CHICAGO — Derrick Rose drove by Rajon Rondo over and over again, usually slamming into Shaquille O’Neal or one of Boston’s other big men as he made his way to the rim.
“It hurts, definitely, running into a brick wall,” Rose said.
At least he had a much-needed victory to soothe those aches and pains.
Rose scored 36 points, Carlos Boozer added 22 points and 10 rebounds, and the Chicago Bulls cooled off the Celtics with a 90-79 win on Saturday night.
Rose set career highs for free throws made and attempted with a 15-for-19 performance, putting Boston in foul trouble almost single-handedly. Rondo and Jermaine O’Neal each finished the game with five fouls and Shaq had four.
“From the start of the game to the end of the game he was aggressive,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “When he plays like that, because he is generating speed, if there is contact, he will get more calls. He was taking the contact on tonight and he was getting calls.”
The All-Star point guard credited a little film study for his abundance of free throws. Rose said he noticed recently he needed to take another dribble on his drives so he could get deeper into the lane and draw more fouls.
“Usually I just try to take off and avoid the contact or take off, and they block my shot or something,” he said. “Just making sure I take my time in the hole and go up to their body first.”
Paul Pierce had 21 points and Ray Allen added 19 for Boston, which had won four straight and five of seven. The Celtics also dropped to 5-2 since star forward Kevin Garnett went out with a right calf injury.
“We had a lot of one-pass shooting tonight,” said Pierce, who had three of Boston’s season-low 12 assists. “There’s really no explanation. That’s really not the way we play.
“They wanted it more truthfully. They got all the loose balls. They attacked it.”
The Bulls, trying to avoid a season-worst third straight loss, grabbed control with a 9-1 run that started at the end of the third and carried over into the fourth. Boozer capped the spurt with a jumper that gave Chicago a 73-65 lead.
Rose carried the Bulls home from there. He hit consecutive jumpers with 5 minutes remaining to extend the lead to double digits and again heard chants of “MVP! MVP!” from the United Center crowd when his 3-pointer in the final minute made it 90-77.
“He attacked,” Boozer said. “He took on the challenge of going against Rondo. He loves challenges like that.”
Rondo finished with 13 points and eight assists for Boston, which dropped to 2-1 against Chicago this season. The Celtics forced 21 turnovers but were outrebounded 48-27.
“We just didn’t have it in us,” coach Doc Rivers said. “We just had a bad night.”
The Bulls ripped through December and carried it over into 2011, winning 14 of 16 while playing against some of the worst teams in the league. The surge included four victories over lowly Cleveland and Toronto, and 13 games against teams that began Saturday with a sub.-500 record.
Chicago’s successful run ended Wednesday at New Jersey, when Thibodeau left Boozer on the bench for the entire fourth quarter in a 96-94 loss. Then the 76ers avenged last month’s 45-point loss at the United Center with a 105-99 victory in Philadelphia on Friday night.
So it looked bleak for the Bulls, with the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics coming to town for Chicago’s sixth game in nine days.
Thibodeau’s team responded with a gritty effort, led by Rose.
“I liked the way we played,” said Thibodeau, a former Boston assistant coach. “It was a well-balanced game.”
Jermaine O’Neal, playing with a sore right knee, made two free throws to give Boston a 30-26 lead with 8:10 left in the second quarter. But the Bulls responded with a 9-2 spurt, powered by an impressive stretch from Boozer.
After two nifty moves inside, he hit a turnaround jumper to give the Bulls a 32-30 lead. Boston called timeout and Rondo tied it again with a driving layup before Boozer converted a three-point play to put Chicago in front again.
Boozer later made a nice pass inside to reserve Ronnie Brewer, who converted a reverse layup despite a foul by Allen. Brewer’s free throw gave Chicago a 40-34 lead with 3:32 left in the second.
Brewer finished with 10 points and Luol Deng had nine after getting off to a rough start.
NOTES: Celtics rookie Luke Harangody, who set career highs with 17 points and 11 rebounds in Friday’s victory over Toronto, failed to score in 13 minutes. … Chicago Bears wide receivers Devin Hester and Johnny Knox, cornerback Danieal Manning and kicker Robbie Gould all attended the game. The Bears earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs. … Garnett, averaging 15 points and 9.5 rebounds, could be back next week.