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CELTICS: 2-0 vs Bulls 1-0 (A Battle of the Unbeatens!)

Off. EfficiencyC’s: 105.1 points/100 possessions (14th); Bulls: 102.0 (19th)*

Def. Efficiency: C’s: 83.2 points allowed/100 possessions (1st); Bulls: 94.2 (4th)

*Yes, these are tiny sample sizes. But they’re fun!

Likely Bulls Starters: Derrick Rose, John Salmons, Luol Deng, Ty Thomas, Joakim Noah

See my post last night in the “Should we fear them?” series for detailed information about this year’s Bulls. I think we all know plenty about this team after last year’s epic series, and I think we all want to see Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose have a drag race all game long. Also, this game will be the ultimate test of Rajon Rondo’s newfound commitment to fighting over screens instead of going under or trying for the reacharound/pokeaway.

WHAT THE BULLS DO WELL/DID WELL LAST SEASON:

Pound the hell out of the offensive glass. They grabbed 28 percent of all available offensive boards last season, 6th-best in the league, and they had 15 against San Antonio last night—about one-third of available ORBs. Brad Miller and Joakim Noah—who is experimenting with the ugliest jump shot known to mankind this season—are especialy effective here.

Guard the three. Opponents shot 34.7 percent from deep against the Bulls last season, the 4th-lowest mark in the league. In fact, opponents attempted just 17 threes per game—the 7th-lowest number in the league. This facet of their D could get even better with John Salmons/Luol Deng/Kirk Hinrich playing Ben Gordon’s minutes.

WHAT THE BULLS DO POORLY/DID POORLY LAST SEASON:

Protect their defensive glass. Only two teams secured a lower percentage of defensive rebounds than Chicago last season. This also figures to get better with the reintegration of Luol Deng and the improvement of Noah and Tyrus Thomas, whose rebounding slipped last season.

Shoot threes or inside shots. The Bulls were heavily dependent on two-point jump shots last season, and that’s generally not a good thing. Only seven teams took fewer threes and only six converted a lower percentage of inside shots last season, according to 82games. This is the thing I’d be worried about if I were a Bulls fan. Their best three-point shooter now plays for the Pistons (Ben Gordon), and the guy who will take most of his minutes at the two (Salmons) was never a prolific three-pointer shooter until last-season—when he was 29.

NEW PLAYER TO WATCH:

• Deng is almost new, since we didn’t see him in the playoffs last season. He was super active on the boards and in the lane last night against San Antonio, in his usual awkward but effective way. Taj Gibson, a rookie power forward out of USC, got some nice playing time against the Spurs. Ty Thomas was actually worried about losing his starting spot to Gibson late in the pre-season.

GUY WHO CONCERNS ME:

• Other than Rose, who still induces PTSD? Let’s go with Noah, a feisty big man with a motor to rival KG and a quickness advantage over everyone on the C’s front line. He is going to cause problems.

GUY WHO DOES NOT CONCERN ME:

• Aaron Gray, or as I nicknamed him last year, the White Flag. Because he’s white, and when he’s in the game it means one of the teams has surrendered.

WHAT WE WANT TO SEE FROM THE CELTICS:

•More violence against Brad Miller’s face? No? Ok, how about we all pay close attention to Rajon Rondo’s screen/roll defense against Derrick Rose. The coaching staff has made a big push for Rondo to chase his man over screens or fight through them instead of going under or trying to poke the ball away from behind. But what does he do against Rose, one of the few players with quickness to rival his own? The Bulls’ primary screeners—Noah and Miller—both set solid screens, meaning Rajon has his work cut out for him trying to chase Rose all night.

I’m also curious to see how Boston’s front court handles Noah and Thomas, who are quicker than any of the C’s big men. If those two move well without the ball, they could get some open looks near the basket.

PREDICTION: The C’s are at home, and the Bulls are on the second night of a home-road back-to-back.

Boston 102, Chicago 93.

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Zach Lowe

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