Even without Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, the Chicago Bulls (27-51) are doing a great job completely torpedoing their draft odds in the final few weeks of the season. The Bulls just picked up their third win in a row with a 120-114 win over the Charlotte Hornets. Rookie Lauri Markkanen had a huge night with 24 points and seven rebounds in just 24 minutes. Sean Kilpatrick racked up 21 points to lead a Bulls bench unit which picked up 51 points. Meanwhile, Justin Holiday added 19 points.
The Bulls will be gunning for a fourth win in a row against the Boston Celtics (53-25), who have dropped back-to-back games on the road against the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors. The Celtics offense completely cratered against the Raptors as they shot an abysmal 33 percent from the floor and 3-of-22 from beyond the arc. The Celtics big men were the only ones who had anything going as Marcus Morris, Greg Monroe, and Al Horford combined for 54 points. However, Terry Rozier went just 1-of-9 upon returning from a one-game absence.
Three keys to the game
Terry Rozier recovery - Rozier clearly wasn’t at his best upon returning to the Celtics lineup against the Raptors. But Boston will need him to recapture his best form soon with the news that Kyrie Irving will be out for the remainder of the season and the playoffs. Rozier has been one of the Celtics’ most consistent players, though. Prior to his two-point outing against Toronto, he had scored double-digits in two straight months.
Battle of the benches - The Bulls bench has been a huge reason for their success of late. Recent acquisition Sean Kilpatrick, in particular, has been making the most of his opportunity to play as he’s averaged 13 points in the five games he’s played. Bobby Portis has also popped up with some big games. Chicago will need those players to continue performing, especially against a Celtics bench which also possesses a lot of options to throw at their opposition.
Boston wings - Apart from Rozier, both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum had disappointing performances against the Raptors. But an off-night against the top team in the East is understandable. Look for them to target the Bulls as a perfect opportunity to bounce right back up and shoulder their share of the load on offense.
Matchup to watch
Lauri Markkanen vs Al Horford - Markkanen has been on fire recently, topping 22 or more points in three of his last four games. However, he faces a tough matchup against Horford, who is an excellent defender who can guard the rookie all the way out to the perimeter.
Bulls projected starting lineup
PG - Cameron Payne | SG - Justin Holiday | SF - David Nwaba | PF - Lauri Markkanen | C - Cristiano Felicio
Celtics projected starting lineup
PG - Terry Rozier | SG - Jaylen Brown | SF - Jayson Tatum | PF - Al Horford | C - Aron Baynes
Bobby Portis has had a great start to April, putting up 17 points and five boards on 56 percent shooting in his first two games. Portis has produced some similar numbers against the Celtics in his three meetings against them this season (15.7 points, 6.0 rebounds) and could do more of the same if he gets enough minutes.
As for the Celtics, Marcus Morris has been simply terrific of late. He’s averaging 19.5 points and 5.4 rebounds in his last eight games as he’s needed to take on a bigger role in the offense. Look for him to try and take advantage of a Bulls frontcourt that may not be ready for his level of toughness.
As good as the Celtics are, backing them as 10.0-point home favorites against a Bulls team that's been playing a lot better recently seems pretty risky. While they should still be able to snap their losing skid, Chicago have enough about them to cover the spread on the road.
The Celtics get back on track as they hand the Bulls a 101-93 road defeat.
This game will be broadcast on NBC Boston and WGN-TV. Tip-off is at 7:30 pm Eastern.