Bulls-Celtics Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 17, 2013
The Boston Celtics' current homestand was going well before a seemingly inferior opponent ended their season-best winning streak. Getting back on track requires overcoming a tough challenge from one of the league's best road squads. Boston looks to end the Chicago Bulls' four-game road winning streak when it concludes a stretch of five straight at home Friday night. The Celtics (20-18) were outplayed by New Orleans in Wednesday's 90-78 loss that ended a six-game win streak. They shot a dismal 6 of 16 (37.5 percent) from the free throw line - their worst percentage since going 5 of 14 (35.7) in a loss to Houston on Nov. 11, 1994 - and finished 4 of 18 from 3-point range. Boston is shooting 30.0 percent from beyond the arc in its last six. "We refused to go in the paint," coach Doc Rivers said. "We had an electric fence around the paint. We settled for jump shots." Boston will look to regroup after only its third home loss in its last 12 tries. "We've just got to get back to the drawing board," said Paul Pierce, who went 1 for 7 from 3-point range. "We've been playing well of late and (we'll) try to make another run." The Celtics have won 11 of the last 14 meetings - including the postseason - with the Bulls at TD Garden, though Chicago has won nine of 11 on the road and is an Eastern Conference-best 11-5 away from home. Luol Deng hit a jumper with 3 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Bulls (22-15) a 107-105 win at Toronto on Wednesday. Deng, who finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds in a 101-95 home loss to Boston on Nov. 12, scored 19 against the Raptors despite hurting his hamstring in the first quarter. He's shooting 54.4 percent over his last four games and averaging 24.0 points in his last four versus Boston. "The guys that have been around and seen him play a lot know that's what he does - whatever you need," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "You need great defense, he does that. You need a rebound in traffic, he does that. You need a big shot, he does that. To me, that's who he is. That's what makes him such a good player." Joakim Noah, who had 16 points and 14 rebounds Wednesday, posted his second career triple-double with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists in a 100-89 victory over Boston at home Dec. 18 - Chicago's sixth win in the last eight overall meetings. The Bulls should have a good chance of earning another win in the series if Carlos Boozer continues his solid play. He had one of his conference-leading 21 double-doubles with 21 points and 12 rebounds in the last meeting with the Celtics and scored a season-high 36 points with 12 boards Wednesday. Boozer has averaged 24.0 points and 10.8 rebounds while shooting 55.9 percent in helping Chicago go 6-2 this month. "We had a tough end to 2012 and we all want to play much better in 2013 and get more wins," Boozer told the team's official website. "So far we are doing pretty well in January." In order to keep rolling the Bulls likely will have to slow Rajon Rondo, who is averaging 21.0 points in his last five games in the series. He scored a season-high 26 in the last matchup.
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