The Boston Celtics are off to a shaky start this season. Two of their three wins come against the league worst Washington Wizards, they split a pair against the Bucks and have lost to the Heat and 76ers. Now I've been a "Celtics are overrated" guy for the past three seasons and felt the Bulls would have beaten them even without Rose in the playoffs last year if Noah hadn't been hurt (in which case I feel they also would have beaten the 76ers, but I digress..)
The Bulls will get another chance to prove I'm right tonight but will be at a decided disadvantage with Kirk Hinrich missing the game and possibly more time afterwards. Hinrich had an MRI Sunday, and thus far, the team has only said he's "day to day" afterwards but according to ESPN Chicago, he won't be playing tonight.
The drop off from Hinrich to Robinson may be non-existent. In fact, Nate Robinson has significantly outplayed Hinrich to date thus far. That said, the drop off from Hinrich to Teague is a huge gap right now. I'm scared of any moment that Robinson has to defend Rondo (which should put me in fear a good 40 minutes this game), and I'm terrified of any second that Teague draws the assignment.
On the surface, this game is about one thing, stopping Rajon Rondo. I have trust in the Bulls ability to defend Garnett and Pierce, but with Hinrich out, they have no answer for Rondo, and that's going to make the game awfully tough.
The one blind hope I have is while Marquis Teague hasn't me anything defensively so far this season, his biggest lapses have all been off the ball. Rondo will play exclusively on the ball and Teague has the athleticism to stay with him. For young, highly athletic players, on the ball defense comes a lot faster than off the ball defense. Perhaps Teague will come through in a defensive assignment where his responsibilities are more straight forward.
Can Carlos Boozer find his game?
Carlos Boozer has struggled this season, but he'll likely be defended by Brandon Bass to start the game. Bass is the type of bum that Boozer typically has a big night against, and the Bulls could really use him to shake off the funk that he's in on offense and provide some scoring.
Let's not hold our breath on the above
I'd like to see a whole bunch of Taj/Joakim playing together in the front court tonight. The Bulls are going to need the pair to help out on Rondo who will likely live in the paint given that he'll be defended by a combination of Robinson and Teague. The Bulls will need a supreme defensive effort tonight in order to beat the Celtics, and supreme defensive efforts come when your best front court defenders play lots of minutes.
The Bulls will need to control the glass, control turnovers, and limit bad plays. Chicago should have a big advantage on the offensive and defensive glass, and if they play with a ton of energy in the front court should gain second chance opportunities to offset their lesser half court creation abilities.
They'll also need Nate Robinson to play like good Nate for the night, limiting his turnovers, but still making plays on offense. When Nate is at his best, he's a spark plug, but like many similar players he can sink the team when he gets out of control. The Bulls have little choice but to ride him, and I think Robinson performs better when given lengthy minutes to overcome his mistakes.
Prediction? Toss up
It could go either way, but I'm guessing the Celtics pull it out. This is a good benchmark game as the Bulls have only beaten rather lousy teams thus far. With a healthy Kirk Hinrich, I would have favored the Bulls. However, Chicago is missing the one guy who had a good chance to defend the most important Celtics player which leaves them in an awfully tough spot.
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