Bulls-Celtics Preview

The Boston Celtics’ current homestand was going well before a
seemingly inferior opponent ended their season-best winning
streak.

Getting back on track requires overcoming a tough challenge from
one of the league’s best road squads.

Boston looks to end the Chicago Bulls’ four-game road winning
streak when it concludes a stretch of five straight at home Friday
night.

The Celtics (20-18) were outplayed by New Orleans in Wednesday’s
90-78 loss that ended a six-game win streak. They shot a dismal 6
of 16 (37.5 percent) from the free throw line – their worst
percentage since going 5 of 14 (35.7) in a loss to Houston on Nov.
11, 1994 – and finished 4 of 18 from 3-point range.

Boston is shooting 30.0 percent from beyond the arc in its last
six.

“We refused to go in the paint,” coach Doc Rivers said. “We had
an electric fence around the paint. We settled for jump shots.”

Boston will look to regroup after only its third home loss in
its last 12 tries.

“We’ve just got to get back to the drawing board,” said Paul
Pierce, who went 1 for 7 from 3-point range. “We’ve been playing
well of late and (we’ll) try to make another run.”

The Celtics have won 11 of the last 14 meetings – including the
postseason – with the Bulls at TD Garden, though Chicago has won
nine of 11 on the road and is an Eastern Conference-best 11-5 away
from home.

Luol Deng hit a jumper with 3 seconds remaining in overtime to
give the Bulls (22-15) a 107-105 win at Toronto on Wednesday. Deng,
who finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds in a 101-95 home loss
to Boston on Nov. 12, scored 19 against the Raptors despite hurting
his hamstring in the first quarter.

He’s shooting 54.4 percent over his last four games and
averaging 24.0 points in his last four versus Boston.

“The guys that have been around and seen him play a lot know
that’s what he does – whatever you need,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.
“You need great defense, he does that. You need a rebound in
traffic, he does that. You need a big shot, he does that. To me,
that’s who he is. That’s what makes him such a good player.”

Joakim Noah, who had 16 points and 14 rebounds Wednesday, posted
his second career triple-double with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10
assists in a 100-89 victory over Boston at home Dec. 18 – Chicago’s
sixth win in the last eight overall meetings.

The Bulls should have a good chance of earning another win in
the series if Carlos Boozer continues his solid play. He had one of
his conference-leading 21 double-doubles with 21 points and 12
rebounds in the last meeting with the Celtics and scored a
season-high 36 points with 12 boards Wednesday.

Boozer has averaged 24.0 points and 10.8 rebounds while shooting
55.9 percent in helping Chicago go 6-2 this month.

“We had a tough end to 2012 and we all want to play much better
in 2013 and get more wins,” Boozer told the team’s official
website. “So far we are doing pretty well in January.”

In order to keep rolling the Bulls likely will have to slow
Rajon Rondo, who is averaging 21.0 points in his last five games in
the series. He scored a season-high 26 in the last matchup.