Celtics 93, Bulls 101
Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich hit big shot after big shot tonight for the Bulls, and they are the reasons Chicago still controls its own playoff destiny. Oddly enough, two plays from a Bull that scored only eight points in the game were what may have given Chicago the will to win this game.
Boston took a 68-67 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Bulls came out of the gates firing and began the final period on a 6-0 run to put them up 73-68 with 9:40 left in the game. For the next couple of minutes, the lead fluctuated down to three, back up to five and back down to three again before two of the biggest plays of the game took place.
After Brad Miller missed a 3-point shot that would have put Chicago up by six, he was the player the Bulls needed to get back on defense to prevent a fast break. Miller knew his role and lumbered back to the opposite end of the court ahead of the Celtics. That hustle paid off, because just seven seconds after his missed shot was rebounded, he stepped in to draw a charge on Ray Allen in front of the Celtics' basket.
As he did nearly all night long, Rose took advantage of a Boston mistake and nailed a six-foot jumper while drawing a foul on Rajon Rondo at the other end. His free throw put Chicago ahead by six points.
When the Celtics attempted to respond on offense, it was time for a little deja-vu rather than a big Boston basket. As Allen took the ball to the basket, Miller was able to provide a different kind of defense -- help defense, rather than fast-break defense -- than on the previous Celtic position, but the result was exactly the same. He stepped in front of the restricted area under Boston's basket, planted his feet and took yet another charge on Allen in the paint.
As Miller sat on the floor in front of the basket, he screamed and pumped his fist while the crowd came to life due to his his second consecutive defensive hustle play. The momentum was completely in Chicago's hands at that point, and when Joakim Noah added a free throw just 25 seconds later, the Bulls were ahead by seven points with 6:35 remaining. Boston was unable to dwindle the lead down to a one-possession game at any point for the remainder of the game due to Rose and Hinrich's continued success. Those plays sealed the Celtics' fate as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, while at the same time securing Chicago's ability to control its own destiny in regards to nabbing the eighth seed in the conference.
Key Box Score Line
Paul Pierce had a great game for the Celtics offensively, but we cannot ignore the performances of Derrick Rose (39 points) and Kirk Hinrich (30 points), who combined for one of the most electric duets the NBA has seen this season. They were essentially a two-man team offensively for Chicago, combining for 69 of the team's 101 points and 12 of the team's 22 assists. They combined to shoot 26-of-44 from the field, 13-of-15 from the free throw line and scored Chicago's final 22 points of the game. Those are the types of numbers that will lead a team to victory, and that's exactly what the pair did tonight for Chicago.
Box Score Nuggets
- Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 28 points, while Ray Allen added 25.
- Boston shot only 43.8 percent form the field.
- Rajon Rondo finished with only four points and six assists
- No Bulls scored in double-figures outside of Derrick Rose (39) and Kirk Hinrich (30).
- Joakim Noah (12) and Luol Deng (11) combined for 23 rebounds.
- Kendrick Perkins finished with only two points but grabbed a team-high 11 boards.
- Rajon Rondo was the only Celtic to account for more than two assists.
- Neither team turned the ball over more than 10 times: nine turnovers for Boston, 10 for Chicago.
- Both teams made five 3s, but the Bulls needed four less attempts than the Celtics' 15.
- Only one Chicago reserve played more than nine minutes, while five Celtic reserves played at least 12 minutes.
- Both teams took 24 free throws, with the C's making 18 and the Bulls sinking 16.
- Chicago recorded only one steal in the game.
- Rose and Hinrich combined to score Chicago's final 22 points.
Quote of the Night
Paul Pierce on the need for Boston to step up defensively: "The key for us has got to be our defense. We didn't get one stop the last three minutes of the game. It doesn't matter what I do offensively, if we don't get these stops, it's going to be tough for us to win."