Boston Celtics (43-12) at Chicago Bulls (26-29) Game #56 2/22/24

Boston Celtics (43-12) at Chicago Bulls (26-29) Game #56 2/22/24

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The Celtics visit the Chicago Bulls to begin the stretch run after the All Star break. This is the 2nd of 3 games between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first game 124-97 in Boston on November 28. They will meet for a third and final time in Chicago on March 23. These two teams tied the series 2-2 last season with each team winning 2 games at home.

The Celtics remain in first place in the East, 6 games ahead of 2nd place Cleveland, 8.5 games ahead of 3rd place Milwaukee, 10 games ahead of 4th place New York, 10.5 games ahead of 5th place Philadelphia and 12.5 games ahead of 6th place Indiana. They are 17-9 on the road and 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 30-6 against Eastern Conference teams and have won their last 6 games.

The Bulls are in 9th place, 6.5 games behind 6th place Indiana and a guaranteed spot in the playoffs. They are 4 games behind 7th place Miami and 8th place Orlando. They are 2 games ahead of 10th place Atlanta and 4.5 games ahead of 11th place Brooklyn and slipping out of play in contention. They are 15-12 at home and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 15-19 against Eastern Conference teams and are coming off a loss in their last game.

After this game at Chicago, the Celtics will head to New York and then will have 3 home games against Philadelphia, Dallas and Golden State before heading out on a 5 game road trip through Cleveland, Denver, Phoenix, Portland and Utah. The Bulls will play at New Orleans next and then Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee at home.

The Celtics have just Jaden Springer on the injury report with an ankle impingement. He has missed the past 4 games and is questionable for this game. His status will be a game time decision. Xavier Tillman should be available for his first game as a Celtic after missing the first 4 games after the trade deadline deal that brought him to Boston. .

For Chicago, Lonzo Ball hasn’t played since Jan. 2021 and will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury. Zach LaVine is out for the remainder of the season with a foot injury. Torrey Craig injured his knee while working out over the All-Star break and is out for this game. Patrick Williams hasn’t played since Jan. 25 due to a left foot injury and will miss this game.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics ReservesOshae BrissettSam HauserAl HorfordLuke KornetSvi MykhailiukPayton PritchardJordan WalshXavier Tillman

2 Way PlayersJD DavisonDrew PetersonNeemias Queta

Injuries/OutJaden Springer (ankle) questionable

Head CoachJoe Mazzulla

Probable Bulls Starters

Bulls Reserves Jevon CarterAlex CarusoJulian PhillipsTerry Taylor Dalen Terry

Two Way Players Onuralp BitimHenri DrellAdama Sanogo

Injuries/Out Lonzo Ball (knee) out Zach LaVine (foot) outTorrey Craig (knee) out Patrick Williams (foot) out

Head Coach Billy Donovan

Key Matchups

Jaylen Brown vs DeMar DeRozan DeRozan is playing very well, averaging 22.7 points,4.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He is shooting 47.2% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc. Over his career against Boston, DeRozan has averaged 21.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. He is capable of putting up big numbers and the Celtics need to find a way to slow him down. They especially need to cover him in the mid range.

Jrue Holiday vs Coby WhiteWhite is averaging 19.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists per game. He is shooting 46.3% from the field and 39.7% from beyond the arc. Over his career against Boston, he has averaged 8 points, 4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. In the first game this season, he finished with 19 points, 1 rebound and 3 assists. He shot 58.3% from the field and 60.3% from beyond the arc. The Celtics need to defend him especially on the perimeter.

Honorable MentionJayson Tatum vs Nikola VucevicVucevic is averaging 17.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game. He is shooting 47.1% from the field and 34.1% from beyond the arc. In the first game this season, he finished with 8 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block and 2 steals. He shot 36% from the field and did not hit a 3 pointer. The Celtics need to defend him well once again.

Keys to the Game Defense – Defense is always a key to winning. The Celtics are 3rd in the league with a defensive rating of 110.5. The Bulls are 16th with a defensive rating of 115.0. The Celtics need to get a strong defensive effort from every player on the court and they need to get back to make 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 47.3 rebounds per game, which is 1st in the league. The Bulls are averaging 43.5 rebounds per game, which is 15th. The Celtics have to put out more effort to get to the rebounds before the Bulls and give themselves extra possessions and limit those possessions for the Bulls.

Take Care of the Ball – The Celtics still go through periods where they turn the ball over too much and either allow their opponent to build a lead or allow them to come back from a deficit. They need to focus on making good passes and on not dribbling into a crowd. It’s hard to win a game when you give the opponent 20+ extra possessions by turning the ball over. The Bulls are 7yh in the league with 17.3 points off turnovers a game and the Celtics have to focus on taking care of the basketball to limit those extra points for the Bulls.

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 basket, 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 because even the best team in the league can lose to the worst if they don’t play with effort.

X-Factors Road Game and Rust – The Celtics are playing on the road and will have the distractions of travel and a hotel stay and playing in front of hostile fans in an unfamiliar arena. Both teams are coming off of a week off from games and whichever team can shake off the rust first will have the advantage.

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.

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