Bulls-Celtics Preview

The Boston Celtics were performing surprisingly well without
All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo – their last game notwithstanding
– but have now lost another member of their backcourt.

The Chicago Bulls are having their own problems staying
healthy.

After losing a third player to a season-ending injury in less
than a month, the Celtics will try to bounce back from their first
defeat in more than two weeks Wednesday night against a Bulls team
seeking its eighth victory in the last 10 games in the series.

Boston (27-24) had won seven in a row – its longest streak in
two seasons – after losing Rondo to a torn right ACL on Jan. 27.
That run ended Monday with a 94-91 road loss Charlotte, owner of
the league’s worst record.

Even worse, the Celtics lost Leandro Barbosa to a torn left ACL.
The team announced Tuesday the backup guard, who has seen increased
playing time since Rondo’s injury, was done for the season.

Earlier this month, Boston lost first-round draft pick and
reserve forward Jared Sullinger for the rest of 2012-13 because of
lumbar disk surgery.

“We’re falling like flies right now,” Kevin Garnett said Monday.
“Obviously, it’s tough. It’s tough all the way around.”

If any team can relate to Boston’s injury woes, it’s Chicago.
The Bulls (30-21) have had every starter except Richard Hamilton
out of action at various times over the past 3 1/2 weeks – and
Hamilton missed 12 December games with a foot sprain.

That list doesn’t even include 2011 MVP Derrick Rose, who is
still trying to come back from his own torn ACL. The Bulls were
hopeful their point guard could be back after the All-Star break
but while he didn’t rule that out, Rose told USA Today in an
interview posted Tuesday that he thought his return was “far
away.”

Making it worse on Chicago is that his replacement, Kirk
Hinrich, has an ailing right elbow and has missed the past six
contests. The Bulls have gone 2-4 in those games, which also
includes games missed by Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and key reserve
Marco Belinelli.

The Bulls are coming off Monday’s 103-89 loss to visiting San
Antonio, and they didn’t help themselves by giving up 29 points off
19 turnovers. The miscues were their most since they had 21 in a
100-99 overtime win at Boston on Jan. 18, the most recent matchup
between the teams.

“We didn’t play smart, turned the ball over way too much,” said
Noah, who had 15 rebounds and seven points in his third game back
from plantar fasciitis. “We’re not playing good basketball right
now. We’re on top of each other offensively and we’re not trusting
each other defensively. We know we’re more than capable of playing
better.”

Another absence from Hinrich, who isn’t traveling to Boston,
could make it difficult for Chicago to add to its 7-2 mark in its
last nine games against the Celtics. The Bulls earned their latest
win in the series when Belinelli made an off-balance fadeaway
jumper with 3.1 seconds left.

Hamilton had a team-best 20 points in that one and Boozer
totaled 19 points and a season-high 20 rebounds, the fourth
double-double in his last five games against Boston.

While the Bulls could be short-handed again, the loss of Rondo
might hurt even more for Boston as he was averaging 25.3 points in
this season’s three matchups, nearly twice as many as any other
teammate.

The Celtics and Bulls have split their last six games at the TD
Garden, but Boston has won a season-best six straight there since a
loss to New York on Jan. 24.