End of game, Celtics win 95-91: A terrible, fadeaway attempt off the time out by Watson gave Rondo his ninth rebound, and his two free throws put the Bulls in a bad spot down 93-88. Watson managed to draw a foul and missed the second shot, which Rondo raced in to gobble up for his 10th board.
Rondo's line of 32 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds (and counting) gives him his second triple-double of the season. His first was an 18-point, 14-assist, 11-rebound showing at Washington on New Year's Day.
Fourth quarter, :27.6, Celtics 91-88: That's two straight chances to put the game away where Pierce fumbled the ball away. The Celtics forced a defensive stop on a miss by Watson (OK, so that's not much of an accomplishment), and Pierce had a chance to ice it, but his pass to Garnett was errant.
Boozer missed Watson wide open on the other end, but got a time out for Chicago.
Fourth quarter, 1:04, Celtics 91-88: Pierce played the hero, but he played the goat on the very next possession. Deng hit two free throws to pull Chicago back within three, and Pierce got caught in the air under the hoop and turned it over to the Bulls.
Fourth quarter, 1:32, Celtics 91-86: Remember that stuff about Pierce having a quiet game? Well, when the time came for a clutch shot, the captain called his own number.
A 7-0 Bulls run cut Boston's lead to three points and a definite feeling of unease went over the crowd. Pierce dribbled at the top of the key, got a slipped screen from Garnett and stepped inside the free throw circle for a jumper to give the Celtics a two-possession edge.
Fourth quarter, 2:23, 89-83: Boozer could be on his way to a 20-10 night after scoring two straight baskets to cut the Celtics' lead to six points. The Bulls refuse to go quietly, even without their MVP point guard.
Boozer has 22 points, seven rebounds.
Rondo nabbed another rebound to give him eight, closing in on a triple-double. The first order of business for the Celtics, though, is winning the game.
Fourth quarter, 5:08, Celtics 86-72: The transition alley-oop isn't a featured part of the Celtics' repertoire. Many of the fans at TD Garden might have been surprised the fourth-oldest team in the NBA could do something like that at all, let alone twice on back-to-back plays.
Rondo lobbed to Johnson for a slam on the break, then Wilcox made a nearly impossible one-handed catch of a Rondo pass to throw down another oop.
The Celtics stretched their lead to 14 points, and the Rondo triple-double watch is at 28 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds.
Fourth quarter, 7:29, Celtics 82-71: One team indeed did break out early in the fourth quarter, but it wasn't the Bulls.
The Celtics opened the final frame on a 10-5 run to open up an 11-point lead, tying their largest advantage. Allen, who went more than three quarters without a three-ball, hit a trey followed up a baseline jumper. Johnson banked home a hook shot for his eighth points of the afternoon, and Pierce threw caution to the wind with a transition 3 to force old buddy Thibs to press the panic button.
End of third quarter, Celtics 72-66: The Bulls' field goal percentage didn't budge from 38 percent, and their 3-point field goal percentage stayed low at 27 percent. Either it's just one of those nights for the Bulls or they're getting ready to make a run in the fourth.
Garnett and Rondo continued to hold off the Bulls' hopes of a run, playing complete games to make up for slow nights by Pierce and Allen.
Garnett entered the fourth with 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting, nine rebounds and four blocks. Rondo had triple-double potential with 28 points, nine assists and six rebounds.
The Bulls' point guards, Lucas and Watson, were a combined 8-for-24 in the first three quarters. Not exactly Rose-esque. Chicago has yet to block one of the Celtics' shots.
Third quarter, 2:45, Celtics 65-61: Rondo might be in line for one of those memorable games, if anybody bothers to remember a Sunday afternoon game in February.
Rondo closed in on the end of three quarters with 23 points, eight assists and six assists, although he committed two turnovers in the third quarter after commiting just one in the first half.
Watson continued to alternate good plays with bad plays for Chicago, but Boozer and Noah kept challenging Wilcox, Garnett and Johnson around the hoop. Each Bulls big is up to 16 points and on his way to at least 10 rebounds. Wilcox picked up his fourth foul, giving Noah two free throws and forcing Rivers to contemplate his post rotation down the stretch.
Third quarter, 5:44, Celtics 61-56: The Celtics have missed a shot in this game. It just seems like they haven't.
The Bulls have taken 56 shots to the Celtics' 44, but Boston is shooting such a searing percentage that the disparity hasn't mattered. The Celtics shot 57 percent from the field, or 25-for-44, while the Bulls were just 21-for-56 for 38 percent accuracy.
Rondo and Garnett were rolling, combining for 29 points and 12-for-18 from the field.
Watson, meanwhile, was doing everything he could to giftwrap the game for the Celtics. Watson's performance continued to nosedive, as he increased his shooting stats to 4-for-15 and committed three turnovers, along with having three of those shots blocked.
Halftime, Celtics 48-43: The Bulls are a different team without Rose. That's for certain. But Rondo is revealing just how different a team they are. The Celtics aren't what they used to be, but they also aren't the Bobcats, who these Bulls smoked Friday.
Rondo scored six of the Celtics' final eight points as Boston closed the first half on an 8-4 run. He wrapped up the first half with team highs of 16 points and six assists.
The Good: Kevin Garnett only played 13:44, but with the impact he made, it seemed like longer. Garnett hit three of his four shots and went 1-for-2 from the free throw line for seven points in the first half, but it wasn't the scoring that was eye-popping. Garnett had six rebounds, three blocked shots and four assists in the first half. Probably most importantly, he committed no fouls. … In addition to his scoring and distributing, Rondo grabbed three rebounds and committed only one turnover. He was accurate on the shots he took, too, going 7-for-12 from the field and 2-for-3 from the foul line. … Joakim Noah feasted on the Celtics in the paint. He scored 12 points and had six rebounds in the first half. … Carlos Boozer also capitalized on the absence of Jermaine O'Neal and Brandon Bass, scoring 10 first-half points and pulling down five rebounds.
The Bad: C.J. Watson was all over the place, but not in a good way. He scored eight points, the third-most on the team, but it took him 13 shots (with only three makes) to do so.
The So-so: Chris Wilcox played 11 minutes with six points and three rebounds, while JaJuan Johnson was in for 18:10 and had six points. The problem was, each was whistled for three fouls, which could become a problem for the Celtics if Boozer and Noah remain aggressive.
Second quarter, 2:26, Celtics 43-39: Ray Allen is in the mood to give away souvenirs. The Celtics shooting guard saved a ball from going out of bounds by firing it into the rafters, then overthre an alley-oop attempt by about 10 feet.
If the Celtics could just stop Watson, who scored six straight Chicago points, this game might be halfway to blowout status.
Pierce found Rondo with a crazy touch pass on the break for a layup, drawing a loud cheer from the stands.
Second quarter, 6:05, Celtics 37-31: Wilcox and Johnson have made a mark on this game in the first half, which can be a good thing or a bad thing for the Celtics.
A Wilcox dunk and an open jumper by Johnson pushed the Celtics' lead back up to six, but the two have combined for five personal fouls in 18 minutes on the floor. The Celtics need those two to conserve their energy — and their fouls — or Garnett will be under a lot of pressure come the fourth quarter.
Second quarter, 7:24, Celtics 33-30: After Rondo's hot start, Rivers went to Bradley at the end of the first quarter and stuck with him at point guard through the first portion of the second quarter. Bradley, who is known for his on-ball defense, responded with two jumpers on consecutive possessions.
The jumpers didn't have much arc, but they went in, which is all that matters.
The Bulls had a surprise contribution from their own backup point guard. John Lucass III hopped off the bench to drill a 3-pointer and lost Bradley around a double screen for a jump shot, cutting the Celtics' lead to three points.
End of first quarter, Celtics 28-23: C.J. Watson might not enjoy being guarded by Rondo and Avery Bradley, but he seemed to perform well enough in the first quarter.
Watson, starting in place of Rose, scored four points in the final 1:35 of the first quarter to lessen a nine-point Celtics lead, which was Boston's second-largest of the game.
Johnson got away with a push in the back on Noah (it would have been Johnson's fourth foul) to put back a missed jumper by Bradley. Such contributions from role players will be important for both teams in this matinee.
First quarter, 4:28, Celtics 18-15: Two quick fouls on Wilcox and another two fouls on JaJuan Johnson put the Celtics in an even bigger bind than they were already in. Wilcox went to the bench in favor of Greg Stiemsma, who will be susceptible to the pick and roll if the Bulls can execute it without Rose.
An 8-0 run by the Bulls closed the gap to just three points, with Boozer and Noah going to work in the post against the thin Celtics.
First quarter, 6:11, Celtics 18-7: Wilcox, who will be counted on to play big minutes, committed his second foul to send Joakim Noah to the free throw line.
First quarter, 6:25, Celtics 18-7: Rajon Rondo was ready to go for this one and probably was disappointed Rose was a late scratch with a sore back. Rondo hit four of his first five shots and handed the ball on a two-on-none break to Chris Wilcox for a dunk that brought the TD Garden crowd to its feet.
The Bulls missed seven of their first 10 shots against an active Celtics defense. It remains to be seen how long the Celtics can keep up this level of effort, since they are two men down in the post.
2:30 p.m.: At first glance, it should help the Celtics that Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is reportedly out for this game due to pain in his lower back.
The Bulls did just fine without Rose in their last game, however. In Friday's 95-64 win over the Bobcats, the Bulls won their fifth straight game and became the first team in NBA history to win four straight road games by 10 points or more.
This is the final game of a nine-game, 15-day road trip for the Bulls.
Jermaine O'Neal is also out, and Celtics coach Doc Rivers informed reporters that Brandon Bass will miss the next two weeks with a sore knee. Chris Wilcox gets his first start of the season as the Celtics will have to lean on their healthy big men to compete in the post with Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson.
Keyon Dooling and Avery Bradley are expected to play, which should help, but they won't help much down low unless one of them grew six inches last week.
The projected starting lineups are below.
8 a.m. ET: The four-leaf clover wasn't so lucky for the Celtics this week, as the C's get two meetings with the Central Division-leading Bulls.
The first of those matchups takes place Sunday in Boston, where the Celtics have won four of their last five games. Many will be watching point guard Rajon Rondo, who had a forgettable performance Friday in Toronto but will likely be motivated to go head-to-head with reigning NBA MVP Derrick Rose.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which is set for a 3:30 p.m. ET tip-off.
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