What to watch for when the Boston Celtics visit the Chicago Bulls

Boston Celtics (Photo By Christopher Evans/Digital First Media/Boston Herald via Getty Images)
Boston Celtics (Photo By Christopher Evans/Digital First Media/Boston Herald via Getty Images) /

After a tough loss against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, the Boston Celtics will have another chance to grab their first post-All-Star break win against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.

In a bitter defensive battle in Milwaukee, the Boston Celtics came one Kyrie Irving shot short of beating the East’s No. 1 seed. Nevertheless, they’re now still in search of their first victory in the symbolic second half of the season, and have a fair opportunity in Chicago against the Bulls, who currently sport a 14-44 record.

Boston has had tremendous success in the Windy City so far this year, with their previous contest in Chicago ending in a 133-77 victory in December. Their first matchup of the season, in Boston, ended fairly for the Celtics as well, with a 111-82 win.

Both games were largely team efforts for the C’s, as no player scored more than 23 in either contest (Jaylen Brown, off the bench) and there were a total of 6 and 7 players scoring in double figures in each game, respectively.

While no road game can ever be considered a guarantee, if the Celtics want to continue their push for the best playoff seeding possible (as well as assert their worth in the Eastern Conference), matchups like these are not ones you can drop. Combined with the Milwaukee loss, an L on Saturday would be a horrendous start to the post-All-Star break portion of the season.

Tale of the Tape

Boston Celtics: 37-22 (5th in East), 14-14 on the road, have won the last 5 contests against Chicago

Chicago Bulls: 14-44 (13th in East), 6-23 at home, have lost 11 out of their last 12 home games

Gordon Hayward‘s return

After his impressive run during the final games before the All-Star break, the Boston Celtics should have reason to feel optimistic about their star forward’s journey back to being an elite player. But an injury during a workout with Semi Ojeleye kept him sidelined for their first game back against the Bucks.

He participated in practice today, though, and “looked good”, per Brad Stevens. There hasn’t been an official designation as to whether or not he’ll play in Chicago, but the initial signs are positive.

If he does make his post-All-Star debut on Saturday, all eyes will be on his performance against a team that isn’t likely to pose much resistance on defense. Hayward posted point totals of 19, 26, and 18 before entering the break, and shot 9-13 from deep during the span. If that trend continues into the final stretch of the season, the Celtics will be in good shape.

Keep beating the teams you’re supposed to beat

The Boston Celtics have been relatively good at getting the job done when it’s supposed to get done this season. Boston is 26-8 this year against teams below .500, which is on par with the rest of the teams at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Their only loss in the new calendar year against a below .500 team was their loss against the Magic, during the ugly three-game skid they suffered in January. By all metrics, this should be a game the Celtics win no matter what. It should also be mentioned that Bulls are playing in Orlando tonight, so they’ll be traveling and on the second night of a back-to-back.

So hopefully, Saturday rolls around and Boston treats it as business as usual. If so, they’ll move another half game closer to overtaking the 76ers and Pacers in the standings and be on to the next one. If they lose, though, there’s going to be some problems that need addressed.

A repeat Daniel Theis performance?

While Daniel Theis only logged 6 minutes for the Boston Celtics in their loss to Milwaukee, Theis put up what was easily the best game of his young career. In his 32 minutes of action replacing inactive Al Horford, Theis scored 22 points, grabbed 10 boards, dished out 5 assists, and blocked 4 shots en route to a +50 plus/minus.

The Bulls, like tomorrow’s matchup, were on the tail end of a back-to-back and Theis took full advantage. Horford is back and there probably won’t be too much reason for Theis to get meaningful minutes tomorrow night, but it’ll be interesting to see if Stevens gives him some respect for his previous game in Chicago and dishes him out some more minutes.

At the very least, he’ll be the most compelling player to watch if (read: when) this turns into a blowout for the Celtics.

Next. There's plenty of reason to be optimistic following Bucks loss. dark

Tip-off from the United Center is set at 8 p.m. If things go as planned, it should be a scheduled victory for the Boston Celtics.