The Celtics starters got another early rest. This was the latest in the usual blowout at TD Banknorth Garden. And the beloved Gino, the Celtics' human victory cigar, was grooving again on the JumboTron after missing the previous game.
Two nights after losing to the Pistons, the Celtics got back to what they have been accustomed to for much of this young season by hammering the Bulls, 107-82, last night. Boston improved to an NBA-best 21-3 and tied San Antonio for the league's best home record at 13-1. The Celtics are also 3-0 in games after a loss.
"[It] was a statement game for us," said Kevin Garnett, who had 12 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals before sitting the fourth quarter. "We needed this game for confidence. We came in [to practice Thursday]. We got some things done [yesterday morning]. It was an unusual shootaround. We went at it a little bit. You could tell at shootaround that we were fired up.
"The Detroit game was still on our minds. Tonight was just one of those nights where we just wanted to come out and get back to the things we know, that we do well. Communicate, playing solid for 48 minutes. And I felt that we did that."
Paul Pierce might not have a bigger defensive nemesis than Bulls swingman Luol Deng. Well, at least that was the case before last night.
Pierce has averaged 19.4 points, a field goal percentage of .373, and a 3-point percentage of .242 the previous eight games against Chicago while being primarily guarded by Deng. The five-time NBA All-Star also shot 1 of 8 from the field and missed all four 3-point attempts during a win at Chicago Dec. 8. In addition, Pierce was coming off a 5-of-16 performance against Detroit.
But after last night, all the talk about Deng being a Pierce stopper can cease. Pierce scored a game-high 22 points on 6-of-11 shooting, grabbed 7 rebounds, and dished 3 assists in 27 minutes. Celtics coach Doc Rivers said that more one-on-one coverage on Pierce and the lack of help defense from the likes of sidelined defensive-minded Bull Ben Wallace (sore left foot) helped, too.
"I never really get discouraged about my shot," Pierce said. "Every shot I think is going in anyways, so why stop shooting it?"
Rivers and Ray Allen said before the game the Celtics were concentrating solely on the Bulls. Not Detroit. But afterward, you could tell Wednesday's loss still bothered the Celtics.
"The loss left a bad taste in our mouths," Pierce said. "It didn't matter who it was going to be [last night]. We were going to come out and really take it to them."
The Celtics went into halftime leading, 56-41. Garnett scored all 12 of his points and grabbed five rebounds in the first half while Kendrick Perkins added 10 of his 12 points and reserve swingman James Posey scored all 11 of his points and nailed three 3-pointers. Bulls guard Ben Gordon had 11 of his team-high 19 points in the first half while his team shot 41 percent from the field. Boston shot 43.6 percent before the break, but missed 7 of 11 3-point attempts.
"At halftime we talked about transition [defense]," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought that allowed [the Bulls] to stay close in the first half. And we took care of that."
Boston's streak of nine straight third quarters won ended against the Pistons, but thanks to Pierce, they won the third last night.
The Celtics outscored the Bulls, 31-26, in the quarter to take an 87-67 lead. Pierce scored 15 points on 4-of-4 shooting - all 3-pointers. Boston shot 56.3 percent, nailed 5 of 8 3-pointers and scored 11 points off seven Chicago turnovers
The Celtics tied their season-high with 12 3-pointers.
"We got a lot of great 3-point shooters on this team," Pierce said. "If you look at myself, Ray Allen, Eddie House, James Posey. I wonder why Kevin doesn't shoot any threes?"
Gordon couldn't find any positives out of the loss.
"We didn't shoot the ball well. Didn't rebound the ball well. We turned it over too many times," he said. "We just had an overall bad game."
With exception to Allen, the rest of the starters sat comfortably on the bench at the start of the fourth quarter. An Allen 3-pointer in front of the Bulls' bench increased the hosts' advantage to 98-73 with 7:43 remaining. Allen (18 points, three 3-pointers) came out of the game for good 11 seconds later and Gino came shortly after.
"[Brian] Scalabrine got in the game," Allen said. "Gino got in the game. It was a pleasure to see different guys in the game tonight. That's what we want. Everybody plays. Everybody contributes."