Bulls have too much energy for Celtics

Luol Deng knew the Boston Celtics were finishing a tiring stretch

of four games in five nights. So he and the Chicago Bulls took

advantage.

Deng scored 25 points and the Bulls played aggressively from

the start in their third straight victory, 96-83 on Thursday night.

“We try to keep the tempo up,” Deng said. “What we did was

great in the second half and we knew they were going to try to jump

on us early and we did a good job.”

The Bulls led 47-39 at halftime and the Celtics scored the

first basket of the second half, a layup by Ray Allen. But Chicago

held off several Boston spurts in the third quarter and took a

70-63 lead into the fourth. The lead never dipped below four points

after that as the Celtics played without their two best big men,

Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace.

That was particularly costly against the second-best

rebounding team in the league. The Bulls held a 50-39 advantage on

the boards.

“The warning sign for me came in the third quarter,” Boston

coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought we tried to make a push right out

of the box and within two, three minutes, we couldn’t sustain. …

I didn’t know if we’d win or lose but I knew it would be a tough

night.”

The Celtics, whose only lead was 2-0, trailed 86-80 after

Paul Pierce hit a 3-pointer with 3:50 left. But the Bulls scored

eight of the next nine points, six by Joakim Noah, to build the

lead to 94-81.

Pierce scored 20 points and Rajon Rondo added 15 for the

Celtics. The loss dropped them to 11-6 at home after they went 35-6

there in each of the past two seasons.

“We play three or four games in a row and we come home, we

need to make this building a place for teams to feel like they

can’t win,” Pierce said. “We haven’t been doing that.”

The Bulls won for only the second time in their last 12 road

contests as they began a stretch of 10 of 12 games away from home.

Derrick Rose scored 17 points for the Bulls, while Noah had

his 19th double-double of the season with 15 points and 11

rebounds.

“It’s probably the most complete game we’ve played all year,”

Rose said.

The Celtics seemed sluggish and lacked their full complement

of players. Garnett missed his eighth game with a hyper-extended

right knee and Wallace sat out his third straight with a sore left

foot. Rivers said Wallace may return for Boston’s next game Monday

at home against Dallas, while there’s an “outside chance” Garnett

could play next Friday at home against Portland.

“Obviously we miss Rasheed. Obviously we miss KG,” center

Kendrick Perkins said. “But when we come together, it’s going to be

night and day.”

The Celtics were coming off a 111-87 win Wednesday night over

New Jersey in which none of their starters played more than 30

minutes. But they got off to a slow start Thursday. They did

threaten several times in the second half, coming as close as 75-71

with 8:06 left in the game on a layup by Perkins.

Then the Bulls regained the momentum on consecutive baskets

by Deng, Rose and Noah that gave them a 10-point lead.

“We came out with good energy early and we just kept

attacking,” Chicago coach Vinny Del Negro said.

Chicago’s last three victories have all been by double

figures, but Thursday’s was the first against a good team. The

Bulls beat Minnesota 110-96 on Saturday and Detroit 120-87 on

Monday, both in Chicago.

“On the road, we’ve been in some games in the fourth quarter

and haven’t been able to finish some of them off,” Del Negro said.

“I was pleased with the way we were able to continually attack in

the fourth quarter.”

Deng scored 16 points in the first half to help the Bulls to

a 47-39 lead at the break. Chicago’s biggest lead of the game,

33-20, came on a 3-pointer by John Salmons early in the second

quarter.

The Celtics scored the next nine points, cutting the lead to

33-29 midway through the period, but the Bulls regained control by

scoring the next six.

“We knew they played four games in five nights and it was

important for us to keep the energy going and play a high-paced

game,” Noah said. “I think when Lu plays the way he did tonight,

and Rose played tonight, it was just a team effort.”

NOTES: The Celtics hit only 15 of their 28 attempts from the

free throw line (53.6 percent). … Noah had four of Chicago’s 10

blocks.