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.