Bad news for the Bulls: They have to play the Boston Celtics tonight.
Good news for the Bulls: The Boston Celtics could be without several key players.
Lengthy Celtics injury report for Monday's game against Chicago:
Jaylen Brown (non-Covid illnesss)
Kemba Walker (non-Covid illness)
Evan Fournier (health and safety protocols)
Robert Williams (left knee soreness)
Jayson Tatum (left ankle impingement)
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) April 18, 2021
• First things first, even if Fournier, Williams, Brown, and Walker were all to miss tonight’s game, the Celtics would still have the best player on the floor. Jayson Tatum is on an absolute tear right now, averaging 32.7 points per game on 53.6 shooting from the field and 46.8 percent shooting from downtown (on 7.8 attempts per game) over his last six contests. Oh, and the Celtics have won every single one of those games, making it their longest winning streak of the season. It sure would be a tough task to win without all four of those guys in the lineup, but if anyone can pull it off right now, it would be Tatum.
• Also, let’s not forget we’ve watched this full-strength Bulls team lose to the Timberwolves and Magic in just the last eight days. Chicago is in no position to really even think about their opponent’s injury report. Instead, if this team wants to be taken even remotely seriously in this late-season play-in push, then they have to play each remaining game like it is a play-in game. Head coach Billy Donovan put this needed mentality into words after the team’s ugly loss to the Magic:
"We've got to build those habits. And we have not built them on a consistent level. I don't look at it at all like Minnesota's record, Orlando's record. We don't have that luxury. You know what? Is Orlando saying the same thing about us? Is Minnesota saying the same thing?"
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) April 15, 2021
• Perhaps it was just a fluke, but it finally felt like everyone in the rotation played with this philosophy on Saturday night. The Bulls played with a sense of urgency, getting much-needed contributions from supporting cast members who looked as if they actually understood the importance of their roles. Coby White had 9 assists, Lauri Markkanen had 16 points, Patrick Williams had 12 points, and Troy Brown Jr. had a +12 (despite only scoring 4 points). Meanwhile, Nikola Vucevic played like the All-Star he is with 25 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and just 1 turnover. The game was far from perfect, but the team looked determined for the first time in a long time. The question now is whether or not they can play that way consistently– regardless of opponent.
• DANIEL THEIS REVENGE GAME LET’S GOOOO!
Making their return to Boston 👀 pic.twitter.com/NoDoimOGx8
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) April 18, 2021
• Boston sent Theis to the Bulls largely for financial reasons, but the decision also allowed for them to get third-year big man Robert Williams some more playing time. Williams has finished at a high level at the rim this season (79 percent), albeit in somewhat limited action, ranking in the league’s 74th percentile. He doesn’t at all provide the team with the same versatile offensive capabilities that Theis did, but his efficiency in the paint is more than enough when we consider the elite wings Boston plays with on (almost) a nightly basis. Also, while Theis is a capable rim-protector, Williams’ frame and athleticism have made him the best interior defender on the Celtics roster. Boston allows the 5th-fewest points in the paint per game, and his services certainly play a role in that number. So, yeah, I guess you can say it works to the Bulls’ benefit that he is listed as out for tonight’s matchup. Look for Vooch and Theis to have solid nights (*knocks on wood*).
• Heads up: For the first time in quite some time, the Chicago Bulls have dipped below the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards in ESPN’s latest Power Rankings. Woohoo.
• Again, while I know the Celtics could be undermanned tonight, let’s keep in mind that this team has had the 3rd-ranked offense and top-ranked defense in the NBA since the trade deadline. Meanwhile, the Bulls have ranked a decent 14th in offense and a not-so-decent 26th in defense. For what it’s worth, however, I do think this team had some individually promising moments on the defensive end Saturday night. Coby White actually made some shots tough on Darius Garland while Vooch helped hold Jarrett Allen to just 10 points (Allen’s lowest-scoring night since March 17th).
• Speaking of Vooch …
There are 7 players in NBA history who have averaged 20 PPG, 10 RPG and shot 40 3P% in a season. Four of them are from this season.
— Nikola Jokic
— Julius Randle
— Nikola Vucevic
— Karl-Anthony Towns
— StatMuse (@statmuse) April 18, 2021
• I know things may not be the best in the Bulls universe right now, but I’m still going to buy a Vucevic jersey soon. There is no question he is still one hell of a pickup. Give this front office an offseason and additional trade deadline to actually build out a team around him (and LaVine), and things could still get verrrryyyyy interesting in Chicago.
Vooch came up big in clutch time!
25 points | 7 rebounds | 5 assists pic.twitter.com/yVDyXeCGOc
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) April 18, 2021
• Just wait until you ask him about playing at the United Center.
• I miss Zach.
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) April 12, 2021