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Luol Deng had 26 points, six rebounds and four steals, as the Derrick Rose-less Chicago Bulls defeated the Boston Celtics, 93-86, Thursday night in Chicago. Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 22 points and eight rebounds, but could only muster five points in the second half.
With the loss, Boston now trails Indiana by three games for third place in the Eastern Conference. They still hold a one-game lead over Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division lead.
The Celtics led 49-38 at the half and appeared to be in complete control. The second half was a completely different story, as the Bulls outscored the Celtics 55-37.
After turning the ball over just two times in the first half, the Celtics turned the ball over 11 times in the second. The Celtics showed less overall energy than their opponent for the second straight night, losing the rebounding battle, 44-36. Carlos Boozer and Kevin Garnett matched each others’ numbers with 14 rebounds and 12 points apiece.
Chicago’s Joakim Noah made the difference Thursday, as his 17 points, nine rebounds, three blocks and boundless energy was too much for the Celtics’ thin interior to handle on the second night of a tough back-to-back.
Thursday’s game marked the first time since 2003 that Ray Allen played in a game but didn’t started. Shortly before the game, Celtics’ coach Doc Rivers announced that Avery Bradley would start over Allen.
Rivers said it was ultimately Allen that wanted to give the new role a shot. Bradley committed three turnovers and had to sit most of the third quarter with foul trouble in his first start over Allen for the Celtics.
Rajon Rondo‘s upped his double-digit assist streak to 15 straight games with 12 Thursday night. Rondo’s steak is the longest of its kind in the last five years in the NBA.
The Celtics look to heat back up Saturday night when they face off against the Indiana Pacers in a game that has playoff seeding potentially at stake.