May 26, 2018
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Depleted Celtics survive for ugly win over Bulls

By Mike Shalin, The Sports Xchange

BOSTON — The depleted Boston Celtics snoozed offensively through the second and third quarters, then hit the Chicago Bulls with a 12-0 fourth-quarter run and held on for a 71-69 victory Wednesday night in the final game for both teams before the All-Star break.

Boston had only 10 players dressed (counting little-used rookie Fab Melo) after losing Leandro Barbosa for the season Monday night. Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger were previously lost for the year. But the Celtics still won for the eighth time in nine games since Rondo went down, doing it by going 11-for-16 from the floor in the fourth quarter after shooting 28.3 percent the rest of the game.

Wednesday’s victory, in a rock fight between two defense-minded teams missing two guards apiece, wasn’t easy. Boston scored 20 points in the first 8 1/2 minutes of the game, then had 19 in the middle two quarters combined.

The Celtics trailed by eight late in the third quarter and were down by seven when they went on their run over a 4:41 span of the fourth, Brandon Bass starting the run with two straight baskets and Jeff Green capping it with a flying reverse slam.

Boston went up by five with the explosion, but the lead was just one before Jason Terry hit a 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring. Then, Paul Pierce, 1-for-11 to that point, sank a 3-pointer, and Kevin Garnett hit two huge hoops — the second with 19.8 seconds left — to help send the Bulls to their fifth loss in the last seven games.

The Bulls had a chance to win the game when, down by three with 6.2 seconds left, Nate Robinson hit a free throw and then missed the second on purpose. There was a scramble, and Chicago’s Marco Belinelli, the hero the last time the Bulls were in Boston, tried a shot, but Terry swiped it away. Taj Gibson picked the ball up and took a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it came up well short.

Bass led the Celtics with 14 points and nine rebounds. Garnett had 12 points and 11 boards, and Terry added 12 points. Pierce finished with eight points, six rebounds and six assists.

Belinelli led Chicago with 12 points off the bench. Jimmy Butler had 11 points and six rebounds. Joakim Noah finished with 10 points and 16 rebounds, and Carlos Boozer contributed 11 points and 11 rebounds.

The win gave the Celtics a split of the four-game season series.

Chicago’s Luol Deng (eight points), Noah and Garnett are All-Stars, though Noah might drop out because of a foot problem.

The Celtics had a 20-9 lead with 3:27 left in the first quarter, but they scored only 15 points the rest of the half as the Bulls grabbed a one-point halftime lead. The home team went almost the entire second quarter without a 2-point field goal. Terry hit a layup with 32.9 seconds remaining before the break.

NOTES: Celtics coach Doc Rivers has a simple solution for his team’s injury woes, saying, jokingly, “We literally can’t have another (injury). So if someone gets hurt, they can’t get hurt. We have to ignore it.” … Rivers on possible additions to the roster: “(GM) Danny (Ainge) and I in the last 48 hours have covered probably every human being that can dribble and shoot.” He added: “There’s no need to just go and grab a guy. We’re going to wait.” … A day after Bulls guard Derrick Rose said he might not return from knee surgery this season, Noah said, “I think he’ll be back when he’s ready, whenever that is.” The center indicated he didn’t think Rose would miss the entire season after tearing his left ACL back in April. … Rondo underwent right knee surgery Tuesday, the operation performed by Dr. James Andrews, whose handiwork got the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson back on the football field sooner that might have expected. The Celtics feel Rondo will be ready for the start of next season. Barbosa will have knee surgery in about a month, but Ainge more than hinted the club would like to bring Barbosa back. … In addition to Rose, the Bulls were without guard Kirk Hinrich (elbow). … The Celtics play 11 of their first 13 games after the break on the road, opening a five-game road trip at Denver on Tuesday night. The Bulls resume play at New Orleans the same night.

Jazz 97, Timberwolves 93: It took a while, but the Utah Jazz finally arrived at Target Center on Wednesday night.

Early in the second quarter, the Jazz — perhaps a bit hung over from Tuesday’s home victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder — finally woke up from a quarter-long offensive stupor to assert themselves.

Led by 21 points by Paul Millsap, 20 from Al Jefferson and 11 from DeMarre Carroll, the Jazz shrugged off a 5-for-20 first quarter to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 97-93 in the final game for each team before the All-Star break.

The Jazz (30-24) enter the break on a two-game winning streak. The Wolves (19-31) enter it having lost 16 of 19 games.

Minnesota had three players record double-doubles: guard Ricky Rubio (18 points, 10 assists), Derrick Williams (24 points, career-high 16 rebounds) and Nikola Pekovic (19 points, 13 rebounds). Luke Ridnour scored 18.

Slow start? Utah’s 10 first-quarter points were the least by a Wolves opponent this season. However, once the Jazz got back into the game, they were hard to stop. Utah led by two at halftime and by five after the third quarter.

The Jazz asserted control with less than two minutes left in the third quarter. Ridnour hit two free throws with 1:52 left in the quarter to give the Wolves a 61-60 lead. Utah finished the quarter on an 8-2 run, then started the fourth on an 8-3 run to go up by 10.

Minnesota had one more run left. Down 90-77, Pekovic scored, then Williams had a three-pointer and a dunk, the latter coming with 1:03 left, cutting Utah’s lead to 90-84.

After a Jazz turnover, Rubio fed Pekovic for a layup with 50 seconds left that cut the lead to four. Following two free throws by Earl Watson, Pekovic scored again with 25.8 seconds left to make it a four-point game.

Millsap made one of two free throws, and then Millsap fouled Williams on a 3-point attempt. Williams made all three free throws with 19.3 left to pull the Wolves within two. However, Minnesota couldn’t get closer than that. Utah’s Randy Foye made four free throws down the stretch, the last two with 4.1 seconds left.

Minnesota led 17-10 after one, thanks to seven points by Ridnour. The Wolves ended the quarter on a 13-2 run, which went to 16-2 on J.J. Barea’s 3-pointer early in the second that gave the home team a 20-10 lead.

But the Jazz, finding its rhythm, responded with a 14-0 run to take a 24-20 lead on Millsap’s two free throws.

From then through halftime, it was back and forth, with the Jazz leading 42-40 entering the third.


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