Bulls roar past Celtics, 89-80

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Bulls roar past Celtics, 89-80

CHICAGO Can't beat the woeful Detroit Pistons at home, but can beat the best team in the East (Chicago) in Boston, and then take them down to the wire less than a week later on their turf?

The Boston Celtics continue their consistently inconsistent ways with yet another good, but not good enough performance in losing 89-80 to the Bulls Thursday night.

For the Celtics (15-14), it's their fourth loss in the last five games which came on the heels of them winning 9 of the previous 10.

After falling behind by as many as 16 points on Thursday, the Celtics fought back and eventually took a brief lead in the fourth quarter.

However, after a Ray Allen jumper tied the game at 69-69, Chicago went on a 12-0 run that proved to be too much for the Celtics to overcome.

Kevin Garnett, who returned to the lineup after missing one game with a hip flexor injury, had 18 points and 10 rebounds.

And Allen, who has been in a shooting slump lately, had a strong second half against the Bulls and finished with 12 points.

As for the Bulls, who continue to play without reigning league MVP Derrick Rose (back), Carlos Boozer had 23 points and 15 rebounds while newly-named All-Star Luol Deng had 23 points and 10 assists for the Bulls who came into the game looking to avenge a 4-point loss to Boston earlier this week. The Bulls (25-7) also got huge production from Joakim Noah who had 15 points and 16 rebounds.

The loss continues the kind of trend -- a losing one -- that the C's want no part of.

Unfortunately for them, things won't get any easier anytime soon.

They play at Detroit on Sunday -- the same Pistons team that beat them by 10 points earlier this week -- followed by road games in Dallas and Oklahoma City.

HOT SHOT: Luol Deng was the best all-around player on the floor Thursday night. His 23 points were impressive. But he also tallied 10 assists for his second straight double-double, as he tries to fill the void left by point guard Derrick Rose still being out with a back injury.

"With Derrick out, the ball is in Luol's hands a little more," said Bulls coach and former Celtics assistant Tom Thibodeau. "Luol is a much better pick-and-roll player than you realize. He has good size, he has vision and he can score on the drive. I like having the ball in his hands."

IN-N-OUT: Paul Pierce got off to a great start and . . . nothing. After making his first three shots, Pierce only made 3 of his next 13 attempts before finishing with 14 points. Pierce's fast start with little afterward, was indicative of the kind of game it was for the Celtics' entire team.

"I thought we got kind of stagnant at times (offensively)," Pierce said. "They made their adjustments."

SUPER SUB: Mike James continues to make the most of every shot he gets to play with the Bulls. Chicago's game-changing run in the second quarter did not begin until James stepped on the floor. He finished with eight points along with playing tough defense on Rajon Rondo.

"I was shocked when Thibodeau called my name," said James, who was recently signed by Chicago to a 10-day contract. "You have to take pride on defense. You have to take pride on being able to stop somebody when you are on the court, understanding that Rajon is a very good basketball player."

The former Celtic, who is 6-foot-2, was determined to not allow Rondo (who is 6-1) to post him up the way he did other Chicago guards.

"I'm not going to let no one smaller than me post up," James said. "I'm not the biggest guard but I have some size on me. Guards have never posted me up and that's not something new that I'm going to start allowing."

TURNING POINT: Leading 84-78 with little more than a minute to play, Luol Deng hit a 3-pointer -- his sixth of the night -- to put the Bulls ahead by nine with 47 seconds left.

BY THE NUMBERS: 52: That would be the number of rebounds Chicago had, compared to 37 for Boston.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They crushed us on the glass all game and that was the big difference."- Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Knicks

WATCH: Celtics vs. Knicks

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Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

Celtics-Knicks preview: Thomas scoring at record pace in fourth quarter

WALTHAM, Mass. –  As the fourth quarter rolls around, you will occasionally catch Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas looking down at his wrist, a gesture to remind anyone watching what time it is – Thomas time.

There are those who elevate their play in the fourth quarter of games, and then there’s Thomas who continues to smoothly navigate his way in unchartered fourth quarter scoring territory.

The Celtics begin the second half of the season Wednesday night against the New York Knicks, and there sits Thomas atop all players in the NBA when it comes to fourth-quarter scoring.

But that’s not all.

He’s not only dropping more points than any other NBA player in the most important quarter of them all, but he’s doing so at an unprecedented level of 10.1 fourth-quarter points per game.

Since NBA.com/stats began tracking fourth quarter scoring with the 1997-1998 season, no player has averaged more than 9.5 fourth-quarter points (LeBron James, 2006) in a season.

What makes Thomas’ fourth quarter heroics so impressive is that everyone in the building – fans, coaches, opponents – knows that’s when he’s looking to be most impactful for the Celtics and yet he still can’t be stopped.

Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford acknowledged how tough it is to limit Thomas despite knowing he’s looking to take over games in the fourth.

“It’s hard because the blitz game is impossible because they don’t roll,” said Clifford whose Hornets were beaten 108-98 by Boston on Monday. “If you watch the teams that try to blitz them, you’re going to give up basically lay-ups. We had things in to get the ball out of his hands but the way they played and the stuff that they usually go to late, they didn’t get to. He (Thomas) made some terrific plays; he’s a terrific offensive player.”

Despite what he does in the fourth and his overall scoring average of 28.2 points which is ranked among the league’s leaders, there are still lots of doubters as to how good Thomas.

Regardless of how you view his play, he has consistently played at a level this season that places him among the game’s best players.

And at the rate he’s scoring in the fourth quarter, he’s establishing himself as one of the great closers in the game.

Consider the list of players in the past decade who led the league in points scored in the fourth quarter.

  • 2016: James Harden (7.7)
  • 2015: Russell Westbrook (7.1)
  • 2014: Kevin Durant (7.9)
  • 2013: Kevin Durant (8.4)
  • 2012: Kevin Durant (7.3)
  • 2011: Amare Stoudemire (7.1)
  • 2010: LeBron James (8.0)
  • 2009: LeBron James (7.7)
  • 2008: LeBron James (9.1)
  • 2007: Dwyane Wade (8.2)

You have All-stars, All-NBA First Teamers, league MVPs as well as a few future Hall of Famers.

As good as those players were in their respective seasons, when the game mattered most – the fourth quarter – Thomas numbers (for now at least) stand head and shoulders above them all.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens gives Thomas a lot of credit for being such a consistent scorer, particularly in the fourth quarter.

But as good as Thomas is, he’s not out there getting all these baskets on his own, either.

“It says a lot about the fact that he’s got a lot of skilled guys around him that are hard to leave,” Stevens said. “When you’re playing Kelly (Olynyk) and Jonas (Jerebko) together with him, there’s a lot of space on the floor to operate. When those guys are at the four (power forward) and five (center), when you’re playing guys like Al Horford who can space the floor or Avery (Bradley) or Jae (Crowder), you know, those types of guys … at the end of the day I think that it’s a combination of a lot of things.”

And for opponents, a lot of problems.

“He’s been playing well,” Hornets guard Kemba Walker said of Thomas. “He’s been playing better than anyone in our league. He’s playing with great confidence and making the plays for his team to win games. He’s been great.”