CHICAGO – Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng each scored 23 points, and the Chicago Bulls escaped with an 89-80 victory over the Boston Celtics on Thursday night after blowing a 16-point lead.
It was hardly an easy night for the Bulls, but they continued to pile up the wins even though reigning MVP Derrick Rose missed his fourth straight game because of lower back pain.
They struggled early before going on a big run that gave them a 16-point lead early in the third quarter. Boston came roaring back and was up 61-60 early in the fourth after Chris Wilcox's alley-oop dunk, but a 12-point run broke a 69-69 tie and sent Chicago to its seventh win in eight games.
Taj Gibson's layup four minutes into the quarter started the decisive rally. Deng sandwiched a 3-pointer and layup around a free throw by Kyle Korver, and Boozer capped the rally with a pair of layups that made it 81-69, giving Chicago its league-leading 25th win.
The Celtics lost for the fourth time in five games even though Kevin Garnett finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds after sitting out the previous night against Detroit with a hip flexor.
Rajon Rondo had 17 points and eight assists, but had his difficulties with Mike James guarding him. Paul Pierce scored 14, and Ray Allen finished with 12 points after a slow start, but the Celtics came up short.
The Bulls appeared to be in good shape leading 51-35 early in the third after Boozer capped a 22-2 run with a dunk, but after blowing nearly all of a 19-point lead against Sacramento on Tuesday, they watched as the Celtics came storming back.
Allen found his stroke, hitting three 3-pointers as Boston pulled within 60-59 and they would have taken the lead into the fourth had Garnett not blown a dunk in the final minute.
Rondo fed Wilcox for an alley-oop dunk in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter to give Boston a short-lived a 61-60 lead. The Bulls ultimately prevailed even though they looked at times like a team missing its MVP.
Rose took some free throws at the morning shootaround, but wasn't able to run. Coach Tom Thibodeau said he is "feeling a lot better" but remains day to day.
He's missed nine games this season because of back and toe problems after sitting out a total of six in his first three years, but the Bulls were breathing a little easier this week after a back specialist confirmed there was no structural damage.
"We're just going to wait and see how it goes," Thibodeau said.
Notes: Thibodeau said G Richard Hamilton is "making good progress." The veteran remains sidelined by an injured right thigh. ... This was the start of a five-game trip for Boston.