Bulls vs. Celtics preview: Chicago looks to get back into playoff picture

USA TODAY Sports

The Bulls are a half game behind the eighth-seeded Celtics in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Y'all ready for the Ron Adams revenge game?

The former Bulls assistant and his Celtics visit wintry (and miserable) Chicago on Thursday night in a game between two squads "battling" at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Celtics currently hold the No. 8 seed with a record of 13-18, while the Bulls are a half game back at 12-18. So yes, if the Bulls win tonight, they're back in a playoff spot.

Not a whole lot was expected of the rebuilding Celtics this year under new head coach Brad Stevens, with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce off in Brooklyn and Rajon Rondo recovering from an ACL injury. Things certainly didn't start out too well for Stevens and his squad, with newcomer Gerald Wallace calling out his teammates in the preseason and early in the regular season.

The Celtics started the year 0-4, and since then, they've been pretty up-and-down. The 0-4 start was followed by four straight wins, which was then followed by six straight losses, which was then followed by six wins in eight games. On Dec. 16, the Celtics sat at a respectable 12-14 following an impressive win over the Timberwolves, but they've gone 1-4 since. The lone win came against the slumping Cavaliers, who've lost six in a row.

One theme for the Celtics this season has been a failure to protect big leads. Last game against the Hawks, the Celtics led by 18 before losing a 92-91 heartbreaker. In the win over the Cavs, the Celtics led by 19 going into the fourth quarter and only won by three. Against the Wizards two weeks ago, the Celtics led by 16 after one only to lose by seven. And before that against the Pistons, the Celtics led by 19 after the first quarter before losing by seven. So yeah, this blowing leads thing tends to happen quite a bit.

Looking at the numbers, the Celtics are somewhat similar to the Bulls in that they have a rather weak offense and a solid defense. The Celtics are 23rd in the NBA in offensive rating and 10th in defensive rating, while the Bulls are 29th in offensive rating (but Jimmy Butler says there's no problem offensively!) and fourth in defensive rating. The Celtics are pretty mediocre on the boards and have had issues with turnovers.

Talent-wise, the Celtics have some nice young pieces, but nothing all that special with Rondo out of the lineup for another month or so. Jeff Green leads the team at 15.9 points per game, and while he has shown flashes of being a big-time player, the consistency just isn't there. Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger are having nice seasons, but again, they really can't consistently carry the load. Jordan Crawford had a brilliant stretch earlier this year, but he's still Jordan Crawford and has cooled a bit since. Finally, big man Kelly Olynyk is coming off the best game of a rookie season that has been marred by injury.

As for our Bulls, they're coming off an absolutely miserable offensive performance against the Raptors on New Year's Eve. The Bulls appeared on the verge of another solid win entering the fourth quarter thanks to their defense, but they proceeded to shoot 16.7 percent in the final frame to blow the game. Since I'm on Team Tank, it was almost hilarious watching the Bulls bumble their way through the fourth quarter as they strung together terrible possession after terrible possession. And this was with Luol Deng back in the lineup!

Considering the styles of these two teams, expect yet another low-scoring (read: ugly) affair. This really is a game the Bulls should win, but looking at some of the games they've lost this season, obviously nothing is guaranteed. At any rate, I pity the souls who drive through the blizzard to attend this one.

Tip is at 7 p.m. CT and is on CSN Chicago.

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