The Celtics starters got another early rest and were all smiles on the bench. The game was a usual blowout at TD Banknorth Garden. And the beloved Gino, the Celtics' human victory cigar, was grooving again on the JumboTron after missing the previous game.
Two days after an emotional home loss to the Pistons, the Celtics last night got back to what they have been accustomed much of this young season by hammering the Bulls, 107-82. Boston improved to an NBA-best 21-3 and tied San Antonio for the league's best home record at 13-1. Despite recent shooting struggles against Chicago (9-15), Celtics forward Paul Pierce scored a game-high 22 points on 6-of-11 shooting, grabbed 7 rebounds, and dished 3 assists in 27 minutes.
Pierce might not have a bigger nemesis in the league than Bulls swingman Luol Deng.
Since Deng arrived in Chicago during the 2005-06 season, Pierce has averaged 19.4 points, a field goal percentage of .373, and a 3-point percentage of .242 in eight games while being primarily guarded by him. The five-time NBA All-Star also shot 1 for 8 from the field and missed all four 3-point attempts during a win at Chicago Dec. 8. Pierce also entered last night averaging a team-best 20.5 points, but was coming off a 5-of-16 shooting night in a tough loss against Detroit last Wednesday.
As for the Pistons loss, Rivers and guard Ray Allen said before the game the Celtics had moved on and were concentrating on the Bulls.
"Just ready to play," said Rivers. "We're playing the Bulls."
Pierce and the Celtics seemed ready as they finished the first quarter with a 26-19 lead. There was lackluster shooting for both teams in the opening quarter as the Celtics shot 45.5 percent from the field and sank just 2 of 7 3-pointers, while Chicago shot 39.1 percent from the field. Pierce collected 7 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists in the first, but missed 5 of 7 field goal attempts.
With 10:25 left in the second quarter, Chicago forward Tyrus Thomas dunked on his former Louisiana State teammate, Boston rookie forward Glen Davis. After staring at Davis after the dunk, Thomas was slapped with a technical. Davis got a laugh out of it. Allen nailed the free throw to give Boston a 33-22 lead.
A fast break lay-in by Tony Allen gave Boston a comfortable 40-22 lead with 7:50 left in the first half. About the only threatening thing the Bulls did in the second is when rookie Joakim Noah accidentally raked Kevin Garnett over the eyes with 3:33 left. A 3-point play by Kendrick Perkins with 2:43 left before intermission gave Boston a 52-31 lead. The Celtics went into halftime with a 56-41 lead after outscoring Chicago, 30-22, in the second quarter.
Garnett scored 12 points and grabbed 5 rebounds in the first half while Perkins added 10 points and reserve swingman James Posey added 11, including three 3-pointers. Bulls guard Ben Gordon had 11 points in the first half while his team shot 41 percent from the field. Boston shot 43.6 percent from the field by the intermission and missed 7 of 11 3-point attempts.
Pierce nailed a 3-pointer with 6:30 left in the third to give the Celtics a 69-49 lead. Another Pierce 3-pointer with 3:27 left extended Boston's advantage to 79-56. Another Pierce trey gave the Celtics an 84-61 lead with 1:39 left in the third. With 1:01 left in the third, there was a game clock/shot clock malfunction over the Celtics' basket so the referees had the Bulls' game clock/shot clock turned off to make it fair.
The Celtics outscored the Bulls, 31-26, in the third quarter to take an 87-67 lead. Pierce scored 15 points on 4-of-4 shooting - all of them 3-pointers - in the third. Boston shot 56.3 percent, nailed 5 of 8 3-pointers in the third, and scored 11 points off seven Chicago turnovers in the quarter.
With exception to Ray Allen, the rest of the starters sat comfortably on the bench at the start of the fourth quarter. An Allen 3-pointer in front of the Bulls' bench gave Boston a 98-73 with 7:43 remaining. Allen (18 points) came out of the game for good 11 seconds later and Gino came out shortly after.