There was something ugly about the Celtics' 104-92 win over the Bulls Friday night, but it wasn't Kevin Garnett.
Garnett defied the taunts of Bulls forward Joakim Noah and turned in a dominant performance against his energetic equal, scoring 20 points and pulling down 17 rebounds in his team's win. Garnett's gritty performance came with a pretty stat line: 7-of-11 shooting from the field, 6-of-6 shooting from the line, and 6 assists in 33 minutes.
The Celtics followed Garnett's lead to a suffocating start, the Big Ticket leading the Celtics with 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists in the first quarter. Doc Rivers sent Nate Robinson to the scorer's table to sub for Rajon Rondo very early, but Rondo stayed in the game. He played the first 11 minutes of the first and recorded 4 assists. The Celtics shot 62 percent in the first but also increased their chances for success by turning the ball over only once in the period.
The ugliness came in the second quarter, the Bulls taking advantage of Garnett's routine rest with a 15-3 tun. With Garnett out, the Celtics went 1 of 6 with two turnovers to start the second as the Bulls tied the game at 34. But the normally reliable Glen Davis picked up his third foul at the 9:40 mark, necessitating that Garnett and Shaquille O'Neal come back into the game much earlier than usual.
The foul situation got worse as the second quarter went on, as O'Neal and Paul Pierce joined Davis with three fouls. But the Celtics finished the period strong, leading 53-48 at halftime in large part due to Garnett's 16 points and 11 rebounds. Garnett played a team-high 20 minutes in the half in the absence of Davis. The Celtics shot 43.8 percent in the second quarter as they let the lead slip.
O'Neal picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter but stayed in the game, Rivers reluctant to substitute Semih Erden at a crucial point. The strategy worked, with the Celtics extending the lead to double-digits with O'Neal on the floor. But Shaq picked up his fifth personal two minutes later and was sent to the bench.
The Celtics increased their lead despite Shaq's absence, outscoring the Bulls 29-19. Rondo led the way with 10 points and 6 assists in the period despite a scary moment, Rondo crashing to the floor at the 4:54 mark. Rondo's knee seemed to buckle underneath him, but the Celtics point guard remained in the game and finished out the quarter. The Celtics had 50 points in the paint through three quarters, a season high for a Bulls opponent for an entire game.
Noah turned in a solid performance of his own with 14 points and 10 rebounds. The battle between the big men seemed to overshadow what was also an electric point guard matchup. Rondo finished the game with 12 points and 19 assists, while Rose put up 20 points and 8 rebounds in the loss.
The Celtics are now 9-1 at home. They travel to New Jersey to face the Nets on Sunday.
1:07 4th quarter, Celtics 102-87:An here comes Scal. Standing ovation. This crowd still loves him. Glen Davis frantically called for the ball with Scal guarding him, but the Celtics didn't see him.
2:07 4th quarter, Celtics 100-84:An early Gino appearance.
7:33 4th quarter, Celtics 90-74:The crowd is in full-on "Scal-a-brine" chant mode as time winds down. Scal hasn't seen any action yet.
9:28 4th quarter, Celtics 84-72:Glen Davis picks up his fifth personal in the worst way, fouling a jump-shooting Taj Gibson. Kevin Garnett is back in. Lot of minutes for KG tonight.
End 3d quarter, Celtics 82-67:Semih Erden finishes the quarter with a flush over Noah. It was Rondo's 15th assist. Erden has 7 points and 3 rebounds, and the Celtics have desperately needed his contributions.
1:42 3d quarter, Celtics 78-62:Rondo's still in the game. Haven't written much about the point guard matchup as it's been secondary to Garnett-Noah. Rondo has 12 points and 13 assists. Rose has 14 points and 7 assists.
4:54 3d quarter, Celtics 72-57:Rajon Rondo goes down very awkwardly. It looked really, really bad at first, as if Rondo's knee twisted underneath him. He's going to stay in the game, though.
7:20 3d quarter, Celtics 64-53:Doc Rivers's gamble with Shaq pays off. Sort of. The Celtics open up a double-digit lead with Shaq still on the floor, but O'Neal just picked up his fifth foul. Glen Davis is in, but he has four fouls and needs to be careful.
9:32 3d quarter, Celtics 56-52:Shaq picks up his fourth foul but stays in the game for now.
You think Garnett is fired up for this game? He's got a double-double in the first half with 16 points and 11 rebounds. His counterpart Noah (OK technically they aren't guarding each other) has 8 points and 2 rebounds. The Celtics slumped in the second but are still shooting 54 percent.
2:15 2d quarter, Celtics 47-45:Double-technicals on Garnett and Noah for talking. Nothing too heated from where I'm sitting, probably preventative techs more than anything else.
4:10 2d quarter, Celtics 41-40: Shaq called for an offensive foul, his third, on a spin move to the hoop. The official on the baseline nearest to the play didn't call anything, which is what had O'Neal upset after the play.
6:21 2d quarter, Tied at 36: Noah sits down for the first time.
7:45 2d quarter, Celtics 34-33: It's getting worse. Paul Pierce fouls Luol Deng after Deng intercepted an errant pass and took it the other way. The Celtics are 1 for 6 with two turnovers in the quarter.
9:40 2d quarter, Celtics 32-26: A 7-1 run for the Bulls to start the quarter. More bad news as Glen Davis picks up his third personal foul. Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O'Neal are back in because they have to be. Very atypical move for Doc Rivers, but he doesn't want the game to get away from the Celtics here.
End 1st quarter, Celtics 31-19: Great start for the Celtics, who shoot 62 percent from the field on their way to the lead. The Celtics held the Bulls to 38-percent shooting.
3:02 1st quarter, Celtics 26-12: Ray Allen is killing the Bulls in transition. That's the second time he's leaked out ahead of the defense for an easy lay-up. Great vision by Rondo to look ahead. Allen has 10 points.
4:45 1st quarter, Celtics 18-12: Shaq just made his presence felt to Derrick Rose, bumping Rose on a lay-up attempt. Rose had already been fouled by Rondo and went tumbling to the floor after his collision with the Diesel.
A few plays earlier, Shaq's greatest weakness was on display. On a pick-and-roll between Rose and Joakim Noah, O'Neal hedged to guard Rose but never got back down to Noah. Ray Allen rotated over to Noah, but the Bulls center crashed the offensive glass and easily dunked over Allen. Shaq's great on offense, but his presence on defense can sometimes leave the Celtics scrambling.
Garnett has been great so far with 4 points and 4 rebounds.
7:16 1st quarter, Celtics 10-4: Nate Robinson comes to the scorer's table for Rajon Rondo, but Rondo shakes him off. Not sure what the deal was there, but Rondo insisted he didn't need to come out.
11:38 1st quarter, Celtics 2-0: KG shakes every hand but Noah's before the tip, then hits a jumper to start the game.
Pregame: Good crowd tonight, despite the reported chaos on the Pike. Let's get it started.