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Reply To: NBA • Thursday Service Plays • 1/7/16

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Preview: Boston At Chicago

When: 8:00 PM ET, Thursday, January 7, 2016
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois

The last time the Chicago Bulls faced the Boston Celtics, they walked away with a third straight loss and began to question what they had in front of them. The Bulls responded with a dramatic turnaround and will put a five-game winning streak on the line when they host the Celtics in a rematch Thursday.

Chicago is 10-4 since falling 105-100 in Boston on Dec. 9, establishing their longest winning streak of the season with Tuesday’s 117-106 over Milwaukee. “We’re bringing the energy, we’re bringing the focus that is required in this league, then we have a chance because we have plenty of talent, as we all know,” center Pau Gasol told reporters. The Celtics are just 6-7 since that meeting with the Bulls last month and are coming off one of their more damaging defeats in a 99-94 home loss to Detroit on Wednesday. Boston held a 13-point lead late in the third quarter and was still up by nine entering the fourth before it collapsed to suffer its third straight home loss.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT, CSN Chicago

ABOUT THE CELTICS (19-16): Guard Avery Bradley missed Wednesday’s loss due to a hip contusion, which left a team that is already struggling from 3-point range without its best long-distance threat this season. Boston was 6-of-28 from beyond the arc against the Pistons — including an 0-of-9 showing from the bench — and is now 26-of-108 during its current 1-3 slide. Bradley is set to travel with the team on its three-game road trip but may not return until Sunday at Memphis.

ABOUT THE BULLS (21-12): Chicago seemingly dodged a bullet with oft-injured guard Derrick Rose, who was able to return from a three-game layoff because of a knee issue to score 16 points against Milwaukee. All five starters had at least 11 points — led by Jimmy Butler’s 32 — and rookie Bobby Portis continued his surge with eight points and eight rebounds off the bench. The Bulls were 20-of-20 from the line and improved to 10-1 when hitting at least 20 free throws.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Bulls PF Nikola Mirotic is averaging 16 points during a three-game span after being held scoreless in 20 minutes against Indiana on Dec. 30.

2. The Celtics are 5-2 in the second half of back-to-backs, including 3-1 on the road.

3. Butler has at least one steal in an NBA-high 41 straight games, one shy of Bulls great Scottie Pippen’s run from March 12-Dec. 16, 1994.

PREDICTION: Bulls 103, Celtics 95