Rookie Marquis Teague takes step foward

CHICAGO -- The only thing Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and Chicago Bulls point guard Marquis Teague had in common prior to Saturday’s game was being former Kentucky players.

Before the game tipped off, Rondo was an established NBA star and veteran, and Teague, a 2012 first-round pick, had played 10 minutes in just two games. The difference between the two players was grand.

But by the end of the night, the two former Wildcats shared a bit more.

Teague played a career-high 18-plus minutes, including the entire fourth quarter, hung with Rondo at times and helped the Bulls nearly rally from a 13-point deficit in the final minutes before they fell 101-95 at the United Center.

Plus, he gained Rondo’s respect.

“It's good confidence for a young player to be playing when the game's on the line,” said Rondo, who had 20 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds and five steals. “I think he played maybe the last seven minutes. That shows a lot of confidence with him and (Bulls coach Tom) Thibodeau. He’s a good player.

“He's a confident player. He's been a winner all his life. He won at Kentucky, so I don't think he shies away from confidence. He's ready when his name is called. He got to the cup a couple times, drew some fouls. For a player that young, your confidence just grows and grows.”

Teague saw extended minutes Friday because starting point guard Kirk Hinrich missed the game due a hip injury, and Thibodeau preferred Teague’s speed against the Celtics late in the game.

“He played hard,” Thibodeau said. “That is the first step. I liked the way he matched up with speed. (Leandro) Barbosa and Rondo are super quick. I like that matchup for Marquis. He used his speed and quickness to extend our defense a bit.”

Teague improved exponentially Monday from when he first was called upon off the bench in the second quarter to when he last walked off the floor at the final horn.

In the fourth quarter, Teague demanded the ball in situations. He drove hard to the rim. He ran the offense. He defended Rondo. He scored five points.

On one occasion with 7:03 left and the Bulls trailing 87-84, Teague drove through the middle of the paint with the shot clock expiring, went right at Celtics center Kevin Garnett, leaped and put the ball into the basket over Garnett. The United Center exploded in excitement, but it wasn’t to be as Teague was called for an offensive foul for pushing off Garnett with his right hand.

“I thought it was an and-one, honestly,” Teague said.

Teague wasn’t perfect in the quarter. His shot selection was questionable in a few instances, he was hesitant to shoot after a few misses and had one turnover, but his teammates believed he had taken a large step in his overall progress on the night.

“I’m proud of Marquis,” Deng said. “He’s just not playing in the beginning, (he's) staying ready, coming in early working. I thought he did well tonight. He did more than well. He did great, I think. It’s not easy coming in against a team like that, end of game, fourth quarter, clutch time. He wasn’t afraid, you know. Drove the ball, got fouled, made some plays.”

Bulls forward Taj Gibson had only positives to speak of, too.

“The way he was just calling plays (impressed me,)” Gibson said. “He didn’t get fazed going against Rondo, understanding what he had to do against Rondo. He’s only going to get better. This is like only his third game playing in a regular NBA game.

“I told him it’s different than the preseason, the way guys are moving, guys taking shots. But it’s all about guys keeping their heads up and building confidence. It’s all about confidence.”

Teague doesn’t certainly lack that.

“My confidence is the same,” Teague said “It never left. It’s always going to be there. I’m a basketball player. That’s how I feel.

“If you step on the floor, you got to be ready no matter what time it is. I’m not really fazed by the situation I’m in. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ve played in a lot of big games all my life. That was another game.”