CHICAGO A tale of two halves.
It has been the story of the Boston Celtics' season, and it was story of their second straight loss as the Chicago Bulls rallied from a double-digit Celtics lead at the half, for a 93-86 win.
Boston (30-24) has now lost two in a row, both in large part because of one poor half of play.
In Wednesday's 87-86 loss to San Antonio, a horrible first half proved to be too much for the Celtics to fully overcome as they seemingly ran out of steam in the game's closing minutes under the strong finish by the Spurs.
On Thursday, the C's had similar struggles in the second half as the Bulls ratcheted up the defensive intensity.
In a back-and-fourth tussle for most of the third quarter, Chicago seemed poised to pull away after a pair of mid-range jumpers by Luol Deng gave Chicago a five-point lead with more than eight minutes to play. He led all scorers with 26 points.
There was still plenty of time remaining, but there was no doubt the game's momentum had clearly shifted towards the home team.
After a Celtics shot clock violation, the Bulls seemed prepared to take their biggest lead of the night.
However, Boston's newest full-time starter, Avery Bradley, had a steal and subsequent lay-up that cut Chicago's lead to 78-75.
Bradley got the starting nod ahead of Ray Allen, who came off the bench for only the fifth time in his career (a span of 1,145 games) and the first time as a Celtic.
Rivers' decision to start Bradley instead of Allen seemed a good one in the first half which saw the C's spend the bulk of the time with a lead.
And as far as far minutes were concerned, both played 15 minutes in the first half with Bradley tallying four points and an assist while Allen led the Celtics' second unit with five points and two rebounds which also led the team's backups. Bradley, who was in foul trouble in the second half, had nine points in 27 minutes while Allen finished with 14 points in 31 minutes.
The game's focus could have easily been on the Bradley-Allen swap, but truth be told, this game in the first half was all about Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo dominating the action.
Pierce had another big scoring half, leading all players with 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting. And Rondo was well on his way to another double-double with eight points and seven assists which played a major role in Boston's 49-38 halftime lead. He finished with a team-high 22 points while Rondo had 10 points and 12 assists.
Of course the C's caught a break of sorts with reigning league MVP Derrick Rose remaining out with a groin injury that has sidelined him the last 12 games.
His replacement, C.J. Watson, had a decent first half with nine points. Watson finished with 15 points and eight assists.
But if there was as area that spoke to why Boston was in control, it was rebounding.
Despite Boston being the worst rebounding team in the NBA, they literally met the Bulls rebound-for-rebound, grabbing the same number of boards (20) as Chicago did in the first half.
In addition, the Celtics were able to capitalize on Chicago's mistakes, converting the Bulls' eight turnovers into 15 points all the while limiting their miscues to four turnovers which generated just six points for the Bulls.