Bulls down Celtics in OT slugfest

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Bulls down Celtics in OT slugfest

BOSTON Rajon Rondo. National TV. The Chicago Bulls.

All the recipes for a big night from the recently-named all-star starter.

And Rondo, true to form, didn't disappoint with a season-high 30 points to go with seven assists.

But the best of Rondo wasn't good enough to get the victory as the Celtics suffer a 100-99 overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls with Carlos Boozer (19 points, 20 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (14 points, 13 rebounds) leading the way.

Chicago's Marco Belinelli drilled a 14-foot fadeaway jumper with 3.1 seconds to play in overtime for the game-winning basket. Boston quickly in-bounded the ball to Courtney Lee, who dribbled up court and launched a 3-pointer that he unsuccessfully tried to bank in as time expired.

In addition to getting a big game from Rondo who fouled out with 1:16 to play in overtime, Boston also got a strong game from Jared Sullinger who had seven points and 15 rebounds before he too joined Rondo on the bench after picking up his sixth personal foul with 50 seconds to play.

Making Friday's win even tougher to swallow was that the C's made a slew of defensive stops in the fourth despite playing the entire game without their best defender Avery Bradley who was out with a rib injury.

Boston did not take its first lead of the night until Rondo made a free throw with 4:37 to play in regulation that gave the C's an 80-79 lead.

The two teams went back and fourth until Kevin Garnett made a pair of free throws with 20.1 seconds to play in regulation that gave the C's an 88-85 lead in the fourth.

After Chicago's Kirk Hinrich made a free throw to make it an 88-86 game, the Celtics called a time-out.

Out of the time-out, Bulls center Joakim Noah forced a jump ball between himself and Paul Pierce with 9.4 seconds to play

Noah won the jump ball, and after a mild scramble at the other end of the floor, Hinrich hit the game-tying jumper with two seconds to play.

Garnett's off-balance jumper was well off the mark as time expired in regulation.

C's guard Leandro Barbosa got his second start of the season in place of Bradley who was out because of a rib injury suffered in Boston's 90-78 loss to New Orleans on Wednesday.

And it didn't take long for the Bulls to take advantage of the Celtics playing without Bradley, their best perimeter defender.

Chicago guard Richard Hamilton, the player Bradley would have opened the game guarding, didn't waste much time going to work against Barbosa who is at least five inches shorter.

Hamilton's ability to operate in the post against the smaller Barbosa allowed the Bulls to control the action most of the night. Hamilton finished with 20 points.

In addition to that, not having Bradley meant that the C's were without their best on-the-ball-defender whose ability to pressure guards the length of the floor takes time off the shot clock and even more important, pressure off the C's defense.

On Friday, Chicago's guards brought the ball up court with little to no pressure all game.

Even without Bradley, the Celtics managed to stay within striking distance most of the night.

Boston fell behind by as many as 10 points in the first quarter before cutting Chicago's lead to 23-19.

A 4-0 spurt to start the quarter tied things up, but the Bulls - as they did all night - responded with a 13-4 scoring binge of their own to regain control.

Later in the game, a jumper by Brandon Bass cut Chicago's lead to 58-56. Bulls forward Carlos Boozer turned it over which gave Boston a chance to tie the game or take the lead.

However, a cross-court pass to Pierce from Rondo bounced off Pierce's knees and went out of bounds.

On the ensuing possession, Noah scored on a lay-up and the Celtics spent the bulk of the third quarter trying to cut into a multiple-possession deficit.

Boston continued to scrap in the fourth, even cutting it to 70-68 with a Garnett jumper, at the 10:06 mark.

Bulls head coach and former C's assistant Tom Thibodeau did the same thing he did whenever the Celtics seemed to be tilting the game's momentum towards the home team - he called a time-out.

And just about every time he did so, the Bulls would respond with a positive play to re-establish their control of the game.

Belinelli scored on a driving lay-up, only for Jared Sullinger making a it a two-point game (72-70) on a lay-up.

Once again, the C's positioned themselves to tie the game or take the lead, but Rajon Rondo's shot attempt over former Celtic Nate Robinson was off the mark.

And the Bulls capitalized on Boston's lost opportunity as Robinson drew a foul and made both free throws to push the C's lead back to four points (74-70).

Bradley (Achilles) 'felt good' during return to Celtics lineup

Bradley (Achilles) 'felt good' during return to Celtics lineup

WALTHAM, Mass. – As the final horn blew in Boston’s 108-98 win over Charlotte on Monday night, the game was a win-win kind of night for Avery Bradley.

The Celtics (26-15) continue rolling over opponents at the TD Garden, and he played a relatively pain-free 33 minutes in the win.

It was Bradley’s first game back after missing the previous four with a strained right Achilles injury.

And the fact that he was back on the practice floor on Tuesday (be it a light practice, mind you), bodes well for his injury being a thing of the past now.

“I felt good. It wasn’t sore at all in the game,” Bradley said. “I felt I was moving good. After the game I was a little sore and this morning, but otherwise I felt good.”

Despite Boston being 4-1 this season when Bradley doesn’t play, he has immense value to this Celtics team at both ends of the floor.

Offensively he has been Boston’s second-leading scorer most of this season and currently averages a career-high 17.7 points per game along with 6.9 rebounds which is also a career high.

And defensively, Bradley is coming off a season in which he was named to the NBA’s all-Defensive First Team for the first time.

Any questions or concerns about the Achilles affecting his play defensively were put to rest Monday night when he put the defensive clamps on Nicolas Batum who missed nine of his 11 shots from the field while primarily being guarded by Bradley.

Now his offense, that’s another story.

Bradley failed to reach double digits scoring for the first time this season as he missed seven of his nine shots on Monday to finish with just five points.

But part of that had to do with Bradley passing up shots he normally takes, as well as him missing some he normally knocks down.

Considering his lay-off and the rhythm his teammates have been in shooting the ball in his absence, Bradley wisely decided to get his defensive bearings on track and gradually bring his offensive game around. 

“I have to get my (shooting) rhythm back,” said Bradley who is making a career-best 40.9 percent of his 3-pointers this season. “I’m fine. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s game.”