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BULLS 107, CELTICS 87

Bulls fix it so Celtics cannot catch a break

CHICAGO -- No team in the NBA may need the All-Star break more than Boston. Given all that has transpired the first few months of the season, it would probably help the Celtics to get away from the game.

Perhaps when they reunite in Sacramento Monday, the Celtics will be refreshed and refocused on earning a playoff spot. Last night, the playoffs and even decent play appeared the last things on anyone's mind. Chicago defeated Boston, 107-87. It was the Celtics' worst loss of the season and their 12th in their last 15 games.

"The guys for the most part for the games that I've coached them have played hard and played well, but we haven't won," said interim coach John Carroll, who is now 1-7. "I've told them many times that you have to play all four quarters, no one is going to give you a win. So, tonight was very disappointing."

The game was essentially decided by halftime. But if there was any doubt, the Bulls erased it during the third quarter, stretching a 15-point advantage into a 27-point lead. The fourth quarter was a mere formality for the home team.

Paul Pierce suffered one of his worst shooting nights of the season, going 1 for 6 (season-low 4 points) as the Celtics shot 37 percent. The Bulls shot 53 percent and were led by Jamal Crawford (27 points, 7 assists) and Kirk Hinrich (23 points, career-high 14 assists).

"I wanted to have a good game," said Hinrich. "I wasn't happy with the way I played last game. It was important to get a win going into a break. Everyone took it upon themselves to do their job, offensively and defensively."

Carroll set a simple goal entering last night -- he wanted the Celtics to finish the game with smiles on their faces. That was not going to happen. In jumping to a 61-46 halftime lead (a season high for Chicago for points in a half), the Bulls shot 55 percent, including 64 percent (7 for 11) from 3-point range. Both Crawford and Hinrich reached halftime with double figures. Meanwhile, the Celtics shot 40 percent, including 14.3 percent (1 for 7) from 3-point range.

The Celtics opened the first quarter with an 8-0 run and held a lead until Hinrich found Crawford for a reverse layup on the break with 2 minutes 38 seconds left. The basket pushed Chicago ahead, 22-21, and gave the home team the lead for good. It also started a 26-8 run by the Bulls, which Crawford capped with a 3-pointer 7:09 before halftime.

The only positive for the Celtics in the first half was that they outrebounded the Bulls, 27-21. Otherwise, all the positive stats remained on Chicago's side. The Bulls moved the ball well enough to record 20 assists on 23 field goals in the first half, including 11 from Hinrich and 5 from Crawford. Boston finished the first half with just 10 assists, but it's hard for a team to record assists when it can't knock down baskets.

With the exception of Chris Mihm (10 points on 5-for-7 shooting), almost all the Celtics' scorers struggled in the first half, including Pierce (1 for 5) and Ricky Davis (3 for 8). Mark Blount's struggles were most pronounced as he went 3 for 10 from the floor and failed to convert layups. But the starting center finished with his fourth double-double of the season (11 points, 11 rebounds).

"Teams go through slumps," said Davis. "All I can do is tell the guys to get rest the next few days and come back and start all over. It's a long season. We're still in the hunt in the playoff race. We just have to take one game at a time, come out and play every game like it's the last game of the playoffs."

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