Pregame: Buzz is back in Windy City

CHICAGO -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers flew to Chicago last week to watch his son participate in the McDonald's All-American high school All-Star game at the United Center. The matchup with the Bulls was still eight days away, but Rivers enjoyed the chatter from Bulls fans that spotted him.

"I flew down last week to see my son [Austin] play and going through the airport, I heard all this trash talking," said Rivers. "Everybody was talking and I thought to myself, 'My God, Chicago is awake again.' That's nice, it is. Part of it is fun."

That trip to Chicago came the day before the Celtics put together an inspired effort in a road win over the Western Conference-leading San Antonio Spurs in another nationally televised showdown. Rivers said the in-game intensity that night was phenomenal and he expects the same atmosphere Thursday against the Eastern Conference-leading Bulls.

But don't expect Rivers to put too much stock in the outcome, even with the playoffs looming in little more than a week. Rivers simply wants his team to play at a high level as that second season nears.

"Oh, it's a big game today, but tomorrow's another game," said Rivers, whose troops fly home immediately for the second night of a back-to-back against the Wizards Friday at the TD Garden. "It's fun to play these games, the crowd will be into it... Both [Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and Rivers] want [their teams] to win and both of us want to play well. But I think we both want to be playing well going into the playoffs, that's important."

A few more notes from pregame:

* The Celtics brought 13 healthy bodies to Chicago and, as expected, rookie Avery Bradley is the healthy scratch. Von Wafer and Shaquille O'Neal, both of whom did not make the trip, are Boston's other inactives. In the nightly Shaq Watch, Rivers said he expects O'Neal to be healthy by the start of the playoffs, but didn't offer a potential return date (though he suggested earlier in the day that Sunday vs. Miami remains a possibility).

* Those hoping to get a glimpse of old friend Brian Scalabrine will have to settle for him in street clothes. Scalabrine is one of the Bulls' three inactives Thursday (John Lucas III and Jannero Pargo the others).

* A glimpse inside the Bulls' locker room: Derrick Rose has two crystal Player of the Month trophies on the top shelf of his stall (maybe a friendly reminder of the level of play he strives to maintain). Across the room, the Bulls' dry erase board was covered by a curtain to discourage wandering eyes (somewhere, Bill Belichick would nod in approval).