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Celtics 106, Bulls 101

Celtics band together to beat Bulls

Turner sparkles in a balanced attack

Celtics forward Brandon Bass (left) grabbed a rebound in front of teammate Gerald Wallace and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler in the first half Saturday.Tannen Maury/EPA

CHICAGO — Despite Rajon Rondo and Marcus Smart watching from their living rooms, nursing their respective injuries, the Celtics were nearly flawless for 3½ quarters Saturday night against the Central Division leaders.

The Celtics weren’t supposed to be in this position without their unquestioned floor leader, as well as two of their best defenders, but their collective parts played so melodiously together that they streaked to an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter.

The question was whether this young group would stand such prosperity, especially when the Chicago Bulls decided to resemble themselves for the final eight minutes and mount a relentless rally behind a smothering defense.


Without Rondo to handle the barrage, the Celtics used a pair of monumental rebounds by Kelly Olynyk and the steady play of Evan Turner to survive. The Celtics used six free throws in the final 17.7 and withstood a 19-point fourth quarter from Aaron Brooks to secure a 106-101 victory at United Center.

It was one of the biggest wins of the Brad Stevens era.

“We just had to find a way and I thought everybody did their job well,” Stevens said. “This is big for all of us.”

Seven Celtics scored in double figures, including all five starters. Turner, starting in the place of Rondo, played a sparkling floor game with 19 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, and just 2 turnovers.

With the Celtics leading by 3 with 22.9 seconds left, Olynyk rebounded a Turner miss. Turner gathered the ball back and then hit two free throws.

Olynyk then grabbed his 11th and final rebound, off a Jimmy Butler jumper, and sank two more free throws to seal a satisfying win.

It capped an emotional 24-hour stretch for the Celtics, who watched as Smart was carried off the floor by stretch with a badly sprained ankle before grabbing a close win over the Pacers at TD Garden. They entered Saturday the decided underdog considering the Bulls won five of their first six games and are one of the favorites in the Eastern Conference.


The Celtics have prided themselves in this short season on their balance. Only twice season this has a scorer eclipsed more than 20 points in a game. So it was no surprise that five Celtics had at least four assists, as they seized a 19-point lead with constant ball movement.

In the end, it required some arduous rebounding by Olynyk, who is considered a finesse center but outhustled Joakim Noah twice for loose balls. Since a 5-point outing Monday at Dallas, Olynyk is averaging 16 points and 9.6 rebounds in the past three games.

“I’m just trying to be aggressive, be assertive on both ends of the floor,” he said. “I wasn’t as aggressive. Everyone in practice was telling me, ‘You’re playing well, just be aggressive,’ and that’s really helped our team as well. If everyone on the floor is not aggressive, if everyone on the floor is not doing their job, then it makes it tough to win.”

The Celtics led, 97-82, with 5:10 left before Brooks, one of the smallest men on the court, single-handedly brought Chicago back. His 3-pointer sliced the Bulls’ deficit to 99-94 with 1:38 left and he followed with two free throws with 1:02 left.

With the Celtics leading, 100-98, Turner drove toward the basket and flipped a layup that missed. Olynyk trailed and snatched the rebound from Pau Gasol.


Olynyk followed with two free throws with 8.8 left to seal it. Olynyk finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds as the Celtics shot 51.9 percent against one of the league’s better defensive teams.

Turner looked comfortable handling the ball, using his crafty moves to dive into the paint for short jumpers. He didn’t dominate the ball, but took just enough shots to keep the Chicago defense honest.

Even without their two of their top defenders, the Celtics executed their best defensive half of the season, holding the Bulls to 40 percent shooting and 33 percent in the second period. They trailed, 33-29, after a Taj Gibson slam dunk with 7:28 left in the half then proceeded to go on a stirring 27-8 run to end the quarter, holding the Bulls to just two field goals in the final 4:53.

Chicago was visibly confused offensively, settling for long jump shots or forced runners. Meanwhile, the Celtics received balanced scoring, getting 8 points from four starters and 11 from the other, Avery Bradley.

Boston shot 56 percent in the second quarter, with Turner using his savvy to make plays for teammates or creating his own offense. After a couple of early mishaps, the Celtics were turnover free in the pivotal second period and finished with just 12 for the game.

“It’s a great team win, on the road, in a back-to-back, and it shows our capabilities and our mental capacity,” Turner said. “When guys go down [to injuries] we stay mentally ready to help and that’s the biggest thing.”


Gary Washburn can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.