The Boston Celtics will look to get revenge for their one loss of the season against the Chicago Bulls
The Boston Celtics get their first revenge game of the season against the Chicago Bulls tonight. Dwayne Wade left them with a bitter taste in their mouth in his debut, and the Bulls have been rolling since. For a team that was expected to be one of the worst three point shooting squads in the NBA, they continue to have an impact with that outside shot. The biggest difference between their first meeting and this one, however, is the return of backup point guard Marcus Smart.
The second unit has been in shambles without Smart and Kelly Olynyk, and the versatile impact of Smart cannot be understated. Their defense will be vastly improved, and they will have a more trusted small ball lineup to attack. The Celtics get another option to throw at Wade and will allow them to mix things up more on Rajon Rondo who has also been better than many expected.
The Bulls have two guards that the Celtics need to stop in order to have a successful defensive game, and with Smart back in the lineup they can feel much more confident about their ability to do that. The Celtics feed off the defense of their guards, and they will be in a much better position to take away the area that won the last meeting for the Bulls, three point shooting.
There is one other glaring problem that the Celtics need to be worried about, rebounding. Smart is a strong rebounding guard, but there is no way he can be considered good enough to make up the difference in the last meeting all by himself. The Bulls had 15 more offensive rebounds than the Celtics, and that discrepancy in opportunities is far too difficult for them to overcome.
The Celtics knew that they needed to improve on the glass from last season, and so far that could be considered one of the bigger disappointments of this season. Particularly on the second unit, the Celtics have no rebounders they can trust, and Amir Johnson comes in as an undersized forward against a team that can exploit that. Al Horford has not instantly fixed these rebounding problems, and having him lead the way with a grand total of seven rebounds is a bad sign for the rest of the team.
Oct 27, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson (22) makes a move defended by Boston Celtics forward Amir Johnson (90) during the first quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
The Celtics should be confident that they can be much better than they were in the first meeting, and that should put them in a strong position to secure the victory. That being said, the Bulls had a balanced approach last meeting and multiple players were able to have an impact. Wade led the way but the Celtics cannot afford to let Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic to combine for 33 points again.
Smart will make the Celtics more confident in their back court defense, but they need to find the front court depth to help defend these secondary players. Mirotic was able to drive at will, and the Celtics did not have a single second unit player step up and stop him on a consistent basis. Gibson was the biggest beneficiary of the offensive boards. The Celtics have Johnson and Horford in that starting front court, and allowing him to have such a destructive game is unacceptable.
The Celtics should realize that they need their front court defense to be stronger, and they certainly know that they are capable of more than what they did the last time these two met.
The added dimension of Smart’s small ball versatility could also have an impact on the size. The Celtics need to force the Bulls to adjust to that small ball attack, and that could make it more difficult for them to be so much better in the interior.
The Celtics need to flip the opportunities situation. Getting more chances was key to their offensive success last year, and the Bulls had 16 more attempts than the Celtics last meeting. Establishing that dominant small ball lineup with Smart at the three and Horford at the five should give them the pace they need to increase their opportunities, and take away the size that gave the Bulls so many second chance opportunities.
The Bulls have been a bit of a surprise with their success this season, and having that first meeting should allow the Celtics to have a better approach. They have a better understanding of how their three point attack will work, and they know it is essential to make the adjustments to improve the rebounding.
In what could continue to be one of the more intriguing match ups in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics will be looking to build more momentum and get Smart as comfortable as possible before the next meeting against the Cleveland Cavaliers