Celtics make it a perfect 10
CHICAGO -Last season’s Celtics-Bulls playoff series was memorable for its competitiveness and drama. But there were few reminders of that seven-game, seven-overtime classic last night as the Celtics took a 106-80 victory over the Bulls at the United Center.
The Celtics (19-4), who will take a 10-game winning streak to Memphis tomorrow, turned the game into a rout in the third quarter in one of their strongest performances of the season. Seven Celtics finished in double figures scoring.
Rajon Rondo (16 points, 14 assists, 7 rebounds) led the way and also was involved in a payback moment dating to Game 5 of last spring’s series when he was floored by Brad Miller in the first quarter. But there were few other similarities to the playoffs on this night, Bulls fans starting to leave the arena long before the final buzzer as the Celtics built a 25-point lead.
“We’re just trying to get consistent,’’ Celtics captain Paul Pierce said. “[Thursday] night [a 104-102 win at Washington], we played two quarters. We’re searching for the perfect game. There’s probably no such thing as the perfect game, but if we come close that’s pretty good.’’
Coach Doc Rivers has been saying the Celtics have not developed into a “48-minute team.’’ But against the Bulls, the Celtics displayed extended periods of defensive effectiveness and offensive efficiency.
The Celtics held the Bulls without a field goal (0 for 14 shooting) over a 9:35 stretch spanning the final two quarters.
The Celtics missed their first five shots, but went on 10-2 and 12-2 runs to lead by as many as 12 points in the first half. The Celtics then broke open the game with a 16-4 run, holding the Bulls without a field goal (10 successive misses) for the final 6:18 of the third quarter.
After Miller’s 3-point play off an inbounds pass cut the deficit to 67-59, the Bulls closed the quarter with just four free throws by Luol Deng.
The Celtics extended their lead to 25 points early in the final quarter. The Bulls’ field goal drought extended to 14 misses and 9:35 of play before Derrick Rose cut the deficit to 88-65 with 9:01 remaining.
Rondo outdueled Rose (19 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists) and the Celtics kept the pressure on. The Bulls, meanwhile, seemed to lose their direction.
“The first half, we were trading baskets,’’ Rivers said. “In the third quarter, again our bench was great. We got a bunch of stops in a row. We talk about it -- you get multiple stops you have a chance to get multiple scores. That’s what we have to keep doing. Our focus every night has to be defense -- our offense will take care of itself. We’re so unselfish we’ll score. [Seven Celtics scored in double figures last night.] We’ve just got to get stops.
“We’re starting to focus longer in each game. We play with a nice purpose every night. That doesn’t mean we play well every night. But I like our purpose. We’re playing to get better.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at email@example.com.