Bulls 101, Celtics 93
As if there wasn’t enough drama already, the Chicago Bulls’
season took another weird twist and this one involves coach Vinny
Del Negro and executive vice president John Paxson.
It also overshadowed a crucial victory.
On a night when the Bulls boosted their playoff hopes by beating
the Boston Celtics 101-93 behind Derrick Rose’s career-high 39
points, the attention centered on a report that their top executive
pushed their coach during a confrontation following a game last
“I’m not going to comment,” Del Negro said. “I go about my
job everyday no matter what happens. I’m a competitor. I’ve been
involved in the game a long time. I love the challenge of it. All
the other things that happen pretty much stay internally.”
Yahoo! Sports, citing unidentified sources, reported Paxson
shoved Del Negro twice in the chest and had to be restrained in a
dispute after the March 30 home game against Phoenix over how much
Joakim Noah played.
Paxson did not return a call from The AP seeking comment.
“This is an organizational issue, which we will handle
internally,” Bulls spokesman Tim Hallam said.
The “organizational issue” popped up at a time when the Bulls
are trying to secure the eighth and final playoff spot in the
They lead Toronto by a game in the Eastern Conference, thanks to
Rose’s big effort and Kirk Hinrich’s season-high 30 points, and
will reach the postseason with a win at Charlotte on Wednesday or a
loss by the Raptors to New York.
Fourth-place Boston, meanwhile, can forget about catching
Atlanta for the third seed after losing for the sixth time in nine
“I thought we played hard in stretches,” coach Doc Rivers
said. “Rose was spectacular tonight. Him and Hinrich
single-handedly carried the game for them.”
Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 28 points, and Ray Allen scored
25. Kevin Garnett added 14 points and nine rebounds after sitting
out the previous game to rest.
“One game left and we’ve got everyone healthy going into the
playoffs, which was the No. 1 goal of the season,” Pierce
The Bulls took control with a 14-4 run to start the fourth,
giving them an 81-72 lead, and hung on for a crucial victory.
Rose scored 17 in the fourth, and Hinrich added 10, including a
buzzer-beating jumper that made it 95-88 with 43.7 seconds left.
Rose then punctuated it with a breakaway finger roll, opting
against the dunk with the crowd ready to explode, capping another
wild night in a season that’s had it’s share of twists.
There were the early struggles and a lukewarm endorsement from
management, fueling speculation about Del Negro’s job status. The
Bulls recovered, but Noah developed plantar fasciitis in his left
foot, causing him to miss 18 games and ultimately sparking the
altercation that was reported on Tuesday.
According to Yahoo!, the Bulls have hired lawyers to interview
witnesses about the incident.
“This is the NBA and things happen,” Del Negro said. “Whether
it’s in practice or a different situation, things are going to come
out. You handle it. … There’s a lot of emotion involved in this
game with all the things that happen on a daily basis.”
According to Yahoo!, Bulls management wasn’t happy after Noah
played 27 minutes against Portland on Feb. 26. He sat out the next
three weeks and has seen his playing time increase since his
return, yet the issue popped up again during Chicago’s
double-overtime loss to New Jersey.
Noah played just 12 seconds after regulation because, Del Negro
said, he had reached his 35-minute limit. Then general manager Gar
Forman told reporters management had approved playing him beyond
the limit because of the magnitude of the game.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Noah said. “Things happen in
an organization. … I don’t think it’s fair for us as players to
be talking about that stuff. It’s nothing. Really, it’s
NOTES: Rose’s previous best was 37 points. … Celtics backup G
Tony Allen was sick and missed the game. … Coach Doc Rivers
endorsed Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro before the game, saying, “I
think he’s done a very good job.” He pointed out that the Bulls
pushed the Celtics to seven games in the first round of the
playoffs last year, although Boston was missing Kevin Garnett. He
also mentioned that Chicago lost leading scorer Ben Gordon. “I
think expectations, in some ways, were almost unrealistic,” Rivers
said. There is widespread speculation that Del Negro will be gone
after the season.