[Thanks to ChiBullsfan4life for today's game preview. Lots of spots available this month! -yfbb]
The last time I did one of these previews, the Bulls were riding high on a 6 game winning streak that included victories over the Grizzlies, Raptors, Wizards, and Pelicans. They were heading into a game against the Pacers that was expected to be another easy win given how well the Bulls were playing and how the Pacers struggle on offense.
The Bulls would win that game, but not before nearly coughing up a 16 point fourth quarter lead and scoring a mere 2 points in the first 8 minutes of the 4th quarter. That game, in some ways, marked the beginning of a bad stretch the Bulls have been on over the past 2-3 weeks.
That stretch started with a blowout loss against the Nets, and continued with close calls against bad Nuggets and Celtics teams. The streak of bad was briefly interrupted by a great team win against the Rockets, before a 5 game stretch that included 2 big losses to the rival Wizards, a blowout loss at home against the Jazz, a bad home loss to the Magic, and a win against the Bucks.
Now, here we sit on January 16th, the Bulls are 4th in the conference and are getting ready to travel to Boston to take on the hapless Celtics once again.
This Celtics team wasn't particularly good when the year started, but they've gotten even worse since they traded away arguably their two best players in Jeff Green and (fuck) Rajon Rondo. Their front court, which includes Jared Sullinger (18.0 PER), Kelly Olynyk (16.3), Tyler Zeller (19.4), and Brandon Bass (15.3) is still competent, but the Celtics really lack playmakers at the 1-3 positions. Evan Turner killed us last time we played the Celtics for whatever reason, so I guess we have to make sure we contain him (not playing Kirk Hinrich on him for most of the game might be a good starting point).
Once again, this should be a pretty easy win if the Bulls come out ready to play. The Bulls really need this one, too, because their next 6 games are against the Hawks, Cavs, Spurs, Mavericks, Heat, and Warriors.
With Noah out, expect Mirotic to see an uptick in minutes. Niko played 38 last time out against the Celtics and had a tough time getting his shot to fall (2-10 from the field, 1-6 from 3).
On the bright side, it's still January, and the Bulls have a few months to figure this out. When healthy and clicking, this team can be as good as any team out there, and regular season record won't be that important once the playoffs get here. As long as we get a top-4 seed and can avoid playing the Cavs in the first round, we've accomplished what we need to in the regular season.