The first time the Bulls visited Boston this season, it was a chance to prove they could compete against the Celtics with Kevin Garnett in the lineup.
That one didn't work out so well. The Bulls were crushed 118-90 in the second game of the regular season as the Celtics went crazy from 3-point range, hitting 12 of 24 shots.
The team's second trip to Boston might be more accommodating. With Garnett (knee) and Rasheed Wallace (foot) out and Glen "Big Baby" Davis back from a thumb injury, the Celtics will be fielding nearly the same lineup from last year's seven-game playoff series. Backup center Shelden Williams should be the only new face on the floor.
"They're a very different team without KG, but they're still very, very good," said Joakim Noah, who would have been guarding Garnett. "It's always exciting to play in that building. The fans are really into it."
Garnett has been sidelined since Dec. 28 and is definitely out. Wallace is listed as day to day but missed his second straight game Wednesday at New Jersey, and Boston coach Doc Rivers suggested Wallace will be out at least a week.
Brian Scalabrine started in place of Wallace on Monday when the Celtics lost at home to Atlanta. It's possible Davis, who averaged 18.1 points against the Bulls in the playoffs, could join the starting lineup tonight.
The Bulls have been using several players who didn't play in last year's playoff series, including rookie Taj Gibson.
"I watched every game," Gibson said. "KG and Rasheed Wallace already welcomed me into it, just talked smack talk to me already. I'm just looking forward to throwing some more elbows and trying to get some wins."
Noah averaged 13.1 rebounds and 10.1 points during last year's playoffs, which turned out to be a preview of what he had in store for this season. As the Bulls close in on the halfway point in the season, Noah talked about how he's holding up as the league's second-leading rebounder.
"I think everybody right now is feeling a little bit different than they did in preseason, physically," Noah said. "I don't think that's just me; I think that's everybody around the league. There are a lot of games and it's not easy.
"I understand what I need to do. I'm preparing better. I understand my routine a little bit better. I'm just pretty comfortable in knowing what I need to do to get ready for a game."
Needless to say, the Bulls will be in trouble if they're not ready for this one.