[Thanks to Calogero for today's game preview. I recommend taping the game and then consulting this website before watching it. -ed.]
This one could get ugly. The last time we played Boston it sure did, as the Bulls not only lost 96-80 (in a game that was never close), but BaB favorite Tyrus Thomas clanged jumpers all night to the tune of 2-17. As a matter of fact, the new and improved Celtics have smacked us around quite a bit, going 5-0 against us in the past two seasons with an average margin of victory of 17.8 points, and no loss of ours has even been by single digits. Tonight doesn't figure to be much better, as the Celtics are a ridiculous 24-2 and have only won their past 16 games. As a means of contrast, our Bulls haven't even won 3 straight since the 2006-2007 campaign, and we are coming off consecutive overtime games against two of the worst teams in the league, Charlotte and the Clippers. At least tonight's inevitable shellacking won't be on national TV like our last game vs. Boston. Anyway, enough of the doom and gloom, and onto a few things to watch for tonight:
1. The Rondo v. Rose matchup- If people are going to insist on talking about Boston's big three, they should at least do so referring to Pierce, Garnett, and Rondo. Rondo was solid at the point last season, but has exploded in his 3rd year and is playing at, in my opinion, an all-star level. His jumper still isn't great, but he can get into the lane seemingly at will and is a tremendous finisher around the basket. As for our side, we boast a pretty spectacular young PG ourselves, but Mr. Rose has hit a bit of a rough patch in the past two games, as he was downright dreadful against Charlotte and not much better against the Clippers. However, to VDN's credit, he has kept giving Rose the big minutes and elected to let him play through it instead of throwing in a useless veteran backup (in this case, Lindsey Hunter) like certain former coaches of ours almost assuredly would've ::coughskilescough::. Anyway, what I think is most intriguing about this matchup is to see what Rose can learn from Rondo, mainly on the defensive end. Rondo is all over the place on defense (and in a good way, not in a Noc way), and is an excellent rebounder for a point guard, which are two traits that if Rose develops could help him turn the corner from a dynamic rookie PG into one of the best players in the league. Of course, he's only 20. Man I love having Derrick Rose.
2. How badly we get whooped on the boards- Our frontcourt made Marcus Camby look like Moses Malone the other night, and with Tyrus likely out tonight with a concussion, that is going to assure loads of time for the vaunted Noc-Gooden combo at the PF and C. And it'll probably mean more minutes for Aaron Gray. Again, as I wrote earlier, this could get ugly.
3. Joakim Noah- the development of him and Tyrus (and hopefully, 30 minutes a night for the both of them at some point here) are crucial to the rest of this season and, more importantly, the future, yet VDN seems to think it is more important to keep trotting out Noc at the 4 and watching Marcus Camby haul in 27 rebounds. However, with no Tyrus tonight, Del Negro is basically going to be forced to give Noah some minutes. Noah has seemed to snap out of his early season funk and has played well of late, and he'll get a big test tonight dealing with the physicality inside of Garnett, Perkins, Davis, and Powe.
4. The Larry Hughes Leaning Jumper Oh My God Have We Traded Him Yet Watch- In a stunning turn of events, Larry Hughes has reverted to being Larry Hughes, after a very un-Larry Hughes like streak of basketball. The past 2 games should really have shown Paxson just how urgently we need to take advantage of Hughes' decent play this season and take whatever the hell we can get for him.
5. When we inevitably get killed, we'll at least get to see the artist formerly known as Thabo Sefolosha on the floor! Garbage time PT for Thabo!
Tip off is at 630 CT tonight on CSN-Chicago, and if you want to read more about the team that is going to wipe the floor with us tonight, head on over to Celtics Blog. I suggest watching tonight's game with a bottle of whiskey.