The Boston Celtics look to kick-start the 2014 portion of their season by putting together a complete, four-quarter effort on the road
against the Chicago Bulls.
To say the Celtics should be disappointed with their recent play is an understatement; they should be furious, as they have lost 4 of the last 7 games in which they led at the half. That number could be higher, as it took a last-second block from Brandon Bass to preserve a win against the Cleveland Cavaliers last Saturday. I can only assign so much of the “blame” for these late-game collapses on the fact that the Celtics are still missing their floor general, Rajon Rondo; having Rondo would keep their offense from falling apart in close contests, true, but the players who are currently suiting up for the Celts have to be better prepared to handle the fourth-quarter pushes that every NBA team is going to try and mount. By now, these collapses are 100% mental, so Boston has to come into the United Center with a lot more mental toughness than they displayed toward the end of 2013.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bulls (who are in the same situation as the Celtics, having lost starting point guard Derrick Rose to injury for the remainder of the season) will be trying to start their new year by figuring out how to defend their home court. Despite averaging 94.0 points on 43.9% field goal shooting in their last six road games, the Bulls have averaged a horrific 81.4 points per game, shooting just 38.% from the field, in their last seven games at the United Center. Even the return of Luol Deng couldn’t help the Bulls reverse their losing ways at home, as they fell 85-79 against the visiting Toronto Raptors Tuesday.
This adds up to good news for the Celtics, since it’s a lot harder to blow a late-game lead when your opponent struggles mightily to score on its home floor.
More good news for the Celtics is that Bulls’ power forward, Carlos Boozer, has been particularly inept at home this season, averaging just 10 points and shooting a horrendous 33.8% from the field in his last five games at home. Of course, Boozer tends to play well at home against the Celtics (18 points, 11 rebounds, 54% shooting in his last six at home against the Cs), and Boston has already been used and abused by some big, muscular front courts this season, so it would behoove them to try and frustrate Boozer early, possibly get him in foul trouble, and keep him from regaining his shooting touch at home tonight if the Cs want to leave with their first W of the new year.
(All statistics courtesy of nba.com/celtics)
Tonight’s game is schedule to kick-off at 8 p.m. Make sure you follow me on Twitter – @HoudiniCeltics and @theamazingMrS – and check back in to the site for my breakdown of the game once the dust has settled!