The Chicago Bulls appeared as if they were heading for a blowout victory over the Boston Celtics at the United Center on Thursday night as they held a 51-35 advantage with 10:02 remaining in the third quarter. The Celtics were not ready to call it a night however, and they would grab the lead at 61-60 as veteran Chris Wilcox knocked down a shot one foot from the bucket with 11:42 left in the final period.
The two opponents exchanged the lead over the next few possessions, but the Bulls would jump out again to an 81-69 lead as Carlos Boozer drove the lane putting the rock through the hole with 4:41 left in the contest. This time Boston was not able to respond and Chicago held on for an 89-81 victory.
With All-Star guard Derrick Rose still sidelined with a stiff back Boozer and his front-court mate Luol Deng each racked up double-doubles while they both scored a game high 23 points. Kevin Garnett led the way for the Celtics as he also notched a double-double including 18 points for the night.
Boston trailed with less than three minutes left in the opening period but would get hot down the stretch. Wilcox hit a mid-range jumper with ten seconds to play completing a 10-2 run and the Celtics held the upper hand with the score 24-18 at the conclusion of the quarter. The visitors would maintain their advantage for most of the second until Deng buried a 25 foot trey with 3:08 remaining putting the Bulls on top 36-33. With nine seconds left Joakim Noah knocked down a pair at the line and Chicago entered their locker room as the game reached the half leading 44-35.
The home team would open the third scoring the first seven points of the period; but then their offense started to sputter and stall. The Celtics took full advantage of the situation and spent the rest of the period trying to extricate themselves from the hole they were in. Ray Allen drilled a 25 foot trey with 1:02 left in the period and Chicago’s lead was down to 60-59 as the teams headed into the fourth. Wilcox would put Boston on top during their first possession of the period and the teams exchanged the lead until the two opponents were tied at 69-69. The Bulls recovered their shooting touch and proceeded to go on a 12-0 run as Boozer completed back to back layups to put his team ahead 81-69. Boston did not have enough fuel left in their tank to make another comeback and Chicago held on for the win.
Boozer knocked down 23 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists while Deng scored 23 points, had 10 assists, 4 rebounds and 1 block. Noah also had a double-double with 15 points, 16 boards, 2 assists, and 2 blocks while C.J. Watson added 11 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists.
Garnett had 18 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a block while Rajon Rondo scored 17 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and a steal. Paul Pierce dropped 14 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 block and 1 steal while Allen added 12 points, 3 rebounds and 1 steal. Chicago now has a record of 25-7 and will host the New Jersey Nets on Saturday while Boston falls to 15-14 and will play in Auburn Hills on Sunday as they face the Pistons.