Deng, Bulls Crush Celtics, Gain Standings Breathing Room

 Bulls 93, Celtics 86 — FINAL

Magic Number to Clinch Homecourt:

 10

Magic Number to Clinch Division:

1

The Bulls needed to get a huge win at home against the Celtics to keep ahead of the surging Heat and they needed to do it without Derrick Rose. That meant it was up to the Bench Mob to pull through against a nearly full strength Celtics squad.

Luol Deng lead the way with a powerful, season high 26 point performance proving why he was selected to this year’s All-Star team. Deng came up huge in the fourth quarter, closing out like we’ve seen Derrick Rose do so many times before. Carlos Boozer led a 43-35 rebounding victory with 14.

The first half was nothing to write home about though and the Bulls clearly looked overmatched with Rip Hamilton shooting just 1 for 6 in the first quarter. Paul Pierce dominated the Bulls with 17 points on 7 buckets.

Straight out of the gate in the second half, Rip Hamilton and Joakim Noah helped spark runs of 15-7 and 14-2 to get the Bulls the lead back. (Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE)

Rajon Rondo, who had a triple-double against the Bulls earlier this year, made tonight’s game his 15th consecutive game with ten or more assists which tied John Stockton’s 1995 record. With Derrick Rose out, the Celtics were counting on Rondo to have another gigantic night.

Rebounding seems to be an issue for the Celtics which put people under the impression that Joakim Noah would choose tonight as a night to really step up to the plate and gobble up some rebounds. Noah had just 6 in the first half, getting out rebounded by Carlos Boozer’s 9.

But the second half was were the Bulls showed some signs of life. After coming out of the half trailing by 11, Rip Hamilton started things off with a bang and the Bulls tried to use it as a spark get some offense going. Rip’s jumper to start the half ignited a 15-7 run by the Bulls as they pulled within three of Boston.

It was nice to see such energy in the third quarter, a quarter Chicago had been outscored 62-31 in the last two games.

A lot of the energy was sparked by not only Rip moving the offense but Joakim Noah giving everything a pulse. Noah does two things by really only doing one. He fires up the fans at the United Center with his obnoxious antics which then fires up his teammates. All of this culminates in points going in the board for the Bulls and the defense making crucial stops.

Tonight, Noah’s energy virus culminated in C.J. Watson hitting an electrifying three pointer with 3:30 left to put the Bulls up by as many points.

Watson’s lead changing bucket was in the midst of a 14-2 run for the Bulls. They were still executing poorly but the energy was noticeably different on the floor. But despite the poor execution, the Bulls didn’t turn the ball over at all in the third quarter. The question was whether the intensity and energy could be kept up during the fourth.

Chicago took that to task, holding Boston well under their total of 24 points in the paint they had in the first quarter. John Lucas III checked in and hit one of his patient 30 foot jumpers with seconds left on the shot clock. The defense stole the show though, holding down the Celtics shooters like they haven’t all season.

All the questions about Boozer and Noah being able to close were answered when they checked back in with around 5:57 left and they didn’t check back out.

The Celtics tried to make a run at the lead but the Bulls stout second half defense didn’t allow it.

The big story of next week will be a countdown to Thursday’s matchup against the Heat. But in between then the Bulls get two straight against the Knicks, one in New York and the other in Chicago. The Heat can still pass the Bulls but as long as Chicago keeps winning, that won’t be an issue.

Next Three Games

DATE

 TEAM

TIME

TV

3/8

 @Knicks

Noon

ABC

3/10

Vs. Knicks

8:30pm

ESPN

3/12

@Heat

 7:00pm

TNT

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