Saturday night, the Boston Celtics (21-22, 20-21-2 ATS) face off against the Chicago Bulls (27-13, 23-17 ATS) on night two of a back-to-back. The C’s fell to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday in an ugly display of basketball. Chicago is riding a two-game losing streak but has won seven of their last ten.
According to the online sports book Betonline.ag, the Boston Celtics are 6-point favorites:
- Point Spread: Boston Celtics -6
- Over-Under: 215.5 points
- Money line: Boston Celtics -240, Chicago Bulls +200
Marcus Smart remains as the sole player listed on the Celtics’ injury report. He just recently entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols after testing positive for COVID.
Chicago has a healthy injury report heading into Saturday night. Patrick Williams (wrist), Javonte Green (groin), Tyler Cook (ankle), Derrick Jones Jr. (knee), Alex Caruso (foot), and Zach LaVine (knee) are all out. In addition, Lonzo Ball (knee) is listed as questionable.
G: Dennis Schroder
G: Jaylen Brown
F: Jayson Tatum
F: Al Horford
C: Robert Williams
G: Coby White
G: Ayo Dosunmu
F: Troy Brown Jr.
F: DeMar DeRozan
C: Nikola Vucevic
Boston Celtics Overview
Boston has still yet to win more than three games in a row this year, and they’ve only accomplished that feat twice. The other was back when they defeated the Lakers, Thunder, and Rockets back in November. Despite this, they’ve been keeping games fairly competitive recently. That was, until the ugly loss against the Sixers on Friday night.
Head coach Ime Udoka mirrored that statement in his postgame press conference. He said he sees their loss to Philadelphia more as “an aberration of the norm” rather than a trend. Most Celtics fans may scoff at that sentiment, but it’s somewhat true. Boston hasn’t lost a game by a double-digit margin since a December 10 loss to the Phoenix Suns.
It largely came down to a lack of ball movement and a horrific number of turnovers on Friday. The C’s finished with 20 turnovers on the night – and the same number of assists. 20 turnovers combined with an 18-point first-quarter deficit was enough to bury the C’s for good. There was no coming back.
Chicago Bulls Overview
Chicago has been nothing short of phenomenal this year. They currently sit at first in the Eastern Conference, one game ahead of the Miami Heat. DeMar DeRozan has been a revelation for the Bulls and is playing at an MVP level this season. He does a little bit of everything for Chicago, and in tandem with LaVine, forms one of the best duos in the business. They have some elite depth, too.
Nikola Vucevic cannot be ignored, either. He’s been playing a smaller role this year, for obvious reasons, but his contributions are crucial to the success of this team. On top of that, the Bulls have an absurd amount of depth.
That being said, a lot of that depth will be unavailable for Saturday night’s game. Caruso, Green, and Jones Jr. will all be unavailable. If Ball ends up being unable to play, too, then the Bulls team Boston faces will look very different from the one that’s been dominating the NBA all season. But they also just lost by 42 on Friday night, so they’ll probably come out hungry.
Stop DeRozan. Vucevic is great, but with LaVine out, all eyes need to go towards DeRozan. His play this season has been incredible. Going into the year, a lot of people (including this author) thought he would be a flop in Chicago. But man, oh man has he proved all those people wrong. He’s taken his mid-range game, added a three-point shot, and diversified his offense to the point where he can score from anywhere.
Boston’s 20 turnovers against the Sixers were ultimately the reason they lost that game. Cutting that number down to even 13 to 15 would have helped them immensely. They quite literally just couldn’t get out of their own way. Turning the ball over that many times is a sure-fire way to lose basketball games, and if the C’s do that against the Bulls, there’s no chance they win.
Finally, ball movement is crucial. This has to be a key before every game the Celtics play, but it truly is the biggest win condition. When the Celtics pass the ball more, their offense looks better. What a wild concept. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown shouldn’t try to force the issue on their own, and they shouldn’t have to do that if the rest of their team goes cold, either. Just keep the ball moving.
With the number of injuries facing the Bulls right now, one would think the C’s have a good shot at winning this one. Unfortunately, with the way the Celtics came out against Philadelphia, this one will probably come down to the wire.
Boston Celtics 112, Chicago Bulls 108
TIP-OFF: 8:30 p.m. @ TD Garden
RADIO: 98.5 The Sports Hub
TV: NBC Sports Boston