Gordon, Bulls Continue Push for Postseason
Chicago 101, Boston 97
BOSTON, March 26 (Ticker) -- The Boston Celtics found an already difficult path to the playoffs blocked by Tyson Chandler and the Chicago Bulls.
Chandler smothered a potential tying shot by Paul Pierce in the final seconds to cap a fourth-quarter comeback as the Bulls moved closer to the final postseason spot with a 101-97 victory over the Celtics.
"The way that game went down, we didn't play our best and then we're right there," Bulls coach Scott Skiles added. "We're down one and then we're down 10 in a minute-50 or whatever it was to finish the third quarter, and we still battled back. So, we're giving ourselves a chance now, and that's all I can ask of these guys."
"We really shot ourselves in the foot tonight with a great opportunity," Pierce said. "Until we're mathematically out of it, we're going to keep fighting."
Chicago faced an 80-68 deficit early in the fourth quarter and still trailed, 84-76, before Gordon got hot. The 2005 Sixth Man Award winner made a jumper to start a 13-5 run that he capped with a three-point play for an 89-89 tie with 3:07 left.
Chandler, who had four blocks, swatted a shot by Pierce, leading to two free throws by Gordon that gave Chicago its first lead at 93-91 with 2:13 remaining.
Gordon added a driving layup before two jumpers by Wally Szczerbiak tied it for the last time at 95-95 with 59 seconds to play - and set the stage for Gordon. He traded misses with Pierce before draining a 17-footer to give the Bulls the lead for good with 23 seconds to go.
"I thought in the first half I was letting them off the hook by shooting so many jump shots so I just tried to be more aggressive and get to the basket," Gordon said. "We were in the penalty so that's something else that made me keep driving (to the basket), trying to get the foul."
On the next possession, Pierce tried to beat a series of defenders with a baseline drive but had his shot suffocated by the 7-1 Chandler. Gordon grabbed the loose ball and made a pair of free throws with 16 seconds left.
"It was one of those plays where he was trying to go so aggressively to where if I mistimed and he missed (the shot), there was going to be a lot of contact and he was trying to draw the foul," Chandler said. "I knew he was going to take the shot and as soon as I saw him get a step on Luol (Deng), I knew I had to come over and give him some help."
"He did a good job corralling me and wouldn't let me get to the rim," Pierce said. "He came over from the weak side and they knew they weren't going to let me beat them."
Deng scored 20 points, Chris Duhon added 17 and Kirk Hinrich 16 for the Bulls, who forced 21 turnovers and converted them into 32 points.
Chicago has won two in a row following a four-game slide and is within 1 1/2 games of Philadelphia (32-37) for the Eastern Conference's final playoff berth. Those teams face each other twice more.
"This is big for us, especially after dropping four in a row recently," Gordon said. "(Philadelphia) lost so we've got to keep that in mind and that's got to be part of our motivation as we try and make the playoffs. We need every little bit of motivation and every game that will boost our confidence. Even if we lose a game, we've got to take away the positive things and carry it into the next game and try to get better."
The loss was a crusher for the Celtics (29-42), who have lost six of their last eight games. They are assured of a losing record after winning the Atlantic Division last season and - more important - are four games behind Philadelphia with 11 to play.
"Honestly, you'd be amazed how I'm more focused on winning and losing than the whole playoff picture," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of the loss. "So, I don't know."
Pierce scored 24 points but none in the final 11 minutes as he faced constant double-teams. Szczerbiak scored 23 points and Delonte West added 17 for the Celtics, who wasted a 48-37 rebounding advantage.
"We just didn't execute We turned over the ball and we let them be the aggressor instead of us," Pierce said. "They took it to us and they punched us and we didn't punch back. That's pretty much it."
Chicago trailed, 53-46, at halftime but closed to 70-68 before Boston scored the last eight points of the period, including a 40-footer at the buzzer by Pierce, who opened the final period with a bucket.
"Obviously a disappointing loss," Rivers said. "I told (the team) before the game I thought the team that went and took it (to the other) was going to win the game and I thought that was the difference. I thought we got very timid down the stretch, stopped moving the ball, which was very clear. And they made plays."