Pau Gasol’s monster night carries Bulls to OT win over Celtics
CHICAGO — Pau Gasol feels healthy and comfortable. The 34-year-old veteran even thinks he can leap higher after previously dealing with knee problems.
It looks as if he is on his way to a big year with the Chicago Bulls.
Gasol had 29 points, 16 rebounds and five blocked shots, and the Bulls beat the Boston Celtics 109-104 in overtime on Saturday night.
"The last couple years, I had issues with my knees. I couldn’t really jump as much as I’m jumping now," said Gasol, who had a career-high nine blocked shots in his previous game. "Not that I’m jumping super high, maybe an inch more."
Aaron Brooks added 19 points for the Bulls (24-10), who won for the ninth time in 10 games. Taj Gibson and Derrick Rose had 12 points apiece.
Evan Turner scored 24 of his 29 points after halftime, but Boston dropped to 2-6 since trading Rajon Rondo to Dallas on Dec. 18. Avery Bradley had 17 points for the Celtics (11-20).
The Bulls were without starters Jimmy Butler (bereavement leave) and Mike Dunleavy (right ankle). Rookie Nikola Mirotic scored 10 points in his first start, and Kirk Hinrich replaced Butler for the Bulls’ ninth different starting lineup of the season.
"They do what they need to do to win, obviously, even when they’re not playing well," Turner said.
The Celtics were coming off a 119-101 loss to Rondo and the Mavericks on Friday. Jared Sullinger scored 16 points in Boston’s fourth consecutive road loss.
Rose stole the ball and passed to Joakim Noah, who found Gasol for a layup for a 103-99 lead with 2:21 left in overtime. Two Gasol free throws and a Rose layup extended the lead to 107-103 with 24.8 seconds left. The Bulls then held on despite going 2 for 4 at the line in the final eight seconds.
It was Gasol’s 17th double-double in his first season with the Bulls. He is averaging 18 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
"He’s playing really good basketball for us and he definitely adds a very different, unique and very positive dimension to our team," Noah said.
The Bulls shot 37 percent from the field and committed 18 turnovers. The Celtics shot 45 percent and turned the ball over 22 times.
A Gasol jumper and free throw gave the Bulls a 98-95 lead with 1:13 left in regulation. Green made two free throws to cut the lead to one. Gibson was fouled with 22.7 seconds left and made one of two free throws, and Sullinger scored on a putback with 2.6 seconds left to tie it at 99.
Brooks then missed a 3 at the buzzer.
The Bulls liked what they saw from Mirotic at small forward. He had eight rebounds and four assists. He also helped limit Jeff Green to 4-for-18 shooting and 11 points.
"He tried to figure out offensively all the moves and positions and spots he had to be at," Gasol said. "That affected maybe his rhythm a little bit and his shot. Defensively, he did a great job on Jeff Green, really hustled."
Celtics: G Jameer Nelson (sprained ankle) missed the game. … The Celtics were 9 for 11 at the line, compared to 29 for 40 for the Bulls. "They did a great job of getting to the line," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. "I thought it was a pretty well-called game. We just fouled them too much."
Bulls: Dunleavy is day to day after injuring his right ankle in Thursday’s 106-101 victory over Denver. "He’s still sore, so we can’t put him out there right now," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We’ll see where he is tomorrow and go from there." Dunleavy had yet to miss a game with the Bulls since joining the team in 2013. … Rose’s shooting woes continued. He was 5 for 18 from the field and is 19 for 78 over his last four games.
Celtics: Host Charlotte on Monday.
Bulls: Host Houston on Monday.