Final, Bulls win 94-82: Joakim Noah didn’t get his triple-double. That’s about all he didn’t do to the Celtics, though.
Noah totaled 17 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists as the Bulls shifted into a gear the Celtics didn’t have in the second half. The Bulls (13-18) not only held the Celtics (13-19) to 37 points after halftime, they also forced 10 turnovers and earned 16 free throws to Boston’s five.
Jordan Crawford scored seven of his game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter, but he wasn’t all that efficient, despite shooting 7-for-11 from the field. He had seven assists but also committed five turnovers, and many of his shots were contested and just flat-out lucky they went in.
Six Bulls scored in double figures, including Mike Dunleavy (11) and Taj Gibson (12) off the bench. The Celtics have lost five of their last six.
Fourth quarter, 3:34, Bulls 87-72: Jared Sullinger heads to the bench, possibly for good tonight, and throws away the padded glove he was wearing to protect his bruised left hand. Sullinger seemed pretty annoyed with the glove all night. It may have contributed to him missed a wide-open layup from the left side. Normally, he might take that shot with his left. But he tried to shoot it with his right and he muffed it.
Fourth quarter, 6:47, Bulls 81-68: We’ve been tough on the refs tonight, but they deserve props now. Jared Sullinger fouled Taj Gibson on a dunk attempt, sending Gibson to the ground hard as the ball somehow popped through the hoop. It was tailormade for a reactionary flagrant-2 call, and Bill Kennedy’s crew showed some restraint in only calling it a flagrant-1, which doesn’t bring an automatic ejection.
Fourth quarter, 7:52, Bulls 79-68: Joakim Noah proves that hustle is a skill. The Bulls’ big man has done plenty that doesn’t show up in the box score but plenty that shows up in the linescore — as in, the point total.
Noah is on triple-double watch with 15 points, nine rebounds and eight assists, but that doesn’t sum up his all-around contribution to the game. His ability to keep loose balls alive and occupy help defenders by rolling into open space around the basket is keeping the Celtics from getting comfortable on offense, defense or on the in-between plays like 50-50 balls or rebounding chances.
Fourth quarter, 10:36, Bulls 77-62: Somebody put a body on Mike Dunleavy. The man has seven of his 11 points in this quarter, including every point Chicago has scored in the fourth. If the Celtics have trouble identifying Dunleavy, here’s a hint: He’s the tall white guy currently killing you all over the court.
End of third quarter, Bulls 70-62: Jeff Green is determined to shoot himself into a good game, even if he takes the whole ship down with him.
Green took five straight Celtics shots in one stretch, although he wasn’t particularly effective. Brad Stevens finally brought Green to the bench — for a rest, not for a punishment — with Green shooting 4-for-15 from the field in the game.
Because the Bulls lack a real scoring threat of their own, the Celtics were able to stay somewhat close for a while. They were down by just four with less than 30 seconds remaining in the quarter. Then Mike Dunleavy Jr. struck, blocking a shot by Kris Humphries at one end and hustling for a putback at the other to give the Bulls an eight-point edge.
The Celtics are perfectly fine when they take care of the ball, doomed when they don’t. They committed five more turnovers in that frame and it was pretty academic. When they turned the ball over, the Bulls got some rare easy buckets in transition. When they protected the ball, the Bulls had trouble getting shots against Boston’s halfcourt defense.
Third quarter, 6:15, Bulls 61-51: It’s starting to get ugly for the Celtics, who are getting outhustled and outworked at both ends by the Bulls. They’re looking for help from the refs, since foul calls were a crapshoot in the first half, but the crew is suddenly letting them play.
The Bulls are now winning the rebounding battle, especially on the offensive glass, where they have three offensive boards already in this half. Joakim Noah kept at it on the last play, getting his initial shot blocked but staying with it to score his own putback.
Halftime, Bulls 48-45: Allowing for the fact that Bulls games are seldom pretty, this has been a particularly tough game to watch.
Bill Kennedy’s officiating crew has hijacked the game, sucking any emotion or feel out of the play. The players don’t know what a foul is or isn’t, and as a result they’re playing reactive, rather than proactive. Basically, the referees are guessing. Most of the time, they’re guessing wrong.
The first half featured 26 fouls and 30 foul shots. The Bulls have been better about shaking off the shoddy officiating, though, continuing to shoot a respectable 47 percent clip and assisting 15 of their 18 baskets. The Celtics, despite outrebounding the Bulls 20-17, haven’t been as heady. In addition to nine turnovers, they are 0-for-5 from downtown.
Carlos Boozer leads all scorers with 14 points, while center Joakim Noah has six assists. Jordan Crawford leads the Celtics with 10 points.
Second quarter, 2:57, Bulls 42-38: Small mistakes can get magnified when a Tom Thibodeau-coached team is at its best. The Bulls aren’t at their best, but they are making the Celtics pay for every minor error.
Jeff Green gave a bad foul trying to block a Jimmy Butler jumper from behind and Brandon Bass never got the foul call he was looking for after failing to get off the initial layup attempt on a designed inbounds play. Vitor Faverani had a nifty steal-and-dunk play to put on his career highlight reel, but he’s also committed two quick fouls and was whistled for an illegal screen.
Second quarter, 5:33, Bulls 35-34: Thanks to some crackpot officiating work by Bill Kennedy’s crew, this game has lost all semblance of flow. Nice work, most unbearable officiating crew in the NBA other than Joey Crawford’s.
There have been three whistles on the last three possessions, grinding the rhythm to a halt despite a thunderous alley-oop dunk by Taj Gibson and some nice hustle plays by Kris Humphries. But why should anyone care what the players are doing when Kennedy is manning the whistle?
Second quarter, 9:17, Celtics 29-24: Quietly, Courtney Lee is still having a nice season for the Celtics. That could mean his trade value is going up and he is more likely to land on a better team before the season is through.
If so, more power to him.
Lee dropped a perfect pocket pass to Jared Sullinger for a layup out of a pick and roll, then read Tony Snell’s eyes and stepped into the passing to lane to cleanly pick of Snell’s pass and finish with a dunk at the other end. The Celtics have also picked it up on the glass, where they are outrebounding the Bulls 15-9. Kris Humphries leads the Celtics in that category with three, but five other Celtics have at least two boards.
End of first quarter, Bulls 24-21: Kris Humphries hustles and rebounds, and he’s coming off his best game as a Celtic. But pick-and-roll defense has always been a knock against the former Gopher.
Tony Snell and D.J. Augustin each victimized Humphries with pick-and-rolls, both times leading to easy buckets for Carlos Boozer. Boozer’s been deservedly criticized for failing to step up whether Rose is healthy or hurt, but he’s off to a strong start.
Boozer has eight points on 4-for-7 shooting, topping Jordan Crawford for the game’s high. Crawford hit both field goals and both free throws he attempted in the first quarter for six points. Unfortunately for the Celtics, Crawford’s points matched their number of turnovers, helping the Bulls score despite shooting just 10-for-22.
First quarter, 4:54, Celtics 14-10: Brandon Bass and Jeff Green aren’t showing any ill effects from missing the entire fourth quarter after their run-in on Tuesday. They’re not exactly taking off with flying colors, either.
Bass hit his first two shots and blocked two shots early while Green spun in a reverse layup to help Boston take an early lead. The Bulls do have some promising signs, though. All six of their field goals have been assisted, compared to just two assists on five field goals for the Celtics.
Assists alone aren’t the best indicator of an effective offense, but for two teams without true No. 1 scoring options, ball movement is the only way they can generate enough offense to keep pressure on the opposing defense.
7:08 p.m.: While their fans hunker down away from the snow in their homes, the Celtics will tip off against an opponent that, like themselves, is trying to make do without its best player.
Derrick Rose is expected to miss the rest of the season with an injured right knee, leaving the Bulls another notch lower on the NBA ladder. The Celtics, meanwhile, are waiting with baited breath for the return of point guard Rajon Rondo, whose return is not imminent but isn’t believed to be that far off, either.
Jared Sullinger, who injured his hand in Tuesday’s loss to the Hawks but said the pain would not prevent him from playing, was true to his word. He is expected to start for the Celtics as usual in Chicago.
The projected starting lineups appear below.
8 a.m. ET: Jeff Green and Brandon Bass don’t have to forgive or forget about their minor tiff on the bench Tuesday. They just have to move on.
Green and Bass will try to do that Thursday when they and the Celtics (13-18) head to Chicago to take on the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls (12-18). Things haven’t gone so well for the Bulls, who began the season with reasonable NBA Finals hopes with a healthy former NBA Most Valuable Player, but they trail the Celtics by just a half-game for the eighth and final playoff position.
Thank the Eastern Conference for that, Bulls.
If the Celtics burst out to a quick lead in this one, watch out. They’ve blown sizable leads in their last three games and were lucky to come out of there with even one victory. They have lost four of their last five overall and are beginning a brutal January that features 17 games and very few walkover opponents.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m. ET.