Bulls back in Boston, ready to renew Celtics rivalry

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Bulls back in Boston, ready to renew Celtics rivalry

BOSTON Its only fitting that Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, a native of nearby Connecticut, spent his 55th birthday Thursday in Boston, a place where, from his days as a college assistant at Harvard to winning an NBA championship with the Celtics, hes experienced many pivotal moments during his long career.

Friday, however, its back to business, as Thibodeaus Bulls, after an off day following Wednesdays overtime win in Toronto, will take on the Celtics, his former employer.

Although Boston is coming off a disappointing loss to a hapless Hornets team featuring rookie guard Austin Rivers, the son of Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, in their first meeting between father and son the Celtics were coming off a six-game winning streak before that defeat. In the 2013 calendar year, the Bulls and Celtics, buoyed by the Jan. 2 return of defensive specialist Avery Bradley from injury in their first game of the new year, have identical 6-2 records.

Theyve been playing good lately. I havent seen them play, but Ive seen a couple of stat lines. Scoring a lot more points at home. I think getting guard Avery Bradley back has kind of infused them a little bit. Theyre playing with a lot more energy, a lot more up-tempo. Him and Rondo in the backcourt can D up and be a little bit of a nuisance, so weve got to be ready for them, Carlos Boozer observed. Theyre a very good team. They still have great championship tendencies. They do everything the right way. They play tough D, they try to rebound, they pass the ball. Theyre a very good basketball team, so they pose a big challenge for us. We look forward to playing them.

For teammate Joakim Noah, playing in Boston also has a special meaning, as his coming-out party as an NBA player occurred in the playoffs during his second season, when the Bulls and Celtics staged an epic, seven-game first-round battle, with Thibodeau on the opposing sidelines for the then-defending champions.

Its always fun, a great place to play basketball. They have tough fans and its a great basketball environment, especially with the history we have with them, with the series from four, five years ago? Thats five years ago? Expletive, Im getting old, Noah said. That series was special. Even though we lost, it was my first playoff series and just playing in those overtimes, those hostile environments, playing in games like that are the games that hopefully I can show my grandkids. Even though we lost, I love those games because I feel like they gave me a shot, they gave me confidence to take my game to another level.

Watch: Former Bulls center Joakim Noah misses everything with this free-throw attempt

Watch: Former Bulls center Joakim Noah misses everything with this free-throw attempt

We all remember Joakim Noah's twisty-turny tornado shooting style from the free-throw line.

It was funny, and it worked better than you might expect, with Noah's unconventional shooting style from the charity stripe going through the net better than 73 percent of the time over a five-season span from 2009-10 to 2013-14.

But things haven't gone so well there for Noah in his first season with the New York Knicks. Entering Monday night's game, Noah was shooting just 42.9 percent from the free-throw line.

Well, things might've hit rock bottom Monday, with this nasty-looking free-throw try from Noah that missed everything.

Take a look:

Say it ain't so, Jo.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Excluding Jimmy Butler, who should Bulls trade?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Excluding Jimmy Butler, who should Bulls trade?

David Haugh (Chicago Tribune) and Phil Rogers (mlb.com) join Kap on the panel. Super Bowl LI is set. Can Bill Belichick slow down the Falcons historic offense? Will Tom Brady be able to pick apart Atlanta’s D?

Plus besides Jimmy Butler, who should the Bulls trade? And after winning in Columbus, is this the year Northwestern goes dancing?

Check out the SportsTalk Live Podcast below: