Talking Points: Bulls 88, Celtics 79

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Talking Points: Bulls 88, Celtics 79

BOSTON The Boston Celtics made a lineup change, inserting Brandon Bass into the starting lineup ahead of Jermaine O'Neal.

New starting five, same old result for the Celtics as a furious second half comeback comes up short as the Chicago Bulls (11-2) pull away for a 88-79 win.

Chicago led the entire game, and seemed well on their way to a relatively easy win.

A jumper by Kevin Garnett ignited a 25-6 Celtics run that cut Chicago's dominate lead down to a single point, 67-66, following a 3-pointer by Mickael Pietrus.

Boston had a chance to take the lead, but Paul Pierce's mid-range jumper rimmed in and out.

Reigning league MVP Derrick Rose scored seven straight for Chicago which included a 3-pointer that put the Bulls ahead, 74-68. He led all scorers with 23 points.

It was clear that all the hard work the C's put into rallying back, left little in the tank when the game mattered most.

Once again it was Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen keeping the Celtics afloat while the rest of the C's struggled mightily at both ends of the floor.

Rondo finished with 14 points and 11 assists for his third double-double of the season. He also grabbed seven rebounds. Allen chipped in 14 points which included a pair of 3-pointers. In addition to Rose, Chicago also got a strong game from Luol Deng who had 21 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.

Highlights: Boston Celtics 112, Miami Heat 108

Highlights: Boston Celtics 112, Miami Heat 108

Highlights as the Boston Celtics are able to hold off the Miami Heat and get the win 112-108 at the TD Garden.

Win vs. Heat puts Celtics in virtual tie with Cavs for first place in East

Win vs. Heat puts Celtics in virtual tie with Cavs for first place in East

BOSTON -- Location, location, location.

The Boston Celtics are seemingly where they want to be following their 112-108 win Sunday night over Miami, a victory that put the Celtics (48-26, .649 winning percentage) in a virtual tie with defending NBA champ Cleveland (47-25, .652).

But position means very little without purposeful play, something the Celtics are gradually doing more of than not.

And because of that, they find themselves one strong finish to the season away from going into the playoffs with the top overall record in the East for the first time since 2008 -- the year they brought home Banner 17.

While few anticipate the Celtics will advance to the NBA Finals, they have at least positioned themselves to have a shot at making a good run during the postseason if they can secure home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The last time the top overall top seed in the East failed to make it past the first round was in 2012 when the Chicago Bulls were eliminated by the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers, a series that was marred by injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah that created a much smoother pathway for the upstart Sixers to move on to the second round where they were defeated by Boston in seven games.

And while the players have tried to downplay the significance of landing the top seed in the East, there’s no question it’s something that they know all too well is within their reach.

Cleveland has a much tougher schedule to close out the season, one that includes a Monday night matchup at San Antonio against a Spurs team that’s fighting for the top spot out West.

The Celtics players have talked often about wanting to be in the best position possible going into the playoffs.

Having the top seed?

Yup.

That’ll do it.

And while Celtics players were aware of where the team was in relation to Cleveland, being tied for the top spot with the Cavs isn’t something that Boston is getting too giddy about right now.

“We hear it, but that wasn’t our focus [against Miami],” said Marcus Smart. “Our focus was to come in, get another game, keep that momentum going before we start the playoffs.”

Coach Brad Stevens said not a word was spoken in the locker room after Sunday’s win about the team now being in a virtual tie with the Cavs.

“I think -- I talked about this earlier --obviously the guys, because they get . . . most of them. to be honest, because they’re asked so much, some of them obviously have already said they watch it pretty closely,” Stevens said. “But I’ve tried to say, ‘Hey, it’s about playing as well as we can . . . ' ”

That and location, location, location.