The Boston Celtics (30-22) have won five straight games and are currently in first place in the Atlantic Division. The veteran squad is looking to continue its recent surge against a Chicago Bulls (42-13) team that has lost two straight games.
With Derrick Rose having been out with a groin injury since March 14, the Bulls are looking to find a way to get back on track as the reigning MVP continues to heal before the postseason begins.
Update: Rose is a game-time decision for Thursday's game against the Celtics after participating in a full practice on Wednesday.
While much of the attention has been focused on the play of Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett for the Celtics, it's team captain Paul Pierce who has really set the tone.
"The Truth" turned in March averages of 22.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He's finally seemed to find his groove after struggling with his shot for the first few months of the season.
Where: TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
When: Thursday, April 5, 9:30 p.m. ET
Bulls or Celtics?
Live Stream: NBA League Pass
Listen: WEEI (Boston), ESPN 1000 (Chicago)
Betting Line: Not available, according to Bovada.lv at 8:00 a.m.
Key Injuries: Mickael Pietrus (concussion), Jermaine O'Neal (wrist), Derrick Rose (groin)
What They're Saying
Prior to the trade deadline, many fans were calling for the Celtics to blow up the Big Three, but now that tune has changed because Boston is playing so well.
The veterans have really stepped up, and after a six-game absence, Ray Allen (ankle) is set to make his return to the starting lineup on Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs.
Although Avery Bradley has played well in Allen's absence, Doc Rivers told the media at Tuesday's shootaround that the veteran shooting guard would resume his role in the starting five upon his return (via Boston Globe).
Celtics guard Ray Allen believes he has recovered from the ankle injury which kept him out of six games and plans to play against San Antonio Wednesday.
"For me, personally, I felt good to be back out here," Allen said after practice Tuesday. "My legs felt great. I had a shot in the ankle game day the other day and had all day to let it maneuver through my body. Coming in today I felt like I had two new wheels."
Doc Rivers told the media that Allen would be in the starting lineup if he's able to play Wednesday, meaning Avery Bradley would return to the bench
Bradley is still certain to see an increased role with Mickael Pietrus remaining out indefinitely.
Most Important Player to Watch: Carlos Boozer
Boozer can certainly be viewed as Chicago's X-factor, considering his inconsistent play this season.
Although he's had double-digit efforts on the glass in each of his last three games, Boozer needs to step up on the offensive end with Rose out of the lineup.
Boozer hasn't eclipsed more than 16 points over the three-game span. He's going to have to come with a far more complete effort on offense in order for the Bulls to keep up with a Celtics team that is jelling at the right time.
Key Matchup: Luol Deng vs. Paul Pierce
As noted previously, Pierce has been thriving since the month of March started.
Deng has scored 20 or more points in three of his last four games, and he's going to need another efficient night on offense in order for the Bulls to be in this one.
The most critical thing for Deng will be to make Pierce's night difficult. Deng must force Pierce to use a great deal of energy at both ends of the floor so Boston's captain is drained when crunch time rolls around in the final quarter.
Celtics 94, Bulls 86