from a September knee surgery. Tony Bradley is out due to Health and Safety Protocols for Covid. Alex Caruso has missed the last 2 games with an ankle injury and is questionable for this game. Javonte Green has missed the last 4 games with a knee injury and is questionable for this game. Caruso and Green will be a game time decision.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Malcolm Brogdon
Grant Williams
Robert WilliamsIII
Sam Hauser
Payton Pritchard
Luke Kornet
Blake Griffin
Justin Jackson

2 Way Players
JD Davison
Mfiondu Kabengele

Out/Injuries
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Marcus Smart (knee) doubtful

Head Coach (Interim)
Joe Mazzulla

Probable Bulls Starters

Bulls Reserves
Coby White
Derrick Jones, Jr
Goran Dragic
Marko Simonovich
Dalen Terry
André Drummond

Out/Injuries
Lonzo Ball (knee) out
Alex Caruso (ankle) questionable
Tony Bradley (covid) out
Javonte Green (knee) questionable

Two-Way Players
Malcolm Hill
Carlik Jones

Head Coach
Billy Donovan

Key Matchups

Jaylen Brown vs. DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan is playing very well, averaging 26.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 50.4% from the field and 27.1% from beyond the arc. In the 3 games against Boston this season, DeRozan averaged 33 points per game. He is capable of putting up big numbers and the Celtics need to find a way to slow him down.

Derrick White vs. Zach LaVine
LaVine is averaging 23.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.0 steals. He is shooting 46.9% from the field and 40.5% from beyond the arc. LaVine shoots very well from the perimeter and he is also very good at getting to the basket and so the Celtics need to stay with him wherever he is on the court.

Honorable Mention
Al Horford vs. Nikola Vucevic
Vucevic is averaging 16.8 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. He is shooting 51.6%% from the field and 37.9% from beyond the arc. He is a threat to grab rebounds and also to block shots so Horford needs to stay with him inside and he also can hit 3’s so he will spread the floor for the Bulls.

Keys to the Game
Defense – Defense is always a key to winning. So far, the Celtics have played defense in spurts but haven’t been consistent on that end of the court. They are 7th in the league with a defensive rating of 111.1. The Bulls are 20th with a defensive rating of 113.5. Chicago shot over 50% from the field in both of their wins and the Celtics are the only team in the league that the Bulls have shot over 50% against in multiple games. The Celtics need to get a strong defensive effort from every player on the court and they need to get back to making defense a priority for all 48 minutes with no slacking off.

Rebound – The Celtics must box out and crash the boards. They can’t score without the ball and it will take extra effort on their part to beat the Bulls on the boards. The Celtics are averaging 43.9 rebounds per game, which is 12th in the league. The Bulls are averaging 42.4 rebounds per game, which is 23rd. In the first game between these two teams, the Bulls out rebounded the Celtics 60-45. The Celtics have to put out more effort to get to the rebounds before the Bulls and give themselves extra possessions.

Be Aggressive – The Celtics have to come out and be aggressive right from the opening tip. They have to be aggressive on defense, driving to the basketball, rebounding, diving for loose balls and just playing harder in general. They need to get off to a strong start and play hard right up until the final buzzer. They can’t let the Bulls outwork them for any period of time. The biggest reason for the Celtics losses to sub .500 teams has been a lack of effort and they have to avoid that if they want to beat the Bulls and even the series.

Play the Right Way – The Celtics have to move the ball and make the extra pass to find the open man and the best shots. When they keep the ball moving, they are tough to beat but when they allow the ball to slow down and they dribble too much and try to play hero ball, they become predictable and are very beatable. The Celtics must play the right way for 48 minutes and not let up for any amount of time in the game, especially not down the stretch.

X Factors
Home Game and Revenge – The Celtics are at home and should get a boost from the home crowd. They also have the benefit of sleeping in their own beds and playing on a familiar court and not having fatigue from travel. The Bulls have all the distractions of playing on the road. The Celtics need to defend their home court and use the advantages they have there to do so. Also, the Bulls handed the Celtics 2 losses this season and so they need to avenge those losses by playing harder in this one.

Officiating – The officiating is always an x-factor. Sometimes a crew will call the game tight and blow a whistle on every play. Other times they will let them play and let the game get physical. The Celtics need to adjust to the way the game is called and not let missed calls or bad calls affect their focus. If the calls are bad, they just need to play harder to make up for them and not waste time arguing with the officials, especially since complaining usually only makes the refs angry and doesn’t change the calls.

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