Celtics-Bulls Preview

The Associated Press

Already without former MVP Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls may have to move on without his replacement as well.

That could make things a whole lot easier for Rajon Rondo on Monday night when the Boston Celtics visit Chicago.

The Bulls (4-2) might have to play without starting point guard Kirk Hinrich after he suffered a strained right hip in the first half of Saturday's 87-80 win over Minnesota. Hinrich, who signed in July to help fill in while Rose recovers from knee surgery, is day to day.

Former Celtic Nate Robinson, who scored 18 points off the bench against the Timberwolves, would likely handle most of the point guard duties if Hinrich sits out. Rookie Marquis Teague, Chicago's first-round pick in June, could also contribute.

"I think our bench did a great job," Robinson said. "We come to practice ready to play and we've got our starting five's back."

The Bulls' backcourt faces the difficult task of trying to defend Rondo, the NBA's assist leader at 13.3 per game.

Rondo played a key role in finding Paul Pierce (25 points) and Kevin Garnett (18) for open looks down the stretch Saturday night as Boston (3-3) captured its third win in four games with a 96-92 victory at Milwaukee.

"Rondo's penetration really opened up things, I was able to knock down some shots," Pierce told the team's official website. "We put Rondo in the middle and let him create and we shared the ball."

Rondo finished with 10 assists for his 30th consecutive regular-season game with at least that many. It's the third-longest such streak in NBA history, with Magic Johnson holding the record at 46 from April 1983 to February 1984.

Rondo's streak could be put to the test against a Bulls team that boasts one of the league's toughest defenses. Rondo has only one 10-assist effort in his last five games at Chicago.

The Bulls have not allowed an opponent to score 100 points in 15 straight games, and the Celtics have not reached the century mark at the United Center since 2009, losing five straight there.

Jason Terry and Brandon Bass might help after combining for 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting Saturday in Terry's first start with the Celtics and Bass' first game back in the starting lineup.

"We just have to keep getting better," coach Doc Rivers said. "I believe in this team. We just have to play hard every night. It'll give us a chance to win games when we're not playing great."

Carlos Boozer didn't play great against Minnesota, shooting 0 of 5 and finishing with two points. Boozer, averaging 17.0 points over his 11-year career, failed to make a field goal in a game for the first time since Nov. 18, 2003.

"Right now, the ball is just not going in for (Boozer)," Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. "He's gotten some good looks. It'll come around."

Joakim Noah finished with 17 points and Luol Deng added 16 on Saturday. Deng has been impressive against Boston at home, averaging 24.0 in the last three meetings there.

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