Rapid Reaction: Celtics 71, Bulls 69

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Brandon Bass elevates for a shot Wednesday night against the Bulls.Rapid reaction after the Boston Celtics defeated the Chicago Bulls 71-69 on Wednesday night at TD Garden:


Brandon Bass produced maybe his best effort of the season, registering 14 points and nine rebounds, while Kevin Garnett added 12 points and 11 rebounds as the Celtics surged in the fourth quarter and held on at the finish line. Jason Terry added 12 points off the bench for Boston, while Paul Pierce overcame 2-of-12 shooting to produce some key fourth-quarter points. Carlos Boozer (11 points, 11 rebounds) and Joakim Noah (10 points, 16 rebounds) each produced double-doubles to pace the Bulls.


The Celtics were a dreadful 8-of-39 shooting for a mere 19 points during the middle quarters and found themselves down seven (which felt more like 70) with 10:35 to play in the fourth quarter. Ignited by a Bass steal/dunk combo, Boston improbably caught fire and embarked on a defense-fueled 12-0 run to surge ahead. Jeff Green punctuated the outburst by blowing past Luol Deng and delivering a one-handed slam on the opposite side of the rim as Boozer was too slow with help. Boston led 59-54 with 5:17 to play. Boston made enough shots down the stretch (Bass feeding Garnett for a final-minute hoop as the shot clock expired was a highlight) and Pierce hit two clutch freebies with 10 ticks to go to help seal it.


With the Celtics clinging to a three-point lead in the final seconds, Boston elected to foul. Nate Robinson made the first of two freebies, then missed the second and Chicago go the rebound. Jason Terry blocked Marco Belinelli's initial 3-point attempt, but Taj Gibson got off a clean look that could have won it, but it was off the mark.


The Celtics and Bulls set the game of basketball back decades with their third-quarter play. The teams combined for 21 points (21!?) on 10-of-42 shooting (23.8 percent). Robinson and Deng were the only players with multiple field goals (two apiece). Just an atrocious 12 minutes of basketball that had the Bulls on top 49-43 headed to the fourth quarter.


Avery Bradley picked up two fouls over the first 84 seconds of the third quarter and spent much of the frame on the bench. Given that Boston was down to three available pure guards, it forced Boston to go big with Green for much of the quarter... The Celtics forced 21 turnovers in the last meeting, but generated a mere seven points off of them while falling in overtime. This time around, the Bulls turned the ball over 22 times leading to 20 points. Boston coughed up it a mere 12 times for 11 points.


The Celtics wrapped up the first half of the season at 28-24, winning eight of their last nine (and 14 of 21) to mask a roller-coaster start to the season. Even after enduring three season-ending injuries over the last three weeks, there's optimism about the team with 30 games to go coming out of the All-Star break. Boston players will get five days to rest before reconvening in Denver to start a five-game West Coast road trip.