The rivalry isn't the same. It never will be. Larry Bird and Michael Jordan won't be walking through that door. Still, with talent like Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and Rip Hamilton facing off against the Big Four, there's plenty of reasons to watch.
Rose and the red-hot Chicago Bulls will take on Rajon Rondo and the Boston Celtics in their first meeting of the season at 8:00 p.m. EDT on Friday night at TD Garden in Boston, MA (TV/Radio: CSNNE, ESPN/WEEI).
Boston will face Chicago a total of four times this season. The C's and Bulls played four times last season as well, with each team winning twice. In the first two meetings, Chicago rattled off victories -- 110-105 in OT on Nov. 5 and 104-92 on Dec. 3 -- before Boston prevailed 90-79 on Jan. 8 and 97-81 in the season series finale on April 7.
The Celtics' season to date can be described as streaky. Following three straight losses to open the season, the C's posted four victories in a row, only to be followed by two straight losses. In it's most recent shortcoming, the Celtics' comeback fell short against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, 90-85, on Wednesday night.
Rajon Rondo led the game in scoring with 24 points and also had seven assists for Boston, which drained 45.3 percent of its shots (29-for-64). Paul Pierce's scoring drought continued, as the captain finished with seven points on 2-of-5 shooting. Kevin Garnett was the only other Celtic to reach double-digit scoring, totaling 16 points.
Chicago, meanwhile, is beginning to re-establish consistency following its third consecutive win. The Bulls began the season with an 88-87 win over the Los Angeles Lakers but fell to the Golden State Warriors, 99-91, the very next night. After that, it was smooth sailing for Chicago, which won six games in a row before finally losing to the Atlanta Hawks, 109-94, on Jan. 7. The Bulls bested their next three opponents, most recently the Washington Wizards (78-64).
John Lucas filled in for the injured Rose, and he did not disappoint. Lucas scored a game-high 25 points and had eight assists against a lowly Wizards squad that managed to hold the Bulls to 36.7 percent shooting. Kyle Korver scored 14 points off the bench and Luol Deng had an admirable performance, amassing 12 points and 15 rebounds for Chicago.
Boston head out on the road to battle the Indiana Pacers in its next game Saturday.