Jason Terry came up with a massive block of Marco Belinelli’s shot attempt, leaving Taj Gibson to airball a wild 3-pointer, and the Celtics survived with a victory. The Celtics now have won eight of their last nine.
Brandon Bass led Boston with 14 points while Kevin Garnett provided 12 points and 11 rebounds. Nobody on Chicago scored more than 12 points on a night when the teams shot 37 percent from the floor.
The Celtics are off for the All-Star break, and from the looks of this game, they need the rest.
Fourth quarter, :10.8, Celtics 69-68: This game feels a lot like the last meeting between these teams. The Celtics are letting the Bulls hang around just enough to make things dangerous.
Belinelli, who really is a pain in the you-know-what for the Celtics, hit a nifty layup to pull within one before Garnett responded with a baseline jumper as the shot clock expired.
Bradley managed to force Robinson to miss a wild three, but Boozer had the tip to make it a one-point game again. Watch out for Belinelli, guys.
Fourth quarter, :48.4, Celtics 67-64: Holy traveling violation, Luol Deng.
The Bulls forward got away with some major steps before plopping in a baby hook to cut Boston’s lead to three points. Pierce and Garnett both made the “traveling” motion with their hands simultaneously, so that was fun.
Fourth quarter, 1:28, Celtics 67-62: Garnett and Terry really enjoy playing together. They are sort of like the same player in very different bodies.
Garnett hit the deck to chase a loose ball, gobbling it up and tossing it to Bass, who was fouled. After Garnett sat on the floor panting for a while, Green came and helped him up, then Terry chest-bumped Garnett and the two yapped at each other for a moment.
Fourth quarter, 3:28, Celtics 62-60: Great coaches make their teams take on their identity, and it is clear that the Bulls are a Thibodeau-coached team. They did not let a reverse dunk by Green, which gave the Celtics a five-point lead, demoralize them.
The Bulls came back by outscoring the Celtics 6-3 over the next two minutes to keep the Celtics from pulling away. This is where the Celtics’ depth will be tested. The last thing they can afford is another overtime or two — or three.
Fourth quarter, 5:32, Celtics 57-54: Horrible shooting and thin bench aside, the Celtics will not go down without a fight. Garnett followed Bass’ burst with a jumper, Bradley sprinted down the floor for an open-court layup and Terry hit a tough runner in the lane to pull Boston ahead by three. The Garden crowd, which had rightfully been asleep for most of the game, suddenly is alive.
Fourth quarter, 9:22, Bulls 54-51: Bass has become energized for the Celtics. It is about time somebody was.
Bass, who has taken a team-high 13 shots, has scored the Celtics’ last six points. He spun around a defender on the break for a dunk and drilled an elbow jumper to make it a one-possession game. After the ice-cold performance last quarter, all of the Celtics are due to hit a couple of shots in the fourth.
End of third quarter, Bulls 49-46: Destroy all evidence of the last 12 minutes entirely. Never let the events of the third quarter see the light of day ever again.
The Bulls and Celtics put together a putrid quarter of basketball. This wasn’t good defense. It wasn’t even bad offense. It can’t even be called offense.
The damage: 10-for-41 shooting, 1-for-10 from deep and 21 points combined. Nobody in a white jersey scored more than one basket. At this rate, a six-point deficit might be insurmountable.
Third quarter, 6:27, game tied 39-39: Almost halfway through the third quarter, the teams have combined for seven points. That is three baskets. Sports!
We would tell you more, but there is not much to say except that the safest place in the building to sit might be directly under the hoop. You don’t have to worry about anything getting close to you there.
Halftime, Bulls 36-35: Let’s make an executive decision: Next basket wins.
The first half was an eyesore, or an example of really, really good defense, if you want to be generous. The teams combined to shoot 28 for 73 from the field and went almost three full minutes without scoring a point late in the second quarter. The Celtics had a five-minute, 33-second drought, and all Chicago had to show for it was a one-point deficit. Needless to say, this game has not been about offense.
Bradley has eight points as the high man for Boston, which shot 33 percent from the floor. Boozer, Belinelli and Butler each has seven points for the Bulls who have shot 44 percent but are throwing the ball all over the place. They have 12 turnovers already.
Second quarter, 5:43, Celtics 30-27: Marco Belinelli hits a lot of shots that are sort of… questionable.
You probably recall Belinelli hit the game-winner off a broken play at TD Garden earlier this season. Well, his 3-pointer a moment ago was not any more crisp. His fallaway triple fell through the net, extending the Bulls’ run to 8-0.
Second quarter, 9:27, Celtics 27-22: Forget about staying afloat without Rondo for a second. Bradley might be venturing into “indispensable” status.
With Bradley taking a blow, the Bulls went on a 5-0 run to close within five points. Taj Gibson led the way, hitting a jumper and slamming home the ball as the trailer in transition.
End of first quarter, Celtics 24-15: Opponents have gotten the memo on Jeff Green. If he is barreling toward the hoop and you are in his way, foul him ASAP. Otherwise you could end up on a poster. (Do kids still hang posters in their rooms? Or do they just watch YouTube clips on their iPads?)
Green drew two trips to the foul line after he went up for a standstill dunk over Butler on the block. He hit all four to help the Celtics take the lead and control the pace so far, although we will see how long this lasts once fatigue starts in.
The saving grace for the Celtics is that the Bulls are shorthanded in the backcourt as well. Not only is Rose out indefinitely, but Kirk Hinrich is also sidelined with an elbow injury.
First quarter, 3:59, Celtics 18-9: Avery Bradley is playing at a breakneck pace. Somebody should tell him he needs to preserve his energy. Doesn’t he know the Celtics only have one guard to relieve him off the bench?
Bradley has six points, the most of anybody on the floor, but the way he has scored says more than the total. The third-year guard is bolting down the court every time he touches the ball. He drew a foul on Robinson after he picked the Chicago guard’s pocket, canning both free throws, and then scored off his own missed floater after taking on a backstepping Robinson a short time later.
First quarter, 5:35, Celtics 10-9: So far, this game looks sort of like a matchup of two teams missing their All-Star point guards. On second thought, it looks exactly like that.
Neither team has generated the tempo they would like. They seem unsure whether to play inside-out or off the pick-and-roll, and the first few minutes have gone in fits and starts. Brandon Bass, of all people, seems to be the most in-rhythm with four points.
6:52 p.m.: Jared Sullinger’s rehab sure doesn’t sound like a ton of fun.
Then again, that depends on your definition of “fun.”
The Celtics forward, who is recuperating from surgery to remove a herniation in a disc in his lower back, said prior to the game that he can do nothing physically except sit at a 120-degree angle, play video games and tweet. In other words, he is sort like a modern college student living dorm life.
Sullinger confirmed Doc Rivers’ offhand comment a few weeks ago that Sullinger anticipated having to have this surgery at some point in his career. Sullinger said he felt no discomfort at all until the Jan. 30 game against the Kings, when he went up for a rebound and felt a twinge in his back when he came down. He first tweaked his back Nov. 20, 2011, in a game against Duke, he said, but had been pain-free ever since. He figured he would have surgery, maybe, later in his career.
“I didn’t think it was going to come this fast,” Sullinger said. “Maybe two or three years down the line, but that’s what NBA seasons do to you. In a long season, you’re going to have a couple of knick-knack injuries. My knick-knack injury turned into surgery.”
Doctors apparently told Sullinger that the herniation also made his legs weak, so he joked that he looks forward to jumping more than “two inches off the ground” when he recovers.
The projected starters appear below.
5:55 p.m.: The Celtics — what is left of them, anyhow — are ready to get the first half of the season over with.
The home team will have a grand total of three healthy guards in action when they host the Bulls. Season-ending injuries to Rajon Rondo and Leandro Barbosa have decimated Boston’s backcourt depth, yet Jared Sullinger’s season-ending back surgery has hamstrung the Celtics’ ability to make a trade to bolster the backcourt. It’s not like the Celtics have an abundance to big men to deal, after all.
Sullinger is set to speak with the media shortly, so we will update you on what he says.
8 a.m. ET: Kevin Garnett will be the only Celtics player on the court this weekend, and no, that’s not because he will be the only one still healthy. Garnett is the Celtics’ lone representative at All-Star weekend this year, as Rajon Rondo, who was due to start at point guard for the East, is out with a torn ACL in his right knee and Paul Pierce was left off the roster.
But before Garnett heads to Houston, he and the Celtics (27-24) have one more regular-season contest on the docket. The Bulls (30-21) have scored two wins in three tries so far this season, most recently in an overtime contest that went down to the wire. After pushing as high as third in the Eastern Conference without Derrick Rose, the Bulls have had some rough times recently. They have lost four of their last six and are coming off a tough loss to the Spurs, who were missing Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Stephen Jackson.
The Celtics’ situation is even more dire. They had their seven-game win streak snapped in Monday’s loss to Charlotte, but more importantly, they lost another player to a season-ending injury. Leandro Barbosa suffered a torn left ACL in the third quarter of that game, leaving the already reeling Celtics even thinner in the backcourt.
Join us for updates and analysis from the TD Garden during the game, which tips off at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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