Ford Keys to the Game

Celtics 86, Bulls 93

Game Highlights

Photo of the Game

Ryan Hollins, Luol Deng, Paul Pierce

Luol Deng is framed perfectly as he rises up for a jumper between Ryan Hollins and Paul Pierce.
Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty

Key Moment

The Boston Celtics lost their second straight game tonight when the Chicago Bulls pulled out a 93-86 victory in the United Center.

Many will point to the fact that the Bulls pulled away for this win in the fourth quarter, but Chicago’s ability to close this one out doesn’t tell the whole story. More importantly, it was Boston’s inability to sustain its fantastic first-half play when the second half began.

The Celtics were playing in the second night of a back-to-back but didn’t show a bit of fatigue in the first half. They dominated the Bulls and made the East’s best team look mediocre. Boston headed into halftime sporting an 11-point lead and it didn’t seem like that cushion was going to go away.

Then the second half happened.

Whatever was fed to the Bulls at halftime, be it inspiring words from Tom Thibodeau or energy drinks, it turned them into a different team. From the opening possession of the second half until the final buzzer, Chicago looked like Chicago. That play took Boston out of a rhythm and changed the course of this game.

The Bulls scored the first six points of the second half and started the third period on a 9-2 run overall. Their defensive intensity in the second half blew away their performance in the first half. Boston was forced into three missed shots and a turnover to start the third quarter.

With Chicago’s relentless defense making an impact at one end and its offense heating up at the other, Boston’s firm grip on this game slipped away in an instant. Carlos Boozer’s hook shot with 6:27 remaining in the third period cut the Celtics’ lead down to one, and with that, their cushion was all but gone.

All in all, Chicago opened up the third period with a 16-6 run over the first 5:33 of playing time. It took away every ounce of momentum the Celtics had at halftime in what seemed like an instant.

That’s the last thing Boston needed on this night. It was playing on the road in the second night of a back-to-back just 24 hours after a heartbreaking loss. The C’s needed to play from ahead in the final quarter because their bodies simply weren’t in position to gut out a win in the final minutes.

That lack of energy came back to haunt them in the end, but this game wasn’t lost in the fourth quarter. Instead, it was lost during those first five-plus minutes of the third, when the C’s squandered all of their hard work from the first half in the blink of an eye.

Key Box Score Line

Paul Pierce finally logged a strong game against Luol Deng, but he didn’t log a better game than Deng.

Deng scored a game-high 26 points to help lead the Bulls to a victory over the Celtics Thursday night. He scored 18 of those points in the second half, including several daggers down the stretch.

Chicago’s small forward shot 9-of-21 overall from the field but contributed to the game in many other ways as well. He grabbed six rebounds, dished out three assists and finished with a game-high four steals.

It was a positive sign for Pierce that he was able to drop 22 points and eight boards on Deng and the Bulls, but it wasn’t enough to get Boston the win. Instead, Deng’s performance highlighted an impressive come-from-behind victory for Chicago.

Box Score Nuggets

  • Two players, Kevin Garnett and Carlos Boozer, logged double-doubles of points and rebounds, and both finished with 14 rebounds to lead the game.
  • Rajon Rondo also contributed a double-double with 10 points and 12 assists.
  • Garnett's 14 rebounds were a season high.
  • Luol Deng (26 points) and Paul Pierce (22 points) led their respective teams in scoring and both attempted 21 shots on the night.
  • Both teams finished with 22 assists.
  • Ray Allen came off the bench for Boston to score 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
  • Deng grabbed a game-high four steals.
  • Allen's 14 points off the bench matched the output of Chicago's entire bench.
  • Both teams shot less than 43 percent from the field.
  • This was the second time in two nights that Boston scored 86 points.
  • Both teams finished with eight steals.
  • Boston's bench combined to grab just four of the team's 36 rebounds.
  • Each team had four starters score in double-figures. The starters for each team who didn't score at least 10 points, Avery Bradley and Richard Hamilton, were the teams' shooting guards and both scored nine points.
  • Both teams made five 3-pointers.
  • Each team led by double-digits in the game.
  • Boston's 14 turnovers were two more than Chicago committed, but the Bulls' turnovers led to 11 more points (21) than the Celtics' did (10).

Quote of the Night

Doc Rivers on his team's approach to tonight's game and struggles in the second half: "I thought it was both halves. That's why I had to use 2 timeouts in the 1st half to remind us we had the NBA game tonight. I thought this was the worst approach to a game all year for us.."