The Boston Celtics were performing surprisingly well without All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo – their last game notwithstanding – but have now lost another member of their backcourt.
The Chicago Bulls are having their own problems staying healthy.
After losing a third player to a season-ending injury in less than a month, the Celtics will try to bounce back from their first defeat in more than two weeks Wednesday night against a Bulls team seeking its eighth victory in the last 10 games in the series.
Boston (27-24) had won seven in a row – its longest streak in two seasons – after losing Rondo to a torn right ACL on Jan. 27. That run ended Monday with a 94-91 road loss Charlotte, owner of the league’s worst record.
Even worse, the Celtics lost Leandro Barbosa to a torn left ACL. The team announced Tuesday the backup guard, who has seen increased playing time since Rondo’s injury, was done for the season.
Earlier this month, Boston lost first-round draft pick and reserve forward Jared Sullinger for the rest of 2012-13 because of lumbar disk surgery.
“We’re falling like flies right now,” Kevin Garnett said Monday. “Obviously, it’s tough. It’s tough all the way around.”
If any team can relate to Boston’s injury woes, it’s Chicago. The Bulls (30-21) have had every starter except Richard Hamilton out of action at various times over the past 3 1/2 weeks – and Hamilton missed 12 December games with a foot sprain.
That list doesn’t even include 2011 MVP Derrick Rose, who is still trying to come back from his own torn ACL. The Bulls were hopeful their point guard could be back after the All-Star break but while he didn’t rule that out, Rose told USA Today in an interview posted Tuesday that he thought his return was “far away.”
Making it worse on Chicago is that his replacement, Kirk Hinrich, has an ailing right elbow and has missed the past six contests. The Bulls have gone 2-4 in those games, which also includes games missed by Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and key reserve Marco Belinelli.
The Bulls are coming off Monday’s 103-89 loss to visiting San Antonio, and they didn’t help themselves by giving up 29 points off 19 turnovers. The miscues were their most since they had 21 in a 100-99 overtime win at Boston on Jan. 18, the most recent matchup between the teams.
“We didn’t play smart, turned the ball over way too much,” said Noah, who had 15 rebounds and seven points in his third game back from plantar fasciitis. “We’re not playing good basketball right now. We’re on top of each other offensively and we’re not trusting each other defensively. We know we’re more than capable of playing better.”
Another absence from Hinrich, who isn’t traveling to Boston, could make it difficult for Chicago to add to its 7-2 mark in its last nine games against the Celtics. The Bulls earned their latest win in the series when Belinelli made an off-balance fadeaway jumper with 3.1 seconds left.
Hamilton had a team-best 20 points in that one and Boozer totaled 19 points and a season-high 20 rebounds, the fourth double-double in his last five games against Boston.
While the Bulls could be short-handed again, the loss of Rondo might hurt even more for Boston as he was averaging 25.3 points in this season’s three matchups, nearly twice as many as any other teammate.
The Celtics and Bulls have split their last six games at the TD Garden, but Boston has won a season-best six straight there since a loss to New York on Jan. 24.