BOSTON – By no means are the Boston Celtics in exclusive company when it comes to dealing with injuries.
But unlike most of the teams that have been without key players for long stretches, the Celtics have managed to not let the absence of core guys bog them down.
The Bulls have not been quite as fortunate.
They too have had their share of injuries to key players and like the Celtics, will close out the regular season with a roster that’s far from being at full strength.
Zach LaVine (left patellar tendinitis), former Providence College star Kris Dunn (right toe sprain), Denzel Valentine (left knee arthroscopy), Paul Zipser (left foot) and Haverhill, Mass. native Noah Vonleh (left calf) are all out tonight for Chicago.
“The biggest thing is just to get them to go out and compete every night. Brad has done an unbelievable job with that,” Hoiberg said. “Going back to opening night when (Gordon) Hayward had the (ankle) injury, to have to deal with your prized summer free agent, to have to deal with that is difficult. But he did such a geat job of getting guys to go out there and believe and buy in and play to the system. He’s handled an adverse situation as well as any I’ve ever seen.”
And most recently, the Celtics have come to grips with not having Kyrie Irving for the rest of the season and all of the playoffs. He will undergo a second procedure in less than two weeks on his left knee that will address the infection that pathology tests showed was present on the tension wire hardware that was removed from his knee on March 24.
“You look all across the board with what they’ve had to deal with, and for them to still be in the position they’re in, it says all you need to know about Brad Stevens. It’s an unbelievable job he’s done with this team this year.”
Here are five under-the-radar storylines to keep an eye on as the Boston Celtics look to get back on a winning track after two straight losses, against the Chicago Bulls tonight.
NO TATUM, HORFORD TONIGHT
There was an unfamiliar name on the Boston Celtics injury/inactive list prior to tonight’s game. It was Jayson Tatum (rest) who will miss his first game of the season. The Celtics are also giving Al Horford (rest) the night off.
The Bulls have been bad all season, but that doesn’t diminish from the season that Portis has put together coming off the Chicago bench. He’s averaging 13.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game and has tallied a league-best 10 double-doubles off the bench this season.
NOAH VONLEH SIGHTING
The former first-round pick from Haverhill, Mass. has been in search of a basketball home ever since he entered the NBA. Now in Chicago, Vonleh is with his third team in four years. For the Bulls, Vonleh has appeared in 21 games this season while averaging 6.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He is listed as not playing tonight due to a left calf injury.
Among the more notable problems for the Bulls this season has been their inability to get to the free throw line. They come into tonight’s game averaging 19.3 attempts which ranks 26th in free throw attempts per game.
POINTS IN THE PAINT
It’ll be interesting to see which of these two do more damage inside the paint, because they both rank among the bottom-five with the Celtics and their 39.3 points in the paint coming in at No. 29, while the Bulls are slightly better with 41.8 points which ranks 25th.
Including the playoffs last year, Boston has won six of the last seven meetings against the Bulls. … the home team has won nine of the last 10 matchups.