The Bulls didn't have Derrick Rose and the Celtics had their top four guys on the floor but Chicago's defense, patient ball movement and dominant rebounding was too much for Boston, who yielded 89-80 in Chicago Thursday night.
In a matchup between two of the best defenses in the league, one could reasonably expect a game as low scoring as this was, 89-80. But the Boston Celtics likely did not expect the following:
- Getting out rebounded 52-37 and 16-6 on the offensive glass.
- A 4-13 shooting night from Ray Allen.
- Carlos Boozer going 11-15, with 25 points and 15 rebounds -- with Kevin Garnett playing 32 minutes.
- The Bulls shooting 48 percent from three-point range -- with sharpshooter Kyle Korver providing an 0-5 night from that very range.
- That the Bulls would dust off Mike James, who hadn't played since January 21, to combat Rajon Rondo, and posting up C.J. Watson and John Lucas III at the point -- and having it work.
- Rondo and Paul Pierce missing layups and free throws down the stretch, while Chicago seemed to get every loose ball to land right where they needed it.
- Having Rondo, Pierce, Allen and Garnett on the floor against a Chicago Bulls team without Derrick Rose and losing.
For all of the Bulls' offensive rebounds, it translated to only 12 points, but it was six points more than Boston gathered on their offensive glass. Joakim Noah had eight of those offensive boards (16 rebounds overall) and scored 15 points as a result. As for Boozer, all 15 of his boards were defensive and he also had five assists, as the Bulls controlled the glass on both ends of the floor.
While Boozer was hot, Luol Deng was busy proving why he is an All-Star. After harassing Allen on defense, Deng shot the ball particularly well, going 6-9 from three-point range and also leading the team with 10 assists, the last of which had the Celtics defense leaving not one, but two Bulls open at the rim in a halfcourt set.
It was that kind of night for the C's, who didn't have their shots falling against the energetic Bulls defense. Garnett was good, shooting 7-13, but Pierce, Allen and Rondo combined for 17-46, a 37 percent clip from the field. Allen did have three shots from deep go down in the third quarter to get the Celtics back out in front, briefly, but he ultimately had a hard time getting good set looks at the basket.
Rondo ended with a tidy 17-7-8 line, but those eight assists comprised more than half of the 15 total for the Celtics. Meanwhile, the Bulls assisted on 27 of 30 made baskets, using a patient, side-to-side approach that was only temporarily derailed by a Celtic zone. Once figured out, the Bulls made ways to rip the exposed middle of that zone, too.
Indicative of the way the game went for Boston was Rondo just missing beating the shot clock on a put-back early on in the game, but on the other end, the Celtics forcing a loose ball in the air with almost no time left on the shot clock for Chicago, while the ball ended up on the right hand of Taj Gibson, whose momentum carried he and the ball to score and beat the buzzer. That bucket gave the Bulls a 71-69 lead and sparked a 12-0 run that put the game away.
He didn't finish with a great statistical line, but James helmed the point as a part of the Bulls biggest runs of both halves, the team finishing with +15 with him on the floor. James may actually be the best pure distributor and pick-and-roll player on the (healthy) roster, and Thibs went to him in crunch time (after a blown defensive play by John Lucas) through the time he fouled out.
Meanwhile, at CelticsBlog, there were no excuses offered for the loss:
Well.....the second half of the third quarter of this game turned out to be sort of exciting - for a moment. The Celtics however lost focus in certain parts of this game (especially the 4th Qtr) and in the end this lack of focus sealed their fate. The final score of 89-80 doesn't really seem correct (it feels like it should more of a point spread), as we simply faded away in the 4th Quarter with bad shots, lack of mental toughness, and were unable to control the Bulls on the glass.