Bulls face Celtics in final matchup before All-Star break

Bulls face Celtics in final matchup before All-Star break
February 13, 2013, 11:45 am
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Mark Strotman

The Bulls close out out their pre-All-Star Break schedule tonight when they travel to Boston to take on the injury-riddled Celtics. Catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet, beginning with Bulls Pregame Live at 6:00, hosted by Mark Schanowski and Kendall Gill.

As the Bulls prepare for the return of their star point guard, the Celtics have just begun to deal with the loss of their own. All-Star Rajon Rondo suffered a torn ACL in late January and will miss the next 8-10 months. It was a crippling blow for the Celtics, who at the time were fighting for their playoff lives in the Eastern Conference.

Many thought Danny Ainge -- the same man who brought Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to Boston in 2007, which led to a championship that year -- essentially would blow up the team, as veteran stars Kevin Garnett (36 years old) and Paul Pierce (35) would be expected to wait until next season to consider competing for another NBA Finals appearance.

But just as the Bulls have done without Derrick Rose -- Chicago is 30-21 and just one-half game behind the Pacers in the Central Division -- the Celtics have rallied around the loss of their All-Star and produced wins.

Since Rondo's injury, Doc Rivers' group is 7-1 with wins over Miami, both Los Angeles teams and Denver. Their seven-game win streak was halted last night in Charlotte but the stretch of play minus Rondo has eased concerns over the immediate future of the team. Boston currently sits at No. 7 in the East and 6.0 games out of first in the Atlantic Division.

The play of point guard Avery Bradley, widely considered one of the best on-ball defenders in the league, and veteran guard Jason Terry, who has taken on more of a role like the one he had for so many years in Dallas, have helped ease the loss of Rondo. It was going to be impossible to replace the league-leader in assists, but Rivers -- Tom Thibodeau's mentee -- has put his team in position to succeed.

It also doesn't hurt to have Pierce averaging 18.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 7.4 assists in the eight games since Rondo went down. In that span Pierce has two triple-doubles and Garnett has five double-doubles to help lead the injury-ridden Celtics -- Rondo's would-be back-up, Leandro Barbosa, also suffered a torn ACL earlier this week -- into the All-Star Break.

You won't see Rondo in action tonight, but the Celtics have had no problem racking up wins since his injury. See if the Bulls can head into the break with some momentum tonight on Comcast SportsNet. And stay in-tune with everything on social media by checking out Bulls Pulse.