BOSTON The Boston Celtics are wounded, both physically and mentally, right now. Their overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday hurt. A lot.
To follow that up with an uninspired, lethargic performance at Toronto less than 24 hours later -- another loss -- didn't help matters.
So what better way for the Celtics to get their mojo back than to face the best team in the Eastearn Conference, the Chicago Bulls?
"Going back to Rome and having training camp would be better," said C's coach Doc Rivers, referring to the team's trip to Italy prior to the '08 title season. "But since we play (today), then having another game around the corner would be better."
Rivers knows all too well that the Celtics will need a number of things to go their way in order to pull off the upset.
Here are a few key factors to pay attention to as the Celtics (14-12) try to snap a two-game losing skid today against the Bulls (23-6).
WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- The Bulls are still unsure if reigning league MVP Derrick Rose will play today. He sat out Chicago's 31-point win at Charlotte on Friday due to a back injury. If Rose does play, it'll be interesting to see just how much that back injury will limit his effectiveness when attacking the rim, which he does as well as any player in the NBA. In Chicago's 88-79 win over Boston earlier this year, Rose had 25 points, seven assists and four rebounds.
MATCHUP TO WATCH -- Kevin Garnett vs. Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah: Garnett will be matched up with one of these guys, depending on whether Jermaine O'Neal (shoulder) plays. Regardless of which one KG faces, the C's need him to win that matchup. And with Garnett, it doesn't have to necessarily be won by scoring more points. Garnett has to make an impact, whether it's rebounding, blocking shots or playing his usual Jedi mind tricks.
PLAYER TO WATCH -- The legend of Avery Bradley continues to grow. Bradley told CSNNE.com that the shoulder injury that limited him the past couple games won't keep him off the floor today against the Bulls. We've seen Bradley's on-the-ball pressure completely blanket guards. But Derrick Rose? That's an entirely different animal. Like Kevin Garnett, Bradley's impact on the game won't necessarily be seen in his individual stats. In Boston's 86-74 loss at Toronto, Bradley only had three points in his seven minutes on the floor. But in that time, he had a plusminus ratio of plus-7.
STAT TO TRACK -- First quarter scoring has been an issue for the Celtics all season, evident by them ranking 27th in the NBA in points scored (21.7) in that period. However, the C's are averaging 24.1 points in the first quarter in their 14 wins this season. Chicago has been among the NBA best at limiting first-quarter scoring. Teams are scoring just 21.3 points against the Bulls in the first quarter, which ranks No. 3 in fewest first quarter points allowed this season. The Bulls' first quarter clamps have been even tighter of late as they have allowed 16 or fewer points scored in each of their last four games -- all blowout wins.