Chicago continues to navigate the minefield that is life without Derrick Rose, while Boston is attempting to escape the shackles of inconsistency and emerge above .500 for the first time this season.
Can the Bulls continue to assert their dominance as an Eastern Conference powerhouse or will the Celtics piece their act together in time to win their third straight game on the road?
Yes, it's still early in the season, but this is a game with some serious implications within the conference standings.
Time: Monday, November 11, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBA League Pass
Records: Boston Celtics (3-3), Chicago Bulls (4-2)
Betting Line: Bulls -2.5
Injuries (via CBSSports.com)
Celtics: Avery Bradley (shoulder), out.
Bulls: Kirk Hinrich (hip), questionable; Derrick Rose (knee), out.
Key Storyline: Will the real Celtics please stand up?
Or have they already stood up?
Boston continues to struggle on both ends of the floor in the early going. Although the Celtics have managed to remain at .500, one has to wonder whether or not this unit has peaked.
Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo continue to get the job done, and Kevin Garnett has shown signs of life over the past couple of games as well. Everyone else, though, has been inconsistent at best.
Or so we thought.
The names on the roster suggest that the Celtics will contend for a title this season. However, their performances have suggested the exact opposite.
With that in mind, Boston needs to use this game as a measuring stick and to determine where it truly is in the championship process.
Key Matchup: Kevin Garnett, PF, Celtics vs. Joakim Noah, C, Bulls
This is going to be one heck of a matchup.
Garnett continues to start at center for a size-challenged Boston team, ensuring that he'll be going nose-to-nose with one of the most surprising players of the season.
Though Garnett got off to a slow start this season, he has picked up his production in the last three games.
His ability to step back and hit the 20-foot jump shot is bound to pull Noah out of his comfort zone, as will his ability to put the rock on the floor.
But that doesn't mean the pony-tailed Noah is going to be a defensive pushover.
Chicago's center has become a versatile player on both ends of the floor. His defense and penchant for changing shots have never been more prevalent. He's currently swatting away 2.5 shots per night, and his seldom displayed perimeter defense has been a pleasant surprise as well.
Noah has improved by leaps, bounds and explosions offensively. He's second on the team in scoring behind Luol Deng and has never grabbed more offensive rebounds—4.2 a contest—in his career.
Given the two-way prowess of each big man, both players are going to have their work cut out for them in this one.
Courtney Lee, SG, Celtics
Paul Pierce is going to have his work cut out for him if he is to defend Luol Deng for the entire game. That is why he won't.
Lee is one of—if not the best—perimeter defenders Boston has. He has the size and wingspan necessary to contest plenty of shot attempts, and also possesses the quickness necessary to defend athletes off the dribble.
Deng has really picked up his aggression on the offensive end and if the Celtics wish to keep him in check, they'll need Lee to step up and impede his path to the basket.
Richard Hamilton, SG, Bulls
Boston has really struggled to get consistent production out of its core of 2-guards.
Both Jason Terry and Lee have been underwhelming offensively and put the Celtics at a severe backcourt disadvantage.
Even at 34, the shooting guard continues to score. He's averaging 13.5 points per contest and posting a ridiculous PER of 18.66.
Should he be able to keep up his heightened level of production, Boston will be in for another long night.
Jeff Green, F, Celtics
No one has been more disappointing off Boston's bench than Green.
Even after missing an entire season, Green seemed destined for stardom, yet he continues to underwhelm on both sides of the ball.
The versatile forward is currently averaging just 7.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in nearly 22 minutes of action per game.
One of Chicago's greatest strengths thus far has been their bench. By comparison, one of the Celtics' biggest pitfalls has been theirs.
Changing that underwhelming tune begins with Green, even more so than Terry.
Nate Robinson, PG, Bulls
Rondo is going to receive more playing time from the Celtics than Kirk Hinrich will from the Bulls, thereby putting Robinson up against the game's craftiest playmaker more often than he would care to be.
That said, the undersized point man has been a source of consistency for Chicago thus far. He leads all scorers off the bench with 11.5 points per night and continues to shoot nearly 50 percent from the field.
Going up against Rondo's defense won't be easy, though. Boston's point guard is a suffocating defender and has a knack for poking the ball away and creating easy transition baskets.
If the Bulls are to hold their homecourt, they need Robinson to defend and exploit Rondo to the best of his abilities—even more than they do Hinrich.
Prediction: Bulls 96, Celtics 84
The Celtics clearly need a victory, but they're not going to get it in Chicago.
Not only is Boston struggling offensively, but its defense is allowing nearly 100 points a night. It also doesn't help that the Bulls' defense is among the league's best, allowing just under 89 points per contest.
However, I do expect Rondo to capitalize off the slew of mismatches he has at the point guard position. Neither Hinrich nor Robinson are a match for his abilities.
That said, it won't be enough. Deng and Noah will defend Pierce and Garnett to the point of frustration, and the Celtics' bench has been disappointing to say the least.
Thus, Boston's continued struggles are Chicago's gain.
The Bulls continue to play not pretty, but gritty basketball in Rose's absence. Factor in the underwhelming 3-2 home record and you have a team pining for some long awaited homecourt dominance.
That means the Celtics are going to be in for another long, hard-fought and ultimately fruitless night.
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