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Better days ahead for C's

BOSTON -- The way the Celtics look at it, the car ran out of gas Thursday night and the bumper fell off long ago. Fortunately, there's a gas station in sight and it does repairs.

Still playing without a trio of key players and limping to the finish of a grueling stretch of four games in five nights and three cities, the Celtics sputtered through a 96-83 loss to the Chicago Bulls Thursday at TD Garden.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers is the last person to make excuses, but asked if Boston had enough depth to remain competitive, even he took a hopeful approach that help is just around the bend.

"We just have a lot of injuries right now," said Rivers. "When you have a lot of injuries, when three of your top six players go out, pick any team you want -- it's going to be tough.

"We want to win all these games. We're working our way through it and we're doing OK, but we want to do even better. Hopefully we get Rasheed [Wallace] back Monday or Wednesday, and Kevin [Garnett] at the end of the week. But we can't wait for them. We've just got to play every night."

While disappointment permeated the Celtics' locker room, there was also an overwhelming sense that the worst is over. Sure, Boston fell to 4-6 in its last 10 games. Yes, the Celtics have already matched their total number of home losses from all of last season.

Yet, even as they wait for the tow truck, the Celtics still boast the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and have been competitive in just about every game during the stretch, despite the injuries, illnesses and scheduling difficulties they've encountered.

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