BOSTON -- A collection of news and notes after the Boston Celtics defeated the Chicago Bulls 95-91 Sunday evening at TD Garden:
WILCOX STARTING TO CLICK
With starting center Jermaine O'Neal (shoulder, knee) and top reserve Brandon Bass (knee) sidelined for Sunday's game, Chris Wilcox got thrust into a starting role and responded with another solid effort, chipping in 11 points on efficient 5-of-6 shooting with nine rebounds and a block over 26:17.
Wilcox thrived in transition, generating all of his points at the rim (his only miss was an 11-foot jumper in the second quarter). Four of those five buckets came off feeds from Rajon Rondo. Whether it was a fancy between-the-legs dish for a first-half dunk or an alley-oop lob that gave Boston a 14-point cushion in the fourth quarter, Rondo made it easy for Wilcox to stack up his points.
"Once you run the floor and get a couple of easy ones during the game, it starts getting so much easier for us," Wilcox said. "I feel good right now, I’m back healthy and that’s my role for this team -- run the floor."
Earlier in the season, as Wilcox struggled to be productive on the floor, he had difficulties catching some of the feeds from Rondo. That hasn't been a problem lately as everything Rondo sends his way seems to be sticking. About the only thing that evaded Wilcox on Sunday was a first-half feed from Ray Allen that he would have needed a ladder to reach.
"It’s just something we had to get used to," Wilcox said of Rondo's feeds. "At first I was dropping a lot of passes and things like that, but now we’re on the same page and a lot of passes I’m catching now.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers challenged his big men to get get up and down the court alongside Rondo on Sunday, knowing it would lead to easy buckets, and both Wilcox and rookie JaJuan Johnson were beneficiaries.
Said Rivers: "Chris was phenomenal with his speed."
A MARQUEE WIN FOR THE CELTICS?
One of the things Rivers said after Friday's lifeless loss in Toronto was that he didn't want his team going "back down that road," referring to the team's rocky start to the 2011-12 campaign. Boston had won nine of 10, including five in a row, before losing back-to-back games against the Lakers and Raptors.
Those losses might have made Sunday's visit from the Bulls just a bit more of a must-win than the Celtics might have cared to admit. Asked if this was a marquee win, Rivers hesitated, but suggested every win is big this season.
"I don’t know what that is," Rivers said. "If [Chicago point guard Derrick] Rose had played and we won, I would have said I don’t know what it is, honestly. You know what I’m saying? I keep saying it, but in this season, every win is a marquee win with the short season. We’ve got bodies [down], guys out on both teams.
"I don’t know when the last time we played where we had all our team and the other team had all of their team. I don’t know if that’s happened this year. It may not happen and that's just the way the season is. To me, because of that, every win is really important. You've just got to get wins, then stack them up at the end of the year, and hopefully you're in a good playoff position. That’s it."
Kevin Garnett went so far as to call it a "huge" game.
"We needed a win today. Today was a huge game for us," he said. "Dealing with everything that happened in Toronto ... today was a needed win. Enough said. It was, and I think we played like it. I thought we came out with a lot of energy, and we hit first, we were aggressive.
"We've got to finish games better, but I just think that’s some miscommunication between the bench and the players that were on the floor. Other than that, man, I thought we played with an edge, like the old Celtics that I know we are. Doc came in and really gave us a good talking to, something that we needed to hear. He showed us film, that film is always humbling, and I thought we all went out and responded."
DOOLING: JUST ONE OF THE SOLDIERS
Celtics reserve guard Keyon Dooling returned to the floor after missing 16 of the team's last 17 games due to right knee and hip ailments, playing his first game since a nine-minute stint in Boston's come-from-behind victory in Orlando on Jan. 26.
Dooling missed both shots he attempted while playing the off-guard position (Avery Bradley served as the primary backup behind Rondo), but grabbed a pair of rebounds over 8:36.
"It's a good start," he said. "I've got to work my way back into the rotation and hopefully earn my minutes."
After the game, Dooling said he had "no complaints" about how he felt physically, but admitted he'll likely have to get treatment on his ailments for the rest of the season. Dooling, who preferred not to talk about return timelines during his absence, didn't want to harp on his injuries.
"A lot of guys are banged up. I'm not going to complain," he said. "I’m out there, I’m happy to be out there. There's a lot of guys that are ailing, I'm just one of the soliders, one of the wounded soldiers that are out there trying to perform."