Final, Bulls win 107-102: The race to the bottom continues for the Boston Celtics. Despite a back-and-forth affair that featured 16 lead changes and 19 ties, the Celtics (22-50) suffered their fourth straight loss and ninth defeat in their last 10 games.
Jared Sullinger had 16 points and 10 rebounds for Boston, helped by a pair of his patented late-game 3-pointers. Rajon Rondo led the team with 17 points and 11 assists.
Joakim Noah was tremendous at both ends for the Chicago Bulls (41-32), as usual, with 12 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds. But guard D.J. Augustine brought it home. He set a new career-high with 33 points, aided by 18 in the fourth quarter.
There’s not time to rest, as both teams are right back at it again Monday in Chicago.
Fourth quarter, :34.8, Bulls 101-96: It’s bleak for the Celtics. Green has the ball stolen by Butler, then fouls Butler. At the other end, Rondo fouls Augustin, who drops both freebies.
Fourth quarter, 1:19, Bulls 99-96: Back and forth we go. After Noah split a pair of free throws, Green drained a fallaway three, then Butler was called for an illegal screen.
Bass missed what would have been a go-ahead jumper, leaving the door open for Augustin to hit the go-ahead three for Chicago.
Fourth quarter, 2:37, Bulls 95-93: Sully got what might be the block of the game, but it might also have been a goaltend.
Sully swatted away Augustin’s floater, leading to a transition three by Green. Thibs, Augustin and basically anybody else in a red uniform was screaming for a goaltend — and the five-point swing that went into the non-call.
Fourth quarter, 5:18, Bulls 91-87: Chicago doesn’t have Rose, but Hinrich and Augustin are doing their best to give the Bulls some scoring punch here. Both Bulls guards have hit big shots, including a corner three a moment ago by Hinrich, to put the Bulls in position to take their biggest lead of the game. (It’s five thus far.)
Fourth quarter, 8:53, Bulls 84-79: The shine might have come off this Rondo-less unit. The Bulls have reeled off a 6-2 run to open the final quarter as the Celtics are losing their grip on the offensive end.
Whatever happens, this one would stay interesting to the end. These teams have been tied 17 times and exchanged the lead 14 times
End of third quarter, Bulls 78-77: With Rondo on the bench, a Bayless-led second unit is attacking the hoop and getting some needed buckets. They’re just not defending with any consistency.
Sullinger nearly tied the game on an old-fashioned three-point play, but his free throw was off. Since then, the Celtics and Bulls have traded baskets, including a flawless three-pass fast-break that ended with a layup by Olynyk, assisted by Chris Johnson.
Third quarter, 6:40, Celtics 62-60: Humphries had a run-in with Carlos Boozer earlier in the game, when Booz fouled Hump about to attempt a fast-break dunk. Now Hump’s trying to make some noise again.
Hump draws an offensive foul when Boozer throws his arm out while trying to gain position in the post, giving possession to the Celtics. At the other end, Hump drills a baseline jumper to give the Celtics the lead.
Third quarter, 9:19, Bulls 55-54: It’s sort of incredible the Celtics have managed to stay this close, given that Bradley continues to struggle with his shot and the Celtics are struggling to hit from deep as a team. They’re 4-for-15 on threes, which makes it tough to gain any balance against one of the NBA’s best defenses.
Luckily for the Celtics, the Bulls are as bad offensively as they are strong defensively. Despite shooting 54 percent from the field, the Bulls play rather slowly and many other teams would be shooting in the mid-60s with the number of wide open shots the Celtics have given them.
Speaking of open looks, Green would have had a nice look at a dunk if Mike Dunleavy hadn’t bumped him on the break. Alas, Green wasn’t given the clear-path foul, much to his chagrin.
Jared Weiss (@CLNS_JaredWeiss) March 31, 2014
Halftime, Bulls 51-50: Brandon Bass is in a dunking mood, apparently.
Bass has had two thunderous, two-handed slams to help the Celtics narrow the gap to one point at halftime. The first was an alley-oop from Rajon Rondo out of a timeout, with Bass really getting up to nab Rondo’s lob. The second game on a botched corner-three play, so Bass just barreled to the rim instead.
Bass has eight points at the break, one of four Boston players with eight points or more. Jeff Green and Jerryd Bayless are tied for the team lead with 10 points apiece. Bulls guard D.J. Augustin has a game-high 13 points.
The chief playmakers have been Rajon Rondo and Joakim Noah, not that there is any surprised about that. Rondo’s got seven helpers, Noah has six, but assists are less helpful when they’re combined with lots of turnovers. So far, they have been. The Bulls have committed eight turnovers, the Celtics seven, keeping either team from getting out and running despite shooting the ball decently.
Second quarter, 3:18, Bulls 43-42: Avery Bradley is having one of those games where the ball just won’t go down. He’s 2-for-8 from the field despite some good looks. The ball just won’t go in the hoop.
There’s no such trouble for Bayless, who is 4-for-6 from the floor. The Celtics have needed every bucket as D.J. Augustin and Taj Gibson have given Chicago a boost off the bench.
By the way, look, Noah’s back! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
Marc D'Amico (@Marc_DAmico) March 30, 2014
Second quarter, 9:44, Celtics 30-27: Jerryd Bayless got hot a bit too late for it to matter on Friday, so the Celtics would love it if he found his groove a little earlier tonight. He’s got five points so far, including a sweet crossover move into a pull-up jumper, as the Celtics continue to nurse their lead.
End of first quarter, Celtics 26-25: We told you Green was being aggressive.
Green lets loose a corner 3-pointer as the buzzer sounds and nails it, giving the Celtics a rare lead after the first 12 minutes. He took nine of Boston’s 22 shots in the first quarter and is the first player in double figures with 10 points.
The Celtics aren’t playing particularly well, though, which makes it a bit surprising they have the lead. They’ve committed six turnovers and have had numerous defensive breakdowns. They’ve left the Bulls very, very, very open several times and gotten away with missed shots.
If Chicago could only shoot, the Celtics could be in trouble.
First quarter, 5:21, Bulls 15-13: This one has started out pretty much as you’d expect for both teams: with a lot of missed shots.
The Celtics opened up by going 0-for-4 from the field with two turnovers before Rajon Rondo finally banked home a layup almost three minutes into the action. Fortunately for them, the Bulls have never been known for their offense, either.
It’s been sort of a mucked-up game so far, but Jeff Green is looking for his own offense to the tune of five shot attempts already. He’s got a tough matchup in Jimmy Butler, a defensive whiz, so we’ll see how this strategy works out for Green and the Celtics.
5:28 p.m.: Joakim Noah’s statistics don’t jump off the page. The seventh-year center averages just 12.4 points, 11.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game, hardly gaudy numbers for a big man — well, aside from the assists.
But Noah’s importance extends far beyond the box score. There is little debate that Noah belongs in the Most Valuable Player discussion for how he’s enabled the Bulls to stay relevant with Derrick Rose injured and Luol Deng traded. He might just be the best player in the NBA since the All-Star break.
“How often do you have a guy that’s even mentioned as an MVP candidate that averages what he averages points-wise,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said in his pregame media availability. “I think that tells you what Noah’s meant to this team since Rose has been out and Deng got traded. They haven’t skipped a beat.”
Noah’s been so good, they released a feature-length film on him this weekend, starring Russell Crowe. Or maybe that movie is based on someone else.
After discussing potential changes to the starting lineup at practice on Saturday, Stevens is standing pat with his starting five tonight. The projected starters appear below.
8 a.m. ET: Nobody in the NBA battled like the 2007-08 Boston Celtics. Nobody battles like the Chicago Bulls nowadays. Not surprisingly, those teams have one very big person in common.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau has brought a fighter’s mentality to the city of broad shoulders, which is just the sort of mentality to Celtics played with when Thibs was an assistant in Boston. Now, even though Thibodeau has reportedly been on the hot seat, his Bulls (40-32) once again refuse to say die.
Derrick Rose is injured, as usual, and All-Star Luol Deng has been traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Bulls are still in the thick of the chase for home-court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Celtics (23-49), of course, are not. Still, they’ll try to offer some resistance while they try to record just their fourth win in the month of March.
Join us for updates and analysis from TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7 p.m.