Game Recap: Celtics 71, Bulls 69

The Bulls arrived in Boston faced with the depressing realization that Derrick Rose might not play at all this season. Of course, they weren’t going to get any sympathy from the Celtics, who have lost three players to season-ending injuries in the last three weeks. Not only their own All-Star point guard, Rajon Rondo, but also rookie power forward Jared Sullinger and veteran point guard Leandro Barbosa.

So no, the Men in Green weren’t shedding any tears over Chicago’s misfortune, and they put on one of their best defensive performances of the season, holding the Bulls to 69 points on 36.5 percent shooting.

But wait, there’s more. The Bulls missed 14 of their 17 three-point attempts, had only 4 fast break points, and committed 22 turnovers for 20 points going the other way.

Not that the Celtics were much better. They managed only 71 points on 36.8 percent shooting, missing 10 of their 15 three-pointers and finishing -10 on the boards. Thanks to a steady stream of mid-range (and misdirected) jumpers, Boston had only 24 points in the paint and earned only 12 free throw attempts.

Here are some more not-so-fun facts courtesy of ESPN Stats and Information:

Fact 1:
The Bulls starters combined for 37 points Wednesday against the Celtics, the fewest points by Chicago’s starting five in ANY game this season.

Fact 2:
The Bulls and Celtics combined for 21 points in the third quarter Wednesday, the second-fewest combined points by two teams in ANY quarter this season. On November 13, the Raptors (5) and Pacers (14) combined for 19 points in the fourth quarter.

Fact 3:
The Celtics and Bulls combined for 140 points Wednesday night, the third-fewest combined points by two teams in a game this season.

And here’s a bonus crap-o-stat from the AP recap: “The Celtics scored 19 points in the second and third quarters combined, tying for third-lowest in NBA history and setting a franchise record for the fewest points in consecutive quarters since the shot-clock era began. Their 71 points was the third-least in a win since the 24-second clock was added in 1954-55.”

And that was the team that won the game.

Yup. It was an ugly one, folks. So ugly those mid-90s Heat and Knicks teams were rolling over in their graves.

Still, you’ve got to give credit to the Celtics, they made shots when it mattered most. Check it: They were 17-for-60 over the first 36 minutes but shot 11-for-16 over the final 12, outscoring the Bulls 28-20 in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Bulls shot 6-for-19 during that final frame, including (gak) 1-for-9 on threes.

Boston had two fourth quarter daggers that pretty much killed any shot Chicago had of stealing this one. First was an off-the-dribble, off-balance triple by Jason Terry with 3:57 left that put the Celtics up 62-58. On Boston’s next possession, Paul Pierce — who was 1-for-11 to that point — drilled a three to build the lead to 65-60. And although the Bulls put a little scare into the home crowd, those were nails one and two in the Bulls’ coffin.

Chicago’s starters were terrible, combining to shoot 15-for-45. Only Carlos Boozer (11 points on 5-for-14 shooting) and Joakim Noah (10 points on 3-for-8 shooting) reached double figures. Noah had 16 rebounds but committed 5 turnovers. Luol Deng scored only 8 points and had no assists. Nate Robinson (6 points, 2-for-7, 6 assists) looked like a minimum contract player and Rip Hamilton (2 points, 1-for-6, 2 turnovers) was virtually invisible).

Thank God for the All-Star break.

Said Noah: ”We definitely need a break right now. It’s been a long first half of the season, and we just need to regroup because we’re not playing very well right now.”

You can say that again, Jo.

Last night, the Bulls looked like a team that’d had the wind taken out of their sails. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but by and large, this group has fought bravely through injury and fatigue to keep the boat afloat until D-Rose could return. Only it looks like Rose might not return. In Rose’s own words: ”I’m feeling good, but like I said, if it’s where it’s taking me a long time and I’m still not feeling right, I don’t mind missing this year.”

I don’t mind missing this year.

I wonder how Luol Deng — who put off having surgery on his wrist so he could play in the Olympics last summer and still not miss any of this season — feels about that? Or Joakim Noah, who is slogging up and down the court despite suffering from a lingering case of plantar faciitis?

I’m not criticizing Rose at all. He absolutely should not play until he’s healthy and ready. But that doesn’t mean his decision not to play, and especially the way in which he’s framing it, doesn’t affect this team.

Despite the fact that Deng and Noah were both named to the All-Star team, this is an injury-plagued and under-talented squad that has to play all-out every night to compete. Staying up and putting forth that kind of effort takes an immense about of resolve and mental fortitude. The Bulls look psychologically fatigued. They just do.

I know Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t like hearing excuses like that. But it is what it is.

Extras:
Recap, Box Score, Advanced Box Score, Play-by-Play, Shot Chart.

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