NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Monday, March 31st (All times Eastern)
Boston Celtics (23-50) at Chicago Bulls (41-32), 8 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Bulls can still improve their playoff positioning and target a sweep of the Boston Celtics Monday in the back end of a home-and-home set at the United Center.
Sitting fourth in the Eastern Conference, one game behind Toronto, the Bulls have won six of their last nine games and already clinched a playoff berth thanks to a strong start in the new year. The Bulls are 29-14 since Jan. 1 and recorded a 107-102 victory in Boston on Sunday.
D.J. Augustin scored a career-high 33 points off the bench and made 10-of-14 shots from the floor.
"I have always thought of myself as a pretty good basketball player. I think everyone on this level is pretty good or they wouldn't be in the NBA," Augustin said.
Joakim Noah tallied 13 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds, while Jimmy Butler netted 15 points and Carlos Boozer added 14 for Chicago.
The Bulls are one of the top defensive teams in the league and had held their previous eight opponents under 100 points. They are second in the NBA in opponents' scoring (92.0 ppg) and teams are shooting just 43.0 percent against them. Only Indiana is better at 41.7 percent.
Chicago hopes to keep its defensive prowess in order with the Celtics in town and has won 10 of the last 14 games at the United Center, where the team owns a 23-14 ledger. The Bulls are scoring 95.2 ppg in that span and opposing teams are posting an average of 87.1 points during the stretch.
Meanwhile, the Celtics are back on the road for two straight games against Chicago and Washington, and have lost nine in a row as the visitor. The Celtics are just 8-27 outside TD Bank Garden.
In the home loss to the Bulls, Boston was paced by Rajon Rondo's 17 points and 11 assists. Jeff Green scored 16 points and Jared Sullinger ended with 16 as well to go along with 10 rebounds. Kris Humphries netted 14 points in the loss, Boston's fourth in a row and ninth in 10 tries.
"We're just not closing the games the right way," Rondo said.
Boston, which hasn't missed the playoffs since 2006-07, is 0-2 against the Bulls this season and winless in four of the past five games in this series.
The Celtics have lost two straight and eight of 10 trips to the Windy City.
03/31 10:31:01 ET