Rajon Rondo scored a season-high 32 points, dished out 15 assists and grabbed 10 rebounds for a triple-double as the Celtics outlasted the Bulls, 95-91, Sunday afternoon at TD Garden. The win was arguably Boston's biggest this season as Chicago entered with an NBA-best 23-6 record.
The Bulls were playing their second straight game without reigning MVP Derrick Rose (sore back) while the Celtics were without starting center Jermaine O'Neal and power forward Brandon Bass. O'Neal is day-to-day with knee and shoulder injuries while Bass is out 10-14 days with a sore knee. Chris Wilcox filled in for O'Neal and had four thunderous dunks and 11 points in 26 minutes. Kevin Garnett had 13 points and 12 rebounds while rookie JaJuan Johnson scored 12 in 33 minutes.
The Celtics started out red-hot, hitting nine of their first 10 shots from the floor and building an early 11-point lead at 18-7. They finished the first quarter connecting on 13-of-22 attempts, good for 59 percent. Boston's defense meanwhile was aided by Chicago settling for jumpers early on. The Bulls made just 8-of-22 shots in the opening 12 minutes as the Celtics led, 28-23, after one.
The Celtics and Rondo took advantage of Rose's absence by running and gunning in the first half at every chance, outscoring the Bulls, 17-4, in fast break points. The Celtics entered the game 25th in the NBA in fast-break scoring but managed to take a 48-43 lead at the break.
Rondo continued his torrid pace in the third quarter, scoring 12 of his team's 24 points in the period as the Celtics took a 72-66 lead into the final period. On consecutive plays midway through the fourth, Rondo fed JaJaun Johnson and Wilcox for alley-oop dunks that sent the Garden into pandemonium and gave Boston an 86-72 lead with 5:08 left in the game.
The Celtics, who never trailed, saw their lead cut to three, 89-86, with 1:43 left on a 14-3 Bulls' run. Paul Pierce hit a clutch jumper with 1:32 left to put Boston up, 91-86. The Bulls had a chance to tie, down three with 27.6 seconds left, but C.J. Watson - Rose's replacement - missed an off-balance 3-pointer and Rondo hit a pair of free throws.
The Celtics are off until Wednesday, when they host the Pistons. They travel to Chicago for a game against the Bulls on Thursday. For complete coverage, visit the Celtics team page at weei.com/celtics and the Green Street blog.
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