Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo leads Boston against the Bulls on Tuesday.The Boston Celtics (12-11, 4-7 away) wrap up a three-game road trip by visiting the Chicago Bulls (13-10, 7-6 home) on Tuesday night at the United Center. Here's what to watch for:
* FINISHING STRONG ON THE ROAD: The Celtics limped into Chicago after enduring back-to-back losses in Houston and San Antonio. While it'd be foolish to term any mid-December game a "must have," the consistency-craving C's are in danger of falling to .500 with a loss and coach Doc Rivers has challenged them to work past their early season roadblocks (both of the mental and physical variety). Boston needs this one a bit, especially with a brief pit stop at home looming before a four-game road trip kicks off in Brooklyn on Christmas Day and then takes Boston out west to close out the calendar year.
* SYNERGY SNAPSHOT: No surprises from the Bulls: They play a lockdown brand of defense (ranking 2nd in the league while allowing 0.863 points per play, according to Synergy Sports data) and try to scrape together enough offense to win ugly. Chicago's defense is exploitable in transition (27th in the league), but they are the best team in the league in halfcourt sets. Fresh from two offdays, it's imperative the Celtics try to run on the Bulls, who are coming off a back-to-back after losing in Memphis on Monday. Offensively, the Celtics have to contain Luol Deng, particularly if he shakes his early season 3-point-shooting slump.
* HINRICH IS BACK: Kirk Hinrich missed the team's first meeting of the season (a 101-95 triumph for Boston) due to a strained right hip, but was back in the lineup Monday after missing two more games due to a bruised left knee. Hinrich told ESPN Chicago he's clearly not 100 percent. "It was good enough to play [in Memphis]," Hinrich said. "I would have liked for it to have felt a little better but that's just an excuse ... just disappointing. I didn't play very well, and we didn't play very well as a team." If Hinrich is anything less than 100 percent, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Rondo and the Celtics try to take advantage of that.
* FORTY-EIGHT MINUTES: The Celtics have endured maddening lulls which have played a huge part in their inconsistency overall. Coach Doc Rivers has implored his team to put together 48 minutes of play and to avoid letting things spiral out of control when the team does encounter adversity.