The rivalry continues as the Celtics face the new-look Chicago Bulls, minus their biggest acquisition in Carlos Boozer, at TD Garden tonight.
The Celtics are coming off a so-so performance as they gutted out a win in overtime over the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday. The C’s didn’t always shine bright in that one and lost a six point lead with under a minute a half left, but managed to pull it out thanks to the play of Paul Pierce down the stretch.
The Bulls, meanwhile, will be playing a back-to-back after losing to the Knicks last night. New York went off from beyond the arc, hitting 16 of 24 threes, and Chicago couldn’t overcome the opposition’s hot hand despite a valiant comeback attempt after being down almost 20 points.The loss dropped Chicago to 2-2 on the season, and it will be looking to get back on track. This also gives the C’s a chance to see old friends Brian Scalabrine and Tom Thibodeau, the new Chicago coach who comes back to Boston on the heels of his first real controversy as a head coach.
Here’s a few things to watch out for.
1) Another test for Rondo: After outplaying Brandon Jennings, Rajon Rondo gets no rest as he has to face off against Derrick Rose. The former Rookie of the Year has already had his breakout performance with 39 points against Detroit, and he was actually the second leading scorer in the league heading into last night’s game against New York (the Bulls also boast the league’s top rebounder in Joakim Noah).
In fact, the last time these two saw each other Rose put up that same number against Rondo. In fact, in Rose was in double digits in scoring in every game last season against the Celtics. It’s clear that Rondo can’t keep him from scoring, but Rose couldn’t stop Rondo from putting up lofty assists numbers either, and Rondo has been on quite a role in that regard lately. Either way you stack it up, this is going to be a fun matchup to watch.
2) Is that the real Luol Deng?: Deng has always been a pest in Paul Pierce’s side on the defensive end, but you kept waiting for him to do more. Two years ago it looked like Deng was on his way to adding an impressive offensive repertoire to his game, but then he regressed once again. Now, it looks like Deng’s offense has returned and even branched out to new heights. The forward is averging 21 points a game and exploded for a 40 point night in a 110-98 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, a game in which he shot 14-19 from the floor.
Remember a few years ago when Deng had such great promise that Kobe Bryant demanded that he not be included in a trade between Chicago and LA? Well, maybe Deng can reach that status again.
3) Getting Testy: This is certainly a case where the Bulls view the Celtics as a rival, while the Celtics somewhat dismiss that notion. Still, you can bet Chicago will be amped heading into this one. While this isn’t the same Bulls team from the memorable playoff series two years ago (we already saw Ben Gordon and John Salmons, two key members of that team, in the last two games), it is an even better side that is going to round into form this year.
Without Boozer, the Bulls have needed to rely on Deng and Rose to shoulder the scoring load. Imagine how good they will be when their big man returns? Get a good look at the Bulls now, but keep in mind things are going to change soon.