Celtics vs. Bulls: Key Player for Each Team in Eastern Conference Showdown

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Celtics vs. Bulls: Key Player for Each Team in Eastern Conference Showdown
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Both the Chicago Bulls and the Boston Celtics have gotten off to rather slow starts in the 2012 season.

If the host Bulls were at full strength, the matchup between Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose would certainly be one to watch. But with Rose out for the foreseeable future, other positional matchups will take the spotlight on Tuesday night.

The last time these teams met, the Celtics won 101-95 behind Rondo's big night. Rondo scored 20 points, dished out 10 assists, grabbed nine rebounds and recorded five steals.

Chicago will hope Kirk Hinrich can at least contain Rondo and give the Bulls a much-needed victory.

Hinrich returned to the team Monday night after missing two games with a left knee injury. He scored just four points and racked up five assists but turned the ball over four times in his return.

Boston sits at 12-11 on the season, while Chicago is atop the Central Division at 13-10.

Through the first quarter of the 2012 NBA season, this is a pivotal game for both teams who figure to be in the Eastern Conference playoffs in the spring.

 

Key Player for Chicago: SG Marco Belinelli

Belinelli has started the last eight games for the Bulls since Richard Hamilton suffered a torn plantar fascia in his left foot. After playing just 24 minutes in his first start against the Indiana Pacers, Belinelli has taken more of the scoring responsibility on his shoulders.

In the past seven games, Belinelli has played at least 30 minutes per night. Over the course of those seven games, he's averaging 18.1 points per game.

Who has the edge at shooting guard?

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Belinelli will be huge against the Celtics, especially considering Hinrich is being rushed back from injury. The Bulls have capable scorers in their rotation, but most of their scoring output comes from their post players and Luol Deng.

Belinelli's outside shooting will be crucial to the Bulls getting a win over Boston on Tuesday night. He's shooting a career-high 42.4 percent from three-point range this season.

 

Key Player for Boston: SG Jason Terry

Terry should be Belinelli's counterpart in the starting lineup Tuesday night. He's the Celtics' fourth-leading scorer this season and has really lightened the loss of Ray Allen this year.

Playing alongside perhaps the best passing point guard in basketball, Terry's outside shot has been critical for the Celtics through the first quarter of the season. He's shooting 38 percent behind the arc through 23 games.

Boston has the clear edge at point guard with Rondo over Hinrich, but the Bulls may be better around the rest of the starting five. Chicago's trio of Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah is pretty comparable to Boston's Paul Pierce, Brandon Bass and Kevin Garnett.

Whoever wins the battle at shooting guard between Terry and Belinelli may emerge victorious in this one.

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