CHICAGO (AP) -- Five years into their rebuilding project, the
Chicago Bulls might actually have the makings of a decent NBA team.
Four players finished in double figures and three reached double
digits in rebounds for the Bulls, who won for the fourth time in
"Winning is just like losing, it's contagious,'' said Jalen
Rose, whose 24 points led the Bulls. "I think guys are getting
excited about getting a few wins. Now we've got to find a way to
ride this momentum."
Don't be alarmed, but the Bulls are actually talking about the
playoffs. And doing it with straight faces.
At 8-16, Chicago is two games behind Atlanta for what would be
the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference. It's way too early to
sell playoff tickets, but the Bulls can be forgiven for getting a
"The eighth spot is not saying a lot, but it's saying a lot for
a team that hasn't been in the playoffs for four years,'' said
Marcus Fizer, who had a big night off the bench, scoring 20 and
tying his career high with 17 rebounds.
The Bulls still have their issues, for sure. They shot less than
36 percent, missed 16 free throws and gave away 18 points on 22
But on this night, somebody else's problems were worse. The
Celtics -- an Eastern Conference finalist last year -- shot a
season-low 33 percent and were outrebounded 58-46. The NBA's
leading 3-point team was only 5-of-24 from long range.
Paul Pierce had 37 points and 15 rebounds, but he was 10-of-28
from the floor and got 16 of his points on free throws. Antoine
Walker was 2-of-12 through three quarters, though he finished with
16 points before fouling out with 2:18 to play.
"It was difficult to lose this one, especially when we thought
we were playing well and getting in a groove," Pierce said.
"Every time we made a run and cut it to three or four points, they
made a big 3 and that was the difference.
They made the big shots, big rebounds and we didn't."
The Celtics did show some life in the fourth quarter when Walker
got untracked. After Pierce hit a 19-footer, Walker forced a
turnover and scored on a fast-break layup.
He scored on another driving layup and then hit a 3-pointer to
pull the Celtics to 68-65 with 8:13 to play, the closest they'd
been since early in the second quarter.
The Bulls committed an offensive foul on their next possession,
forcing coach Bill Cartwright to call a timeout. But the break
didn't stop Walker, who came right back with a short jumper,
pulling Boston within one, 68-67.
But Marshall put the game away for good two minutes later,
hitting a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer to make it 80-73 with
4:09 left. Pierce converted a three-point play with 3:02 to play,
but Jay Williams answered back with his own 3, and Walker fouled
out on the Bulls' next possession.
Fizer made both of the free throws, and the Celtics didn't have
the bodies to make another run.
"We're finding ways to be disciplined when teams make a run," Rose said. "Guys are really starting to feel like we're going to
find a way to win."
The Celtics can blame their poor first half for this loss,
especially the second quarter. They made just one of their first 12
shots and shot 17.6 percent. They didn't make a field goal until
there was 4:31 left in the half, getting their only points until
then on three free throws.
"It's just one of those things," Walker said. "Sometimes you
can't beat some teams the way you want to beat them. We'll be fine.
We know how to figure out what went wrong, make adjustments and
Pierce's double-double was his fifth straight, a first in
his career. ... The Bulls got another strong night from their
bench, led by Fizer. "Our bench has been fine," Cartwright said
before the game. "I'm more worried with how we're starting. When
we start games, we come out of the blocks and lead that first
quarter, we win those games." ... Having already faced each other
four times in the first two months, the Bulls and Celtics have
wrapped up their season series. Each team won twice.
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