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Bulls vs. Celtics injury report, game preview, lineups

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Jimmy Butler and a Bag of Rocks vs. the team he may be traded to

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

[Thanks to Matt for today's game preview. There are some slots open for the next few games if you'd like to sign up and do a preview -yfbb]

Game Time: 2:30 CT

Network: ABC

Injuries:

  • Bulls: None
  • Celtics: None

Recent Form:

  • Bulls: 4 ugly, successive losses have the Bulls at DEFCON 4 right now. Jimmy Butler hasn't looked like himself since picking up a heel injury, Dwyane Wade is Dwyane Wade, and the point guard rotation still defies any sort of logic or comprehension (rumor has it the Bulls are going to being holding open tryouts for the position before the playoffs). There's not much more that needs to be said. A shameless #FireGarPax plug here even seems pointless.
  • Celtics: Per our friends at CelticsBlog, the C's have done a complete 180 over the past few weeks. The return of Avery Bradley has transformed Boston's defense, turning them into the 7th-ranked defensive team since the festivities in New Orleans. They've held Golden State (sans KD) to 86 points, and beat the Cavs with a few key stops in the 4th quarter. The predictability of Boston's IT-centric offense (especially in crunch time) is most likely the main factor regarding their offensive regression; their offense is ranked 27th since the break. Recent losses to the Nuggets and Suns have tempered fans' playoff expectations.
The Matchup:
  • The C's have struggled all season with tall teams that rebound well (sound familiar?). They only have one patented rim-protector in Amir Johnson, who struggles mightily when pulled out of the paint by stretch 4's and 5's. The Bulls will miss Taj Gibson tonight. It's too much to ask Lopez to consistently create his own shots around the rim.
  • Double-teaming IT is effective because of his size. He simply doesn't possess the length at 5'9' to pass consistently when trapped by two opposing players. The ball-dominant nature of Thomas's game usually has him initiating the majority of Boston's offensive sets. Trapping him early and often won't allow him to get easy looks around the perimeter or let him involve Horford in pick-and-rolls or pick-and-pops.
  • Boston's much improved defense will be a definite challenge for the Bulls. Avery Bradley can function as "Jimmy-stopper" all game if need be. Brad Steven's isn't an idiot; he'll start double-teaming Jimmy if Bradley can't get the job done himself. It's not like Butler has anyone to pass to.
The Verdict:
  • The Bulls have had success against this smaller Celtics team in two of their last three matchups. Can they replicate that success tonight? Something tells me Boston is going to be extra-motivated after a rather listless loss in Denver. Chicago seems to have finally entered the free-fall that many were expecting months ago. A loss on Sunday (with games against Memphis, Washington, and Utah following) will perhaps signal the team is conclusively at DEFCON 5.