The Boston Celtics (20-18) are set to host the Chicago Bulls (22-15) on Friday night at 7 p.m. ET as part of an ESPN doubleheader. Carlos Boozer is suddenly playing great basketball, but can he carry the Bulls to victory in Boston?
The Chicago Bulls haven't produced the most exciting basketball product this season, but their recent string of strong play warrants some extra attention.
The Bulls have recorded impressive road wins over the Miami Heat and New York Knicks over the past two weeks, and they've tacked on several impressive showings to bracket those games -- including a dominating 97-58 win over the Atlanta Hawks and a 107-105 overtime thriller against the Toronto Raptors.
Carlos Boozer has played a big role in Chicago's recent 6-2 surge. Boozer has recorded a double-double in eight of his last 10 games and during the month of January has scored 24.0 points per game on 59.9 percent shooting, grabbed 10.8 rebounds and dished out 2.5 assists per contest.
He's been excellent on the offensive end of the floor, and his defense has shown some improvement as well. According to NBA.com's media stat tool, the Bulls have outscored opponents by 12.7 points per 100 possessions with Boozer on the floor (277 minutes) in January. The team has even played top 5-caliber defense (98.1 pts allowed / 100 poss) with the veteran big man in the game, which is a huge turn away from the normal trend during his time in Chicago.
Boozer may have to carry the load on Friday, because Luol Deng is dealing with a hamstring injury he suffered on Wednesday night and will be a game-time decision for the contest. Deng played a game-high 48 minutes in Toronto but did hit the game-winning shot in overtime to lift the Bulls to victory.
The Celtics have started to show signs of life as well. Their streak of six straight victories abruptly ended on Wednesday night with a loss to the lowly New Orleans Hornets, but the Celtics are still playing some of their best basketball during the month of January and this game marks the fifth and final matchup of a five-game homestand. Avery Bradley returned to the lineup earlier this month, but he suffered a rib injury against the Hornets and is officially listed as day-to-day. Bradley did not practice on Thursday.
Time: 7 p.m. EST
Spread: Boston by three