8:00 PM ET, April 7, 2011
United Center, Chicago, IL
Derrick Rose drops 30 on Celts as Bulls close in on East's No. 1 seed
CHICAGO -- Derrick Rose envisioned this for the Bulls when training camp started. Now Chicago is close to wrapping up the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
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The Bulls' 17th win in 19 games put them four games up on Boston and Miami with four to play and eliminated the Heat from getting the No. 1 seed. It also gave them a four-game split with the Celtics.
Boston, which plays the Heat on Sunday, still has a mathematical shot at the top spot, albeit a remote one. But barring a collapse, Chicago will be the top seed in the East.
It's another step for a team that expected big things after a major overhaul, and all the Bulls have done is deliver their best season since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen made championship celebrations a regular event.
"I always said that we could compete with some of the best teams in the NBA," Rose said. "At training camp and in the beginning of the year, I thought my team's ready to fight. I just saw what we were going through in training camp. Guys were keyed in and focused, making sure that they came in very, very hungry, wanting to win."
Rose was a one-man highlight reel against Rajon Rondo, beating him with his crossover and getting to the rim, particularly in the early going. Rose scored 16 points in the first half as the Bulls jumped out to a 48-43 lead, and Chicago regrouped after momentarily falling behind in the third.
"Like it or not these are probably the guys who we'll meet in the conference finals or wherever," Rondo said.
Chicago outscored the Celtics 44-22 in the paint, outrebounded them 44-35 and held Boston to 38.4 percent shooting. The Bulls didn't let up, either, after struggling to put away Toronto and Phoenix in back-to-back games.
Rose a Thorn Inside
Boston had a hard time containing Derrick Rose Thursday night, as he exploited the Celtics' interior defense. Rose finished with seven made field goals from 5 feet and in.
|1st 3 Games vs C's||Thursday|
|*6-7 in second quarter|
"I think offensively, we've been pretty good for about 10 games now," said coach Tom Thibodeau, the former Celtics assistant. "Defensively, we've been sporadic. We've played well the first half, not well in the second half. I thought tonight was more of a complete game for us."
"We've got to be better than this," Garnett said. "No way we can come out and put an effort like this in a game this big."
Rondo said, "This better be a wakeup call. If not, we won't make it far."
The Bulls led 48-43 at the half when Pierce made a jumper and Rondo hit his first two baskets to give Boston a one-point lead, but the Bulls responded by running off 10 straight.
It was 61-58 after Glen Davis hit two free throws with just over three minutes left in the quarter when the Bulls started a 13-2 run that stretched into the fourth.
Deng started the spurt with a 3, and he followed a layup by Boozer off a turnover with a steal and layup to make it 68-58 with 1:31 left. Davis hit two free throws for Boston. But Rose made a 3 with 23 seconds left in the quarter, and Boozer added a three-point play 45 seconds into the fourth to boost Chicago's lead to 74-60.
Not only were the Bulls facing one of the top teams in the East, they also honored Pippen by unveiling a sculpture of him during a halftime ceremony, a fitting tribute to a Hall of Famer who helped them win six championships.
How far can this group go? That remains to be seen.
Rose is sure of one thing, though.
"We can play," he said. "We can play a little bit."
A Bulls spokesman said chairman Jerry Reinsdorf left a message for Grant Hill and spoke to his mother for about 15 minutes, telling her he regretted an incident that happened after Tuesday's game against the Suns. Hill had told the Arizona Republic that a fan spat on and cursed him. ... Boston coach Doc Rivers said he thinks Shaquille O'Neal will be healthy for the playoffs, but isn't sure what to expect from him. The 15-time All-Star missed his second straight game with a strained right calf.
Team Stat Comparison
|FGM-FGA||28-73 (.384)||37-78 (.474)|
|3PM-3PA||2-10 (.200)||9-22 (.409)|
|FTM-FTA||23-26 (.885)||14-15 (.933)|
|Fast Break Points||12||11|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||12 (2/0)||21 (1/0)|
Next 5 Games
With 58 wins, Tom Thibodeau is now tied with Larry Bird and Mike Dunleavy for the third-most wins ever by a 1st year coach. Only Bill Russell with the 1966-67 Celtics and Paul Westphal with the 1992-93 Suns won more games their first year at the helm. Russell, of course, did it as a player-coach.[+]
Most Wins By 1st-Year Coach - NBA History
Derrick Rose has gotten the better of Rajon Rondo this year when the two have guarded each other. In four games, Rose has averaged over 14 PPG while shooting 46 percent from the field when guarded by Rondo. On the other end of the floor, Rose has effectively shut down Rondo, holding him to just 4 PPG on 36 percent shooting.[+]
Rose vs Rondo - When Guarding Each Other, This Season (4 games)
After struggling to score in the first half, Luol Deng found a rhythm by mixing up his game. Shooting all jump shots in the first half, Deng finished the game with 23 points on 50 percent shooting after going to the rim in the second half. After attempting no dunks or layups in the first half, Deng was 6-for-8 on dunks and layups in the second half.[+]
Luol Deng by Shot Type - Thursday vs Celtics
The Celtics couldn't get anything going inside Thursday, making nine of 22 field goal attempts from five feet and closer. The Celtics' 18 points on field goals attempted from five feet and in matched a season low, and their 40.9 percent field-goal shooting on those shots was their lowest of the season.[+]
Celtics Shooting 5 Feet and Inside - Lowest FG Pct, 2010-11 Season
ESPN Stats & Information