Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau (above) gets credit for being a good defensive coach, but he probably deserves more credit for the all-around job he's done this season. The Bulls have the best record in the NBA despite missing reigning MVP Derrick Rose for 21 games. Rose (groin) is a game-time decision as the Bulls host the Celtics tonight. He went through a full-contact practice on Wednesday.
"I really don't know," said Rose. "I felt good, but me playing tomorrow, I don't know. I'm able to run a little bit more, but not at my top speed."
Tonight's game is big for the Celtics in several respects. They had a chance to beat a very good San Antonio team last night and couldn't close the deal, and they're battling Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division lead and a top-four seed. The Celtics are currently 1.5 games up on Philadelphia, and they're 2.5 games back of Indiana for the No. 3 seed. If the standings hold, and if the Celtics could win a first-round playoff series, they'd see the Bulls in the second round. That's probably the best-case scenario for a Celtics team that struggled to slow down the Miami Heat in the playoffs last season.
Tip-off: 9:30 p.m.
Records: Celtics (30-23), Bulls (42-13)
Broadcast info: TNT, WEEI 93.7 FM/850 AM (Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell)
PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Ray Allen
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Brandon Bass
C: Kevin Garnett
PG: C.J. Watson/Derrick Rose
SG: Richard Hamilton
SF: Luol Deng
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Joakim Noah
Incorporating Ray Allen: Allen took just six shots in last night's loss to the Spurs, and it's safe to say the Celtics would like to get Allen more comfortable in the offense. The Bulls have great interior defense, so Allen may need to hit a couple from outside to open things up.
Back-to-back: The Celtics are 7-8 this season on the 2d night of back-to-backs. They average 87.7 points in those games. They might be lucky to get 87 points against the Bulls. Both of their showdowns with Philadelphia this season have come on the second night of back-to-backs, and those games, as well as tonight's game, are not great indicators of how the teams might match up in the playoffs.
Noah vs. KG: These guys make each other miserable. Should be fun for the rest of us.