Oh, and who can forget the fact that the Celtics are on a 9-game winning streak and have the best offensive rating in the NBA? If you want to get even crazier, did you know Boston also had a top 10 defensive rating for the past two weeks? Because they do!
Despite all of this, the Celtics still need to be on guard Chicago Bulls when they face each other on Monday night. Chicago has a knack for beating the Celtics and has seen a win against Boston before this season – despite the season series being tied 1-1. Now, with the Bulls struggling for consistency and questions looming over their roster build, longevity and ability to fight for a championship, Chicago will have every reason to enter the game full of intensity on Monday to prove a point.
Still, the Celtics can go ten games unbeaten if they beat Chicago on Monday, and given their current level of play, they should be confident and ready to execute their game plan. Nonetheless, the Bulls could become a trap game for Boston, so I made up 3 tickets to see the Celtics triumph over Chicago.
fire from below
The Bulls currently sit 26th in defense above break threes, allowing teams to shoot 37.7% against them. Interestingly, the last time Boston played Chicago, the Celtics shot just 29% from deep, which is highly unusual for them this season.
Still, you have to stick to the facts, and the fact of the matter is that Boston can thrive over the break considering how often the Bulls give up scoring chances. I’d expect Joe Mazzulla to pull actions to lure Sam Hauser out of corners, or slam Grant Williams after setting a rip or ghost screen — and of course Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown doing their thing when they’re as primary ball handlers act in half court.
Derrick White will also play a role. In the first 16 games of the season, White shoots non-corner threes 42% of the time cleaning the glassso its presence as a reverse screen and pop screen will be another worrisome thing for the Bulls to try and limit on Monday night.
No drop defense
The Bulls, as you would expect from a team with DeMar DeRozan on their roster, are second in the NBA for converting their midfield attempts. Funnily enough, the Celtics are first but need less than half the tries.
However, if you want to take down one of Chicago’s biggest offensive threats, avoiding drop defense will be an essential part of it because if there isn’t a gap in the middle of the court, DeRozan will have a harder time doing DeRozan-like things. Of course, that also means you can’t get caught in his rear view when shifting gears, because DeRozan is always a threat to stop and pop in space.
It’ll be interesting to see how Mazzulla looks to contain Vucevic on the inside while also limiting DeRozan’s options, but hey, that’s the game within the game, right?
Set the tone
The Bulls usually know when to up their intensity and when to use their fast-breaking skills, and we’ve seen them against the Celtics before – both this season and last. As such, the Celtics should look to control the pace, set the narrative in terms of intensity, and maintain physical presence from the opening peak.
Chicago refuses to be tucked away and will try to flip the script if a team takes their foot off the gas, but the Celtics already know that because they’ve lived it, so one would hope they’d stick to the hard Remember the lesson they learned at the start of the season.
Having Smart back will greatly increase the Celtics’ defense and intensity. We could see Blake Griffin going to court when things start to get dicey, but maybe I’m just letting some wishful thinking out into the universe.
The Bulls have all the motivation they need going into today’s game. A win over the Celtics will calm all the chatter about their championship chances while giving them the boost they need. But the Celtics are no joke and know what it takes to knock out teams after years of losing close games and falling behind after incredible comebacks.
I got the Celtics to grab a win and end the night on a double digit win streak.