Bulls 90, Celtics 79

Celtics in a foul mood as Rose, Bulls cruise

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By Gary Washburn
Globe Staff / January 9, 2011

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CHICAGO — The Bulls battered the Celtics with their physical play inside and then unleashed All-Star point guard Derrick Rose, who single-handedly got the Celtics into foul trouble, sealing the game by spending a good portion of his evening at the free throw line.

Doc Rivers did as much screaming at officials last night at United Center as he did at his own team, and it did little good. Rose scored 36 points, attempted a career-high 19 free throws, and the Bulls beat up the Celtics, 90-79, in front of 22,663.

Tom Thibodeau’s defense locked up the Celtics for the game’s final 42 minutes while the Bulls pulled away in the third quarter thanks to the brilliant play of Rose and what Rivers perceived as questionable officiating.

But in hindsight, Rivers knew his team didn’t play with the passion or energy of the Bulls, who were coming off consecutive losses to New Jersey and Philadelphia. The Bulls shook the Celtics’ precision with plenty of roughhousing under the basket and Rose dared the Boston defense to make contact because he fully knew the result.

Couple that with a 37.8 percentage from the field and a season-low 12 assists, and the Celtics never gave themselves a chance to steal the win.

“We were pretty awful,’’ Rivers said. “Let’s say it was [the Bulls’] defense. Let’s give them the credit but we were bad. That’s the worst ball movement we’ve had this year. We basically bounced the life out of the game tonight.’’

With the Celtics seemingly afraid to touch Rose, he used his quickness to create space for jumpers and canned consecutive shots for an 80-70 lead with 4:57 left. While Paul Pierce and Ray Allen combined for 40 points, Thibodeau’s plan was to turn Glen Davis and Rajon Rondo into scorers. And they weren’t up to the task.

Davis and Rondo combined to attempt 31 shots, two more than Pierce and Allen. And they made 10. The Bulls were harassing Allen and Pierce, and Davis was so psyched out by Carlos Boozer, he had nothing to offer. He missed 13 of 17 shots and on consecutive trips down the floor had his layup blocked by Taj Gibson.

He played most of the fourth quarter with a bloody lip after taking an elbow from Boozer early in the period. Davis lay on the floor for several moments and then screamed at official Ron Garretson, “He’s throwing elbows!’’ only to be ignored by the official.

“It wasn’t my night; I didn’t come to play,’’ said Davis. “I took 17 shots and I gotta make some. They played harder than us today and that shouldn’t happen.’’

Boozer (22 points, 10 rebounds) used the evening to use some of his savvy veteran tricks to frustrate Davis. He slapped at Davis’s arms during jumpers, often with no whistle. He screamed each time he dived for the basket to grab the officials’ attention, and when he was jockeying for position, he used his elbows to puncture Davis like cue sticks.

Davis knew he had been outfoxed by a more experienced player.

“It was a learning experience for me, especially if I ever want to be on the same type of level as [Kevin Garnett’s] or Carlos Boozer’s,’’ he said. “You guys have seen me grow and now it’s time to do it at a different level, take it up a different notch. Carlos Boozer got the best of it today. I want that success. I want all of that, being that guy. Rivers was constantly chattering in the ear of official Sean Wright, who was quite protective of Rose on drives to the basket. Midway through the third quarter, the All-Star guard had attempted 13 free throws to 10 for the Celtics as a team.

In one sequence, Rondo drove to the basket for a layup and was flattened by Kurt Thomas. Meanwhile, Rose drove at Shaquille O’Neal who tried with all his might to turn his 325-pound body to avoid Rose but was whistled for his fourth foul.

In the third quarter alone, Rose attempted 10 free throws while the Celtics shot four. Some of that could be attributed to his aggression in driving to the basket but Rivers was beside himself at the lack of calls for his club. The Celtics collected 22 fouls in the first three quarters to Chicago’s 13, and he was relegated to playing little-used Semih Erden because the remaining big men were saddled with fouls.

“He attacks and we can do better,’’ Rivers said. “Rose dominated the game, pure and simple. We didn’t play great. They played with far more energy than us. His fingerprints were all over the game tonight.’’

The Bulls ended the third period on an 11-4 run with seven of those points coming on free throws. Chicago was by far the more physical team, and the Celtics had no response for their punches.

“He got the calls so often,’’ Boozer said of Rose. “He attacked, he took on the challenge of going against Rondo. He attacks like that every night, we see the same Derrick Rose, but tonight he got the calls.’’

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