Bulls

Bulls back in Boston, ready to renew Celtics rivalry

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Bulls back in Boston, ready to renew Celtics rivalry

BOSTON Its only fitting that Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, a native of nearby Connecticut, spent his 55th birthday Thursday in Boston, a place where, from his days as a college assistant at Harvard to winning an NBA championship with the Celtics, hes experienced many pivotal moments during his long career.

Friday, however, its back to business, as Thibodeaus Bulls, after an off day following Wednesdays overtime win in Toronto, will take on the Celtics, his former employer.

Although Boston is coming off a disappointing loss to a hapless Hornets team featuring rookie guard Austin Rivers, the son of Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, in their first meeting between father and son the Celtics were coming off a six-game winning streak before that defeat. In the 2013 calendar year, the Bulls and Celtics, buoyed by the Jan. 2 return of defensive specialist Avery Bradley from injury in their first game of the new year, have identical 6-2 records.

Theyve been playing good lately. I havent seen them play, but Ive seen a couple of stat lines. Scoring a lot more points at home. I think getting guard Avery Bradley back has kind of infused them a little bit. Theyre playing with a lot more energy, a lot more up-tempo. Him and Rondo in the backcourt can D up and be a little bit of a nuisance, so weve got to be ready for them, Carlos Boozer observed. Theyre a very good team. They still have great championship tendencies. They do everything the right way. They play tough D, they try to rebound, they pass the ball. Theyre a very good basketball team, so they pose a big challenge for us. We look forward to playing them.

For teammate Joakim Noah, playing in Boston also has a special meaning, as his coming-out party as an NBA player occurred in the playoffs during his second season, when the Bulls and Celtics staged an epic, seven-game first-round battle, with Thibodeau on the opposing sidelines for the then-defending champions.

Its always fun, a great place to play basketball. They have tough fans and its a great basketball environment, especially with the history we have with them, with the series from four, five years ago? Thats five years ago? Expletive, Im getting old, Noah said. That series was special. Even though we lost, it was my first playoff series and just playing in those overtimes, those hostile environments, playing in games like that are the games that hopefully I can show my grandkids. Even though we lost, I love those games because I feel like they gave me a shot, they gave me confidence to take my game to another level.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls take on Suns

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls take on Suns

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Bulls take on the Phoenix Suns Sunday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. Something's got to give

What's the opposite of an unstoppable force vs. an immovable object? That's what we'll be looking at when the Bulls have the ball in their hands. Chicago ranks dead last in offensive efficiency, while the Suns have the 2nd worst defensive efficiency in the NBA. That means the Bulls, after scoring a season-high 123 points against the Hornets, can build on that momentum against a Suns defense that allowed 90 points in the FIRST HALF to the Rockets on Thursday.

2. Kris Dunn for real?

Fresh off the best game of his young career - he scored 22 points in a win over the Hornets on Friday - Kris Dunn continues to look like the best point guard on the Bulls roster. He's going through a really solid stretch right now, averaging 13.2 points on 47 percent shooting, 4.2 assists and 2.6 steals over his last four games. With Eric Bledsoe out of Phoenix, Dunn could be in line for another big game going up against Mike James and Tyler Ulis, regardless of whether or not he starts over Jerian Grant.

3. Watch out for Devin Booker

We'll try to get an opponent in here once for every tune-in, and Devin Booker certainly fits the bill. Much like Dunn is doing, Booker is on quite a roll these days. Over his last four games Booker is averaging 30.5 points on 51 percent shooting, 4.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists. The Bulls will need to keep their eyes on Booker at all times, especially after allowing Kemba Walker to go off for 47 points on Friday.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.