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The shortened NBA season presents different obstacles for every team on a week to week basis, as each game has slightly more significance than in previous seasons. This week the Celtics have a challenge of their own: playing the Eastern Conference leading Chicago Bulls twice in five days.
On Sunday, Bulls star Derrick Rose was out with a lower back injury, and the Celtics had enough to get the 95-91 victory.
The Celtics as a team played well against the Bulls, who proved to be a tough test even without Rose. They got an especially strong performance from Rajon Rondo, who recorded a triple-double and led all scorers with 32 points in 40 minutes. He also had 10 rebounds and 15 assists, two of which came on rare consecutive alley-oops to JaJuan Johnson and Chris Wilcox, who scored 12 and 11 points respectively.
The Bulls hung in for most of the contest, only trailing Boston by six at the start of the fourth quarter. The Celtics began to pull away when they went on a 10-5 run to start the quarter, followed soon after by the highlight reel alley-oops which extended the lead to 86-72. However, 22 points from Carlos Boozer and C.J. Watson kept Chicago alive, as they rallied to keep within six with just over two minutes left.
Paul Pierce hit a big shot with 1:32 remaining to halt a 7-0 Bulls run and push the lead back to two possessions after the Bulls had gotten within three. He then struggled in the final minutes, however, twice turning the ball over to keep Chicago’s chances alive. Still, the Bulls couldn’t take advantage and Boston held on for the victory.
It was the first game for the Celtics dealing with the loss of Brandon Bass, whose knee injury will keep him off the court for two weeks. Their next game is Wednesday night against the 8-20 Pistons. With the win over Chicago, Boston is now 15-12 for the season – good enough for seventh in the East. After the game against to Detroit they’ll travel to Chicago for their rematch.