For three-plus quarters, everything was sunshine and puppies for the Celtics on Saturday night. They built an 19-point lead against a Chicago Bulls team playing its fourth game in five nights and still without the perpetually injured Derrick Rose. Despite the absence of Rajon Rondo, the offense hummed, with seven C’s reaching double figures and the team shooting 52 percent from the floor.
Then the fourth quarter happened and like so many of those final frames last season, there were plenty of disastrous moments. The big difference, though, was in the end, the Celts made enough plays to come out on top, finishing off their back-to-back with a 106-101 win.
If anything stood out from the victory, which pushed the Celts back to .500, it was the balance shown on offense. Evan Turner, who started at the point with Rondo and Marcus Smart out, played his best game of the year by far, ending up with 19 points. six assists and five rebounds and being trusted to have the ball in his hands in the late going with the lead down to two points. Kelly Olynyk scored 18 points and added 11 rebounds, the last two of which saved the game for the Celts. Jeff Green had 14, Avery Bradley 13, Marcus Thornton 11 and Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger 10 apiece. All that plus five Celtics posted at least four assists.
It probably shouldn’t have been as close as it was, as the Bulls’ Aaron Brooks, described by Grantland’s Zach Lowe as “a 5-10 guy working at the grocery store” during the game, took over with 19 fourth quarter points. But the way the Celtics kept everyone involved on offense, moving the ball and making extra passes in the name of getting better, open looks for their shooters, was extremely encouraging.
If the Celtics are going to somehow sneak their way into the playoffs, wins like this one must be part of the equation. Without a real go-to guy, everyone needs to pitch in like they did against the Bulls.