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Bulls 127, Celtics 121

Bulls throw Celtics

Injury list gets longer in another tough loss

By Marc J. Spears
Globe Staff / March 18, 2009
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CHICAGO - Just when you thought the Celtics' injury situation couldn't get any worse . . .

The Celtics lost, 127-121, to the struggling Bulls last night at the United Center, and with injuries to Leon Powe (knee), Ray Allen (elbow), and Rajon Rondo (ankle), they could enter tonight's game against Miami with as few as eight healthy players.

"Definitely, the list is growing, but it is what it is," said Paul Pierce. "We can't cry over spilled milk. Some way, somehow, throughout this stretch, we have to get this job done.

"We'll be healthy sooner rather than later. We've just got to continue to fight, play hard, and find ways to win games."

Pierce scored a team-high 37 points while Rondo, despite being hurt, added 26 points, a game-high 10 assists, and 5 rebounds.

But the Bulls, wearing green for St. Patrick's Day, got 38 points from John Salmons (tying his career high), shot 53 percent from the field, and scored 58 points in the paint.

The Celtics fell to 9-6 without Kevin Garnett this season and are now 4 1/2 games behind Cleveland for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers was proud of the fight his beaten-up team showed.

"We look like a team with not enough players," Rivers said. "That happens. I was really happy with our guys."

The Celtics were already without Garnett (knee), Glen Davis (ankle), Brian Scalabrine (concussion), and Tony Allen (finger surgery). Eddie House returned to action despite a left ankle injury he suffered in Sunday's loss to Milwaukee and scored 13 points in 28 minutes.

But things got worse when Powe was lost in the first quarter to a sprained right knee. Powe, who banged knees with Chicago's Ben Gordon, will be evaluated in Boston today but doesn't expect to play tonight.

Rondo hurt his right ankle in the third quarter but he got it taped in the locker room and returned with 4:47 left in the period. An injury to his ankle recently caused Rondo to miss two games, and he was uncertain about his status tonight.

Allen hyperextended his right elbow late in the game and was uncertain about tonight as well.

When forward Mikki Moore fouled out with 11:17 remaining in the game, the Celtics were down to nine players. Pierce even played some center for the first time since he was at Inglewood (Calif.) High.

"There's that point where sometimes it's just bad luck for either one individual or one team," said Allen, who had 17 points and nailed four 3-pointers. "We have a team of professionals that make sure we stay healthy all the time. You have to listen to the body and definitely listen to the trainers."

Said Rondo, "Seems like every game someone's going down. People just have to step up and play through it."

Led by 14 points (8 on free throws) from Tyrus Thomas, the Bulls finished the first quarter with a 34-26 lead after shooting 60 percent.

"We came out and started the game awful," Rivers said.

The Celtics took their first lead since 4-2 when Pierce's 3-pointer made it 49-48 with 1:34 left in the half. A lay-in by Rondo (17 points, 6 assists in the half) with 2.6 seconds left gave Boston a 55-54 halftime lead.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Allen and Pierce gave Boston a 73-62 lead with 6:40 left in the third, but Chicago used an 18-7 run to tie the game at 80 on a Salmons lay-in.

The Celtics finished the third with a 90-89 lead, but Moore fouled out early in the fourth, and a pair of acrobatic lay-ins by the previously quiet Derrick Rose gave Chicago a 100-97 lead.

House's 3-pointer, though, gave Boston a 107-106 lead with 5:07 left.

A lay-in by Rose gave Chicago a 117-113 lead with 1:57 remaining. Pierce's 15-foot jumper with 1:15 left brought Boston within 119-117. But a 3-point play by Salmons with 1:02 left pushed Chicago ahead, 122-117.

Pierce nailed two free throws with 50.8 seconds left to bring Boston within 122-119, but Salmons sealed it with a second-chance lay-in with 29.8 seconds, making it 124-119.

Following a timeout, Rivers received his second technical foul and was ejected.

"They fought back," Salmons said. "We hung in there and then we found a way to win it at the end."

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