Game Preview: Celtics at Bulls
All the Chicago Bulls needed to get their offense going was a date with the struggling Boston Celtics and a little help from their backup point guard.
Chicago looks to build on that performance while dealing Boston a 10th straight road loss as the clubs complete a home-and-home set Monday night.
The Bulls entered Sunday's contest against the Celtics averaging just 83.3 points over their last four games and shot 39.3 percent in Friday's 91-74 home loss to Portland.
Chicago put a resounding end to their scoring slump, though, as D.J. Augustin came off the bench and scored a career-high 33 points while hitting 10 of 14 from the field and all 10 of his free-throw attempts in a 107-102 victory. The league's lowest-scoring team (93.0 points per game) shot 52.9 percent from the field after hitting at a 39.8-percent clip over its previous seven.
Joakim Noah finished with 13 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds for the Bulls, who will be looking to win for the fourth time in five games. They also can earn their first season sweep of the Celtics since 2006-07.
"That is how we have to win. Our margin of error is not great," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We've got to play with great intensity each and every night."
All five Chicago starters scored in double figures, and Augustin had 15 points in the fourth quarter to help put the game away. His scoring night marked the third-highest for a reserve this season.
Augustin chose not to bask in his career performance, rather viewing the Bulls' defensive effort as an issue. Chicago had allowed an average of 88.1 points over its last eight and ranks second in the league to Indiana in scoring defense at 92.0 per game.
Chicago, which has clinched a playoff spot, leads Brooklyn by two games for fourth place in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in a potential first-round rematch from last postseason.
"Even though we didn't play great defense, we pulled it out and we know what we have to fix," said Augustin, whose previous career high was 31 points against Philadelphia in 2011 while with Charlotte. "I really don't follow that. Some of my teammates told me. It's a great accomplishment, but I'm glad we got the win."
Sunday marked another tough defeat for Boston, which allowed a late bucket in a 105-103 loss to Toronto on Friday and never trailed by more than seven against Chicago.
Rajon Rondo finished with 17 points and 11 assists for the Celtics, who have dropped four straight and nine of 10. They haven't won on the road since beating league-worst Milwaukee on Feb. 10.
"You can look at it a couple of different ways, but we hate losing," Rondo said. "We've got to find a way eventually to win some of these games. They're very winnable. We're just not closing the games the right way."
Boston has dropped seven of the last eight meetings at the United Center, including a 94-82 defeat Jan. 2 as Noah led the Bulls with 17 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists.
Noah has a double-double in six straight meetings with the Celtics, averaging 13.7 points, 12.0 rebounds and 6.8 assists in that stretch.