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Celtics knock off Bulls, 95-91

Posted by Gary Dzen, Boston.com Staff  February 12, 2012 06:01 PM

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JaJuan Johnson wasn't ready. That's what Doc Rivers told reporters about his lanky, athletic rookie forward about an hour before today's game with the Bulls. Maybe Rivers was being coy. Maybe he really had doubts that Johnson could perform against a good team.

Johnson scored 12 points in 33 minutes -- his best game by far in a Celtics uniform -- as the Celtics defeated the first-place Chicago Bulls, 95-91, Sunday afternoon at TD Garden. Johnson's play was the surprise contribution in a game that was utterly dominated by Rajon Rondo (32 points, 10 rebounds, 15 assists).

Rondo was off and running early as the Celtics made 9 of their first 10 shots from the floor, a start that might have been good enough to run away from other NBA teams. But the Bulls didn't go away easily -- or at all -- and the Celtics found themselves up, 28-23, despite shooting 59 percent from the floor and holding the Bulls to 36 percent shooting. Rondo had 11 points and 2 assists in the first quarter.

The second quarter brought more contradictions. The Bulls didn't play particularly well, but the Celtics did some things to shoot themselves in the foot. They turned the ball over nine times in the first half, and they also gave up 11 offensive rebounds. That added up to a five-point halftime lead despite the Bulls hovering around 34 percent shooting.

Momentum was neither gained nor lost in the third quarter as the Celtics added one point to their lead. Through three quarters Rondo had 28 points, 6 assists, and 9 rebounds.

The Celtics found their momentum with a scoring run in the middle of the fourth quarter. Up, 72-68, with 9:41 to play, the Celtics went on a 14-4 run to give themselves some breathing room. Allen started the run with five straight points, Johnson chipped in with a score down low, and Pierce threw in a huge 3-pointer to put the Celtics up by 11. Johnson and Wilcox then threw down consecutive alley-oops on the fast break as the Celtics stretched their lead to 86-72 with 5:06 to play. Johnson looked especially satisfied to throw one down, a chance for him to show what his lanky, athletic body can really. The Celtics shot over 50 percent as a team for most of the day, but that run was the only time it actually felt like it.

The Bulls are a tough team whether or not they have Derrick Rose (they were 5-1 without him), and this game goes down as Boston's marquee win this season. The Bulls were 23-6 coming into the game despite playing 19 of their first 29 games on the road. The Celtics are back in action at TD Garden Wednesday night vs. the Detroit Pistons.

Final: Celtics 95, Bulls 91:Rajon Rondo wins it from the line. Triple-double of 32 points, 10 rebounds, and 15 assists for Rondo.

2:22 4th quarter, Celtics 89-83:The Celtics need to be careful not to give this game away. The Bulls aren't quitting.

5:08 4th quarter, Celtics 86-72:Talk about momentum. JaJuan Johnson and Chris Wilcox put down consecutive alley-oops on the fast break as the Celtics threaten to blow this thing open. Great play for Johnson, who you can tell was just so relieved to be able to let it all out with a dunk. Wilcox has been a fast-break-dunking-machine today. Good for him running the floor and finishing.

7:29 4th quarter, Celtics 82-71:There it is. Ray Allen scores five straight points, JaJuan Johnson scores in the post, and Paul Pierce's 3-pointer gives the Celtics an 11-point lead. There haven't been many scoring runs today, so this one is huge.

9:41 4th quarter, Celtics 72-68:Rondo's on the bench for what can't be long. Not sure what the breaking point will be in this game, but it's coming soon.

END 3d quarter, Celtics 72-66:It certainly isn't a big lead, but the Celtics will take it. They're playing well enough not to lose. Rajon Rondo has 28 points, 6 rebounds, and 9 assists.

1:54 3d quarter, Celtics 65-61:Ray Allen and Paul Pierce have combined for just 10 points 3 of 11 shooting.

5:44 3d quarter, Celtics 61-56:It feels like a Sunday game. It's so quiet in here you can hear Tom Thibodeau yelling at his players, and I'm not sitting near him. It also doesn't feel like the Celtics are shooting 57 percent. They're making 57 percent look ugly.

5:44 3d quarter, Celtics 61-56:It feels like a Sunday game. It's so quiet in here you can hear Tom Thibodeau yelling at his players, and I'm not sitting near him. It also doesn't feel like the Celtics are shooting 57 percent. They're making 57 percent look ugly.

byun_13celtics01_spts.jpgHalftime, Celtics 48-43:Celtics fans probably aren't sure whether to be encouraged or discouraged by the first half. The numbers are good: 55 percent shooting for the Celtics, 34 percent for Chicago. But the lead is only five. The Celtics probably can't play much better than they did in the game's first six minutes, but they can certainly play better than they have the rest of the half.

2:26 2d quarter, Celtics 43-39:The Celtics are getting sloppy. They've got nine turnovers, including an errant pass by Ray Allen trying to throw an alley oop to Chris Wilcox. Bad pass and bad idea considering the degree of difficulty of the play.

7:24 2d quarter, Celtics 33-30:You didn't expect the Celtics to run away with it, did you? The Bulls are ugly-ing this game up. Usually don't put much stock in these things, but Keyon Dooling a minus 6, while JaJuan Johnson is a minus 8. Boston's bench simply isn't playing well.

END 1st quarter, Celtics 28-23: Great first quarter by the Celtics, shooting 59 percent against a Bulls defense that is the best in the league. JaJuan Johnson played 6:20 in the first quarter and had an athletic offensive rebound and putback. He also had a few terrible defensive possessions, which is what Doc Rivers means when he says Johnson isn't ready.

1:22 1st quarter, Celtics 26-20: This is an excellent time to remind you that Doc Rivers said JaJuan Johnson and Greg Stiemsma would not play much today, and I believed him. Both are playing in the first quarter.

4:28 1st quarter, Celtics 18-15: This is the danger of playing the Bulls. An 8-0 run gets Chicago right back into it even though the Celtics are shooting 75 percent. And you know that's not going to last.

6:20 1st quarter, Celtics 18-7: Great start for the Celtics. The Bulls seem lost on offense without Rose. They're shooting 30 percent. Chris Wilcox has four quick points in a starting role. He's playing with great energy. The Celtics have made 9 of 10 shots from the floor because they're shooting layups.

8:16 1st quarter, Celtics 10-4: Rajon Rondo usually gets up for big games against other star point guards, but Derrick Rose is out tonight, and Rondo is still starting well. He's got six points and one assist.

Pregame: Derrick Rose, Jermaine O'Neal, and Brandon Bass out. Avery Bradley and Keyon Dooling in. Don't expect to see much of JaJuan Johnson or Greg Stiemsma. I think we're covered.

Oh yea, the Bulls are really good. Let's get it.

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