Celtics escape Chicago with a hard-earned win, 101-95

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Celtics escape Chicago with a hard-earned win, 101-95

CHICAGO You just knew that sooner or later the Chicago Bulls were going to make a run and force the Boston Celtics to scurry for defensive stops and a much-needed bucket or two.

It has been like that the last couple of years, especially at the United Center.

But rather than stick to the usual script, the Celtics ad-libbed this one and delivered an unexpected ending in Chicago - a Celtics victory as Boston managed to edge the undermanned Bulls, 101-95.

In addition to Derrick Rose (torn ACL, left knee), the Bulls (4-3) also played without Kirk Hinrich who was out with a hamstring injury. Replacing Hinrich in the starting lineup was former Celtic Nate Robinson, who had 11 points and seven rebounds.

Rajon Rondo led the way with a near triple-double of 20 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists.

His last assist came on a baseline dunk by Brandon Bass with 22.4 seconds to play that all but secured the Celtics' win.

Not only did Monday's victory push the Celtics (4-3) above-.500 for the first time this season, it also snapped a five-game losing streak at the United Center.

In addition, Boston's 101 points scored also snapped the Bulls 15-game streak (dating back to last season) of limiting opponents to less than 100 points.

But the Bulls did their best to keep the game interesting up until the very end.

With the Celtics ahead 95-91, Luol Deng missed a pair of free throws. The Celtics, about as rebounding-challenged a team as you'll find in the NBA, failed to secure the loose ball that ultimately wound up in Deng's hands for a lay-up.

And just like that, the Celtics' comfortable lead was a one-possession game, 95-93, with 49.5 seconds to play.

Doc Rivers called a time-out, knowing full well his team was on the verge of letting yet another game in his hometown, get away from his club.

But down the stretch, Boston got all the necessary stops defensively in addition to some much-needed free throws.

Chicago's late-game surge was indeed too little, too late on a night when the Celtics led from the very beginning.

Signs of a Bulls comeback surfaced in the third quarter when Chicago had trimmed Boston's lead which peaked at 14 points in the quarter, back to single digits.

It appeared that would be their deficit going into the fourth quarter, but a last-second 3-pointer by Jared Sullinger gave the Celtics an 82-70 lead going into the decisive fourth quarter.

Boston opened the game with a steady dose of timely shot-making and stellar defense as their lead peaked at 11 points in the first.

Dustin Pedroia taking cues from Tom Brady to extend his career

Dustin Pedroia taking cues from Tom Brady to extend his career

Dustin Pedroia is no stranger to injuries. That's a big reason why he's no longer a stranger to the sometimes peculiar practices of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

In an interview on WEEI's "Bradfo Show," Pedroia told Rob Bradford that he's been taking cues from the five-time Super Bowl-winning QB to help extend his playing career and make his body healthier and more durable.

“I understand what he does and know what he does. I think it’s awesome,” Pedroia told Bradford. “There’s a reason why he’s successful at his age (39), and he looks better now than he did when he first came to the league. You have to be smarter as you get older and learn different styles -- the way to train and the way you take care of your body to be able to perform and stay on the field. It doesn’t matter what sport you’re playing. He’s definitely got that figured out.”

Pedroia, of course, played the entire 2013 World Series-winning season with a torn ligament in his thumb. He's battled through various other lower body and hand injuries over the past few seasons, as well. But in 2016, he had his best season in recent memory, posting his highest OPS since 2011, as WEEI notes.

Part of that is with his own take on the Brady approach -- which focuses more on pliability and resistance training than extensive, heavy weight lifting -- and a healthier overall lifestyle, something Brady is notoriously infamous for having.

"There’s tons of ways to take care of your body. It’s not just get in the weight room and throw weights around,” Pedroia explained. “As you get older, the human body can’t take the pounding if you’re going in there and power lifting. When you’re younger, you can handle some of that. But as you get older, you got to be smarter. Sometimes less is more -- whether that’s weight or reps or whatever. You’ve just got to be smart. And eating wise, that’s a big part of recovery. If you put the right foods in your body, you’ll heal faster if you’re injured or recover faster. It’s like a car, man. Put bad gas in, bro. It’s not going to be the same as good gas.”

He hopes the approach can, at the very least, keep him moving for quite some time.

“I plan on living until I’m 100," he said. "So we’re not even halfway home."

Raptors, in pursuit of Celtics in playoff race, lose Lowry for perhaps rest of regular season

Raptors, in pursuit of Celtics in playoff race, lose Lowry for perhaps rest of regular season

The Eastern Conference playoff race, seemingly altered by the moves -- and non-moves (hello there, Celtics) -- of some of the contenders, just took another twist.

The Raptors, bolstered by the acquisition of Serge Ibaka and appearing poised to make a run toward the top of the standings after a come-from-behind victory over the Celtics on Friday, were hit with a body blow Monday when it was announced All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry needs surgery on his right wrist and may miss the remainder of the regular season.

ESPN reports Lowry is expected to be sidelined from four to eight weeks. Toronto hopes to have him back for the playoffs.

The Raptors are currently in fourth place in the conference at 35-24, trailing Cleveland (40-17), Boston (38-21) and Washington (34-23). Without Lowry, and facing a rough, six-of-their-next-seven-games-on-the-road stretch, Toronto may stop focusing on catching the Wizards and/or Celtics and focus on holding off Atlanta (32-26) in order to hold onto home-court in the first round.

Lowry, 30, who missed the last two games because of the injury, is averaging a career-best 22.8 points per game. He also is averaging 6.9 assists and 4.7 rebounds.