Celtics-Bulls Preview

The Associated Press

Kirk Hinrich's return didn't prevent the Chicago Bulls from finishing with their lowest point total in five seasons.

Now they are hoping Hinrich can help slow down Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics.

The turnover-prone Rondo turned in a huge effort the first time these teams met last month, and his Celtics will try to end a four-game road slide Tuesday night.

Hinrich returned after missing two games with a bruised left knee in Monday's 80-71 loss at Memphis. He made 2 of 8 shots for four points while finishing with five assists and four turnovers.

"It didn't feel as good as I would like to by any means, but it was good enough to go out there and play," Hinrich said.

Coach Tom Thibodeau defended his decision to allow the ineffective Hinrich to log seven minutes in the fourth quarter. Chicago's previous low point total over the last five seasons was in an 83-72 loss at Miami on April 19.

"You have to read how the group is going," Thibodeau said. "The group that got us back going in the game in the fourth quarter was when we had Kirk, Jimmy (Butler), Lu (Luol Deng), Taj (Gibson) and Jo (Joakim Noah) in there. When the group is on the floor, they gotta play well."

Hinrich was out with a strained right hip Nov. 12 when Boston (12-11) ended its five-game losing streak at the United Center with a 101-95 victory. Rondo had 20 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds and five steals while mostly going up against Nate Robinson.

The Celtics shot 50.6 percent for the second-best effort against the Bulls all season.

Chicago (13-10) wasted double-doubles from Deng and Noah that night. Deng had 26 points and 11 boards and Noah added 17 and 11.

Rondo will try to bounce back after he had six points, nine assists and his second straight seven-turnover effort in Saturday's 103-88 loss at San Antonio. He has 33 turnovers over his last six games and is averaging 3.9 per game - although he also leads the league with 12.7 assists per game.

Coach Doc Rivers was unhappy the Spurs had 20 free throws to his team's eight.

"It is what it is," Rivers said. "They shot more free throws and two of our free throws were just technicals. It's hard to win games on the road when a team goes to the line like that and we don't go to the line.''

The Bulls will feature an entirely different backcourt than what the Celtics saw last month since Richard Hamilton is out indefinitely due to a torn plantar fascia in his left foot. Marco Belinelli has started the last eight games.

Hinrich's return resulted in rookie Marquis Teague not getting into Monday's game. Teague totaled 14 points and six assists the two previous games.

Carlos Boozer led Chicago with 16 points and 13 boards in Memphis. The Bulls were still outrebounded for the third straight game, 51-39.

"We gotta rebound, gotta rebound, gotta go after the ball," Thibodeau said.

The Bulls limited a second straight opponent to less than 40 percent from the field, with the Grizzlies finishing at 37.5.

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