PJ Brown Debuts in C's W
After the Celtics passed the ball around the horn to four players, Ray Allen nailed a 3-pointer to give them a 51-36 lead in the second quarter. Seconds later, the concerned Bulls called time out.
Soon after, new Celtics guard Sam Cassell showed his appreciation for the beautiful basketball by jumping to his feet in street clothes with a big smile on his face. And as the timeout ended, Cassell smiled brightly again when he was introduced to the TD Banknorth Garden crowd and received a standing ovation.
With a happy and talkative Cassell looking comfortable on the bench, the Celtics led by as many as 28 points while pounding the Bulls, 116-93 last night.
The Celtics (48-12) have won seven straight overall and 10 straight at home, two short of their season best established at the start of the campaign. All five starters scored in double figures, led by Paul Pierce's game-high 22 points.
The Bulls (25-37) were projected to be an Eastern Conference power this season after making it to the second round of the playoffs.
But with a 9-16 record, they fired coach Scott Skiles on Christmas Eve. Looking for a spark, the Bulls dealt unhappy forward-center Ben Wallace and forward Joe Smith to Cleveland, guard Adrian Griffin to Seattle, and acquired forward Drew Gooden, guards Larry Hughes and Shannon Brown, and forward Cedric Simmons from the Cavaliers at the trade deadline last month.
Having split their last 10, the Bulls came in a game behind New Jersey for the eighth and final playoff spot. Even so, Celtics coach Doc Rivers wouldn't be surprised to see Chicago in the playoffs for the fourth straight season. The Bulls could be Boston's first-round opponent.
"They are playing really good basketball," Rivers said. "I think their confidence is growing. Just because they don't have a really good record, I still think they are a really quality basketball team. They got off to a tough start and then they started pressing like any team would with the expectations they had.
"Now watching them, they play with calm. They play with that same intensity level. They play hard every night."
The Celtics shot 55 percent (11 of 20) in the first quarter to take a 32-20 lead. Kendrick Perkins scored 10 points. The Bulls shot 33.3 percent.
Cassell joined his new team on the bench at the beginning of the second quarter. While the Clipper refugee was in street clothes, he voiced strong encouragement and gave Allen some advice late in the quarter.
With 55.1 seconds left in the second, Gooden received a technical foul for mouthing off to referee Scott Wall. After Gooden continued to talk, he was hit with another technical and ejected.
The Celtics took a 63-43 lead into halftime after shooting 48.6 percent. Four Celtics scored at least 10 points in the half, and they made 25 of 30 free throws. The Bulls shot 36.4 percent, attempted nine free throws, and had 17 fouls.
A Pierce 3-pointer gave Boston a 74-49 cushion with 8:45 left in the third quarter. With the Celtics up, 90-68, and 1:24 left, forward-center P.J. Brown received a standing ovation when he made his Celtics debut. A Brown steal with 54.9 seconds left in the third led to a lay-in by Pierce that gave Boston a 94-71 lead. The Celtics finished the quarter with a comfortable 95-73 advantage.
Brown had a solid debut as he grabbed six rebounds in six minutes.