The Chicago Bulls head into Boston after a discouraging loss at the hands of the New York Knicks. It's always tough to play on a back to back, especially when your opponent is not playing on a back to back (frequently both teams are), and such is the case tonight.
The Celtics are rested, at home, and have more talent than the Bulls while Carlos Boozer is on the sidelines. Those three things don't add up to great odds for our Bulls tonight.
Keys to the game:
Get out and run
The Celtics are old, and if they have a weakness it's age. It's a team you'd rather play three or four months into the season rather than early, because they'll likely have some more injuries down the stretch or at least be playing with some exhaustion. Despite the fact the Bulls are coming off a back to back, they need to try and run the Celtics out of the building.
Push the pace hard early, make them pull O'Neal out of the game because Noah is killing him with energy. Make them try and contain Derrick Rose on the fast break.
Zone up on Ray Allen
Don't try and have one guy cover Ray Allen and run through the screens, but instead play a zone with a perimeter defender on each wing and let that wing defender cover Allen. It will save a lot of energy and hurt the effectiveness of their screens. It also should stop the Celtics from getting high percentage threes from the corner.
Obviously you need to mix up your coverage based on who is doing the damage, but in crucial situations, be aware that you can mitigate the damage done on backscreens with a zone.
Try to avoid double teams except deep in the paint
The Celtics are a deep, well rounded, team. Unless you need to rotate over to help on a guy at the basket who's about to score, everyone needs to man up on their guy when not in the zone. The Celtics have too many scorers and move the ball too well to start doubling a guy to force the ball out of his hands.
Play Kyle Korver a lot with the starters
The Celtics have older guys defending the perimeter, so someone like Korver who runs all over the place on back screens to work his shot is likely to find some success, especially late in the game if their perimeter defenders are worn down a bit. The Bulls really aren't getting anything from Bogans and very little from Brewer. The JJ experiment went south after one game, so let's start riding Korver.
The Bulls best crunch time lineup right now is Rose, Korver, Deng, Gibson, and Noah, so get these guys playing together more frequently.
This game will be awfully tough for the Bulls to win. Similar to the Knicks beating the Bulls, the Bulls will need to do something special to beat the Celtics or need the Celtics to just crap the bed to win this game. With a healthy Boozer these two teams might be close, but even then, a road back to back vs a fresh team is a tough position to be in. Without Boozer, this will be a stiff test, one of many tough games coming up in November.