Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
The Chicago Bulls play the Celtics in Boston as both teams continue to fight despite injury-plagued seasons.
Fittingly, Thibodeau, the defensive-guru once the lead assistant on Rivers' Boston staff, will face his former team in the T.D. Garden on Wednesday. Both teams, hit by the injury bug, are playing in their pre-All-Star finales with momentum on the line and, hopefully for each, healthier days ahead.
Yet it's a testament to the two well-respected head coaches that the Celtics and Bulls are still relevant.
Chicago has seen every one of its current starters miss games because of injury in the past three months. Derrick Rose's setbacks aside, the Bulls will roll into Beantown with a hampered Joakim Noah, who is dealing with a prolonged plantar faschia injury, and no Kirk Hinrich.
The issues in Boston appear more severe. Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa have all been ruled out for the rest of the year, but the Celtics have used their bad luck almost as a rallying point by winning seven of their last eight. Coming off a loss to the league-worst Charlotte Bobcats, Boston will key on going into the All-Star break with a momentum-building victory.
The Bulls could also use some good news before a crucial break that will allow them to mend their injuries.
But that's not to say either team is feeling sorry for itself. The Bulls, fourth in the Eastern Conference, and the seventh-place Celtics have the identities of their respective head coaches. And they aren't ones that lack fight.
Keys to the game
Call this a pick-up game to 100. In the three prior games between Boston and Chicago this season, the end of the game came as soon as the first team crossed the 100-point mark. The winner in each -- the Bulls have won two of three -- had the higher shooting percentage and also more points in the paint than the opponent.
Simple as it may be, the two tough defensive squads will need to get into their offenses quickly and avoid any tendencies for chucking, easier said than done with a slow pace and the shot clock winding thanks to good defense. Finding decent shot attempts is paramount.
The Bulls, even with an ailing Noah, can get points in the paint with Carlos Boozer being aggressive. He is averaging 18.3 points and 12 rebounds against Boston this season.
Meanwhile, Paul Pierce can set the tone by attacking the cup off the bounce. He has been doing it all -- 18.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 7.5 assists in February -- and must improve upon a 13-point average and 37.5 percent shooting against Chicago this season.
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Odds: The Celtics opened as two-point favorites.