The Boston Celtics haven't had much success against the Chicago Bulls in recent years, but that could change this season with Kevin Garnett.
The Celtics look to take advantage of the presence of Garnett and end their eight-game losing streak to the Bulls when the teams meet Saturday at the United Center.
Boston (16-2) lost all three games against Chicago (6-11) last season and recorded its last win against the Bulls on Jan. 29, 2005. Since then, the Celtics haven't beaten the Bulls, but they also didn't have Garnett.
There were plenty of rumors that Garnett would be traded from Minnesota to Chicago - where he played his senior season of high school basketball. The 10-time All-Star was dealt to Boston instead, and his outstanding play is a major reason why the Celtics own the best record in the NBA.
Boston cruised to its fifth straight win, 112-84 over the Toronto Raptors on Friday.
Garnett scored 23 points, Paul Pierce had 18 and Ray Allen added 13 for the Celtics, who are off to their best start since opening the 1984-85 season 12-0.
"Historically, it's cool," Garnett said. "It's good, but the focus here is to be consistent and build towards something - postseason basketball."
Boston led 62-40 at halftime and none of the starters played the final quarter or saw 30 minutes of action. The Celtics outrebounded Toronto 44-32 and were 25-of-30 from the free throw line.
"I think the main emphasis was to get the ball inside," Pierce said. "(Coach Doc Rivers) had it on the board: 'Just pound the ball inside, just pound the ball inside.' We knew we had our advantages there especially with Kevin and myself."
The Celtics' only two losses this year were on the road against Orlando and Cleveland by a combined seven points, with the loss to Cleveland coming in overtime. The 16 wins are by an average of 16.3 points.
Boston visits a Chicago team that is playing better after a dismal start. The Bulls have won four of their last five, including a 98-91 win over the Detroit Pistons on Friday.
Six Chicago players scored in double figures, led by Andres Nocioni, who scored 22 points off the bench - including 17 in the second half. Luol Deng added 17 points and nine rebounds.
"We came out with a lot of energy," said center Ben Wallace, who recorded his second double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 rebounds. "That got us out in front, which is something we need to do a little more often."
Led by Wallace, Chicago outrebounded the Pistons 51-39, and its reserves outscored the Pistons' bench 45-14.
One of those reserves is Chris Duhon, who has scored 12 points in three straight games and has seen his minutes in the fourth quarter increase in that span. Duhon reached double figures just twice in his first 14 games this season.
His play is one reason the Bulls are optimistic about the way they are playing.
"Right now, we are more aggressive and we are playing much better than we had been," Nocioni said. "We're heading in the right direction."
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