Celtics-Bulls Preview: C's look to buck disturbing defensive trend

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BOSTON -- Michael Beasley lit the Boston Celtics up for 32 points on Thursday night.

Former Celtic Kelly Olynyk dropped a career-high 32 points in leading the Miami Heat to a win just 24 hours prior.

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Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Memphis’ Marc Gasol had 38 and 30 points, respectively, against Boston in the two previous games.

Four straight games have featured at least one player lighting up the Celtics defense for 30 or more points, a disturbing trend for a team that prides itself on being an elite defensive squad.

Boston will once again find itself challenged defensively tonight against the Chicago Bulls.

While the Bulls’ overall record of 10-21 tells you this season has been for the most part a struggle for them collectively, more telling is that they’ve won seven of their last eight games which speaks to their improvement and why Boston has no reason in the world to think this will be an easy win.

Among those seven Chicago victories was a 108-85 thumping of the Celtics, the worst loss for Boston this season.

And while the Celtics recognize many of the problems that have contributed to them struggling lately, there’s not a whole lot they can do other than ride it out until the schedule loosens up for them to get more time to catch their breath and maybe just as important, clean up a few areas that have been problematic for them lately.

But head coach Brad Stevens is quick to point out that the challenges his team is facing, isn’t all that different than the rest of the league.

Although there is one noticeable difference – the Celtics have played more games (35) than any other team, and that has a way of wearing a team down to where they’re not as efficient with their play both as individuals and as a team.

“We’re all in this stretch now where you’re not able to do as much to prepare as you would like,” Stevens said. “Whether it’s prepare your own team or prepare for an opponent.”

One thing’s for sure.

The Celtics will prepare differently for the Bulls who are one of the hottest teams in the NBA.

Nikola Mirotic has been arguably the key to Chicago’s improved play of late. He was really good in Chicago’s win over Boston earlier this month when he had 24 points and eight rebounds. Arguably the key in Chicago’s win that night was the play of Bobby Portis who came off the Bulls bench and provided a much-needed burst of energy and production that catapulted them to a hard-earned victory.

Kyrie Irving is familiar with the red-hot shooting zones players get into.

Heck, he gets into them all the time.

Because of that, Irving’s words have great value when he speaks about the Celtics' expected growth and improvement going forward.

“We’ll continue to get better,” Irving said. “It’s on me to manage the game better; especially when they get going like that.”

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