After an embarassing loss at the hands of the lowly New Orleans Hornets, Boston came in with more focus against a strong Chicago Bulls team. The Bulls started strong and led most of the way, but Boston made a late game charge force a thrilling finale. The Celtics were far more aggressive on defense, but they still allowed to many easy put-backs and open jump-shots. After a dizzying back and forth, Marco Belinelli won the game on an off-balance shot with 3 seconds left.
Carlos Boozer dominated the first half, but cooled off as the game went on and Joakim Noah was solid with a double-double (13 points, 11 rebounds). Richard Hamilton nailed a bevy of tough jumpers to finish with 20 points.
Noah and Boozer each missed crucial free throws, failing to close the door on Rondo. Pierce made a nice driving layup but missed a go-ahead jumper, but Jason Terry swished a corner 3 to go up 93-92. With less than 2 minutes remaining, Rondo fouled out, ending his terrific night and forcing Pierce to handle the ball. After a baseline dunk, Jimmy Butler (yes, Jimmy Butler) made an off-balanced layup and hit 2 free throws, scoring 6 huge overtime points to put Chicago up 3. Garnett answered by swishing a 20 footer, and both sides traded free throws to make it a 98-97 Bulls lead with 43 seconds remaining. Boston played a great defensive posession, forcing a desparation Bellinelli 3 that bounced off the top of the backboard and into Boozer's hands, only for Garnett to swipe it away with a clutch rebound.
The Moment of Truth
Doc drew up an isolation play for Paul Pierce, who hit the Jet for a go-ahead pull-up 2. But with the end in sight, Marco Belinelli hit an off-balance jumper with 3 seconds left, winning the game for the Bulls.
Rajon Rondo was extremely aggressive, pushing relentlessly in transition, knocking down mid-range jump shots, and even posting up for and-1s to finish with 30 points and 7 assists before fouling out in OT. He also threw down his 2nd dunk in as many games after going all of last season without a throw-down.
Courtney Lee was highly active, gathering 6 rebounds and 3 steals to go with 7 points. Leandro Barbosa started in Avery Bradley's (rib bruise) absence, scoring 5 points in 15 minutes.
Jared Sullinger was great on the boards, pulling down 7 in each half to finish with 7 points and 15 rebounds. I've been saying it for a while now, but the guy just plain understands the game. Playing against seasoned vets in Boozer and Noah, he maintained his composure and locked down the defensive glass in the 4th. Meanwhile, Jason Collins played 2 minutes
Apparently, Jeff Green has revisited the doldrums, following up Wednesday's 4 points with a particularly sleepy performance. He went 1-4 and had no rebounds, assists, blocks, or steals in 19 minutes. His only notable play was a great inbounds pass with 22 seconds left.
Luol Deng pulled a hamstring late in the 3rd quarter, weakening Chicago's defense and opening the door for a Boston comeback.
The Old Timers
Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were dreadful offensively and Jason Terry was just plain nonexistent for the first 48 minutes. KG finally got going in the 4th with 11 points and strong defensive play, but he still missed 3 critical free throws down the stretch. Almost every shot The Truth took was a flat line drive, usually resulting in a brick. Jason Terry did not even make a shot until the 4th quarter, but swished a huge corner 3 and the potential game winner in overtime.
After struggling out of the gate, Boston showed their trademark intensity down the stretch. Rajon Rondo justified his All-Star Starting selection with his season-high in scoring (30), and Sully yet again dominated the glass. Unfortunately, the Celtics blew the lead on a controversial jump-ball call, then failed to defend a 1 point lead in overtime. The fire is still there, but serious weaknesses, (offensive firepower and interior defense), have resurfaced, shedding Boston's resurgence in doubt.
Follow Jacob on Twitter @TheReelJZ Jacob Zweiback 1/18/2013 10:16:00 PM Tweet