You learn a lot about a team during crunch time of a road game. A bottom-dweller will fold in the face of pressure, while a champion will embrace that pressure and rise up.
We found out Monday night in Chicago that the Boston Celtics aren’t into folding.
The C’s led the Bulls by as many as 14 points in the game and did not trail at any point. Yet Chicago made a run in the fourth quarter and put all of the pressure back on Boston’s shoulders.
Luol Deng missed two free throws with 54.0 seconds remaining in regulation but the Bulls grabbed their eighth offensive rebound of the game after the second miss. Deng wound up getting the ball back and hit a driving layup to cut Boston’s lead to 95-93 with 49.9 seconds left.
Doc Rivers called a timeout knowing the importance of his team’s following offensive possession. What he drew up during that timeout worked to absolute perfection.
Jason Terry inbounded the ball to Rajon Rondo on the right wing. Rondo hesitated for a moment while Paul Pierce set a screen at the extended free-throw line, just inside the 3-point line on the right wing. The interesting part of the play, however, was that Kevin Garnett stacked about five feet behind Pierce to set a second screen for Rondo.
Boston’s All-Star point guard, who was the best player on the floor Monday night, came off of the double-screen and drove down the left side of the lane. As he drove, Garnett rolled to the basket right down the middle of the paint and didn’t have a man between him and the hoop. Rondo tossed up a floating alley-oop to the Big Ticket and Garnett threw down a dunk to put the Celtics back on top by four with 41.9 seconds left on the clock.
That wasn’t the final bucket of the game but it might as well have been. The C’s iced the contest with another dunk, this time from Brandon Bass, and two free throws from Terry, but their execution out of that timeout is what gave them the win.
Now the Celtics have won four out of five games and are above the .500 mark for the first time this season. Don’t look now, but that championship contender from Boston is beginning to show its face.
Key Box Score Line
If you didn’t know that the Bulls were missing Derrick Rose before Monday night’s game, you’ll probably know it after looking at the box score and seeing Rajon Rondo’s line.
Rondo dominated the Bulls during his 37 minutes of playing time by accumulating game highs of 10 assists and five steals to go along with team highs of 20 points and nine rebounds during the 101-95 victory.
Rondo shot a solid 10-of-16 from the floor, displaying everything from a smooth jump shot to explosive finishes at the rim. He finished the game with a plus-15 number in the plus/minus category and his 10th assist in the final minute helped to preserve his streak of consecutive games with at least 10 dimes.
Chicago’s backup-backup point guards (their top two point guards are out) held their own statistically, but Rondo still ran circles around them. He was unstoppable all night long, including two game-clinching assists in the final 45 seconds, and that’s why the C’s are flying back to Boston on a high note.
Box Score Nuggets
- All five of Boston's starters scored in double-figures, led by Rajon Rondo's 20 points.
- Rondo also led the Celtics in rebounds (nine), assists (10) and steals (five).
- Both teams accumulated at least 24 assists, with Boston notching 28.
- Both teams were dreadful from behind the arc, with the C's shooting 3-for-16 and the Bulls shooting 3-for-9.
- Boston made all 16 of its free throws.
- Four of Boston's five starters grabbed at least five rebounds.
- Joakim Noah and Luol Deng tied for the game high in rebounds with 11 apiece.
- Boston never trailed, pulling ahead by as many as 14 points.
- Rondo's five steals nearly matched the output of the entire Bulls team (six).
- The Celtics attempted seven more shots (81) and made seven more shots (41) than the Bulls did.
- Luol Deng scored a game-high 26 points.
- The Celtics snapped Chicago's 15-game streak of holding opponents to less than 100 points.
Quote of the Night
I thought we executed extremely well. Offensively it was some of our best ball movement. We executed well, but towards the end had a let up and you can't do that against Chicago. Tonight was just a great team effort with everyone contributing. Doc Rivers on his team's performance