BOSTON CELTICS (37-19)
at CHICAGO BULLS (27-29)
Tip-off: Thursday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: Chicago -1.0, Total: 212.0
The Celtics will be going for their fifth straight win when they face the Bulls in Chicago on Thursday.
Boston is on fire right now, as the team has now won four straight games and 11 of its past 12. Where the Celtics really thrive is on the offensive end, where they are scoring 109.5 points per 100 possessions (6th in NBA). This team knows how to put the ball in the hoop, and the team does so efficiently. Boston will now be looking to head into the break on a positive note, but the team is facing a solid Chicago team. The Bulls have only won one of their past four games, but that win was a 105-94 victory as 4.5-point home underdogs against the Raptors on Tuesday. It was a big win for Chicago, which also happens to be 5-4 SU against Boston over the past three seasons. That includes an impressive 3-1 SU record when hosting the Celtics. One trend that favors Boston when looking at this game is the fact that the team is 46-22 ATS when playing on back-to-back days with Brad Stevens as head coach. The Celtics are, however, a lousy 5-15 ATS after four or more consecutive wins under Stevens. That includes a 1-13 ATS record in the same situation over the past two seasons. SF Jaylen Brown (Hip) is expected to miss this game for the Celtics, who are already without SG Avery Bradley (Achilles) indefinitely. The Bulls, meanwhile, could be without SG Dwyane Wade (Wrist), who is listed as questionable for this game and has not played since Feb. 10.
The Celtics have won four straight games and PG Isaiah Thomas (29.9 PPG, 6.3 APG, 2.7 RPG) has proven that his recent play is no fluke. Thomas has been one of the best players in the league this season, and he has done so in a crazy efficient way. His PER on the year is currently 27.68, which is good for third best in the league. It’s also unlikely that a matchup with the Bulls is going to trouble him, as he is averaging 24.0 PPG, 7.0 APG and 2.5 SPG on 54.5% shooting from the floor and 50.0% shooting from three in two games against Chicago this season. While he might not be averaging 30.0 PPG against the team, he is shooting the ball extremely well in this matchup. Thomas will continue to be aggressive in this one, and he’ll also do his best to find his teammates in optimal scoring positions. C Al Horford (14.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.5 BPG) should also have a solid game here on Thursday. Horford’s ability to step out and shoot the ball, but also use his quickness to drive to the basket, should give Chicago’s slower big men a lot of issues in this one. Outside of Thomas and Horford, guys like SG Marcus Smart (10.5 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.7 SPG) and Jae Crowder (14.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.1 SPG) will need to step it up. Both play harassing defense, and they can also get hot on the right night.
One interesting storyline to follow in this game is that the Celtics are going to do everything they can to trade for SF Jimmy Butler (24.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.9 APG, 1.9 SPG) over the next week or so. The trade deadline is approaching fast and the Bulls need to decide whether or not they’re rebuilding. Butler is one of the best players in the game, but Chicago is not going to win anything significant with the supporting cast around him. The team would be wise to cash in on him while it can. Butler will, however, need to play very well in this game for the Bulls to win. He has had trouble against the Celtics this season, shooting just 36.8% from the field in two meetings with Boston. He’ll need to be a lot better than that on Thursday. The Bulls can also use a good performance from C Robin Lopez (9.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.6 BPG), who will be matched up with Al Horford in this one. Lopez has a size advantage that should allow him to score a few easy buckets at the rim on Thursday, but he’ll need to be ready to move his feet defensively. SG Dwyane Wade (19.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.8 APG, 1.6 SPG) could provide a boost for the Bulls in this game, but it’d probably be best for them to rest him here. He’d then have the entire All-Star break to get healthy for Chicago’s playoff push.