After two thrilling games between the Bulls and Celtics in Boston, Game 3 in Chicago wasn’t even close.
Paul Pierce scored 24 points, Rajon Rondo added 20 and the defending
champions beat the Chicago Bulls 107-86 on Thursday night to take a 2-1
lead in their first-round playoff series.
Willing to defer in the first two games, Pierce took the initiative as the Celtics seized control.
“We know what kind of team we are,’’ Pierce said. “The way we played tonight is the way we want to play.’’
The teams split two dramatic games in Boston, but this one was never
really in doubt. With Pierce and Rondo leading the way, the Celtics led
by 11 after one quarter and 22 at the half on their way to an easy win.
Rondo looked just fine for most of the night after spraining his right ankle in Game 2 and missing practice Tuesday.
He hit eight of 15 shots, grabbed 11 rebounds, dished out six assists
and collected five of Boston’s 16 steals, but afterward two teammates
helped him down the hallway afterward.
“I didn’t want to limp in,’’ said Rondo, averaging 22.7 points, 9.7
assists and 10.7 rebounds in the series. “Everything’s fine with my
ankle. The bottom of my foot was hurting. I’m fine.’’
Elsewhere in the NBA it was: Dallas 88 San Antonio 67; and Utah 88 L.A. Lakers 86.
At Chicago, the Bulls covered the arena in rose petals in honour of
Derrick Rose, who was named Rookie of the Year on Wednesday, but they
couldn’t cover Pierce, Rondo or Allen. They couldn’t hang onto the
ball. They couldn’t shoot, and they couldn’t hit their free throws.
“The way we came out and played, the result is not a shock,’’ Chicago’s Ben Gordon said.
The Bulls committed 22 turnovers, shot 37.5 per cent from the field and
were 17-of-27 at the line after going 46-of-51 in the first two games.
The Celtics are in good shape heading into Game 4 Sunday even though
the injured Kevin Garnett is wearing a suit instead of a uniform these
Pierce asserted himself after two rather quiet games, hitting his first
six shots and going 9 of 15 overall. He was aggressive from the start,
setting the tone as the Celtics pulled away early.
“I thought it was beautiful how he played,’’ said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
Unlike the first two games, Pierce went right at the Bulls, scoring 13 in the first quarter as the Celtics grabbed a 32-21 lead.
He looked like his usual self after shooting 40 per cent while
averaging a rather quiet 20.5 points in the first two games. That he
didn’t assert himself earlier was a surprise, considering the man
guarding him — John Salmons — has a strained left groin.
Ray Allen added 18 points after scoring 30 and hitting the tiebreaking
3-pointer to lift the Celtics to a 118-115 victory in Game 2 on Monday.
Glen Davis chipped in 14 points, nine rebounds and six steals.
And Boston hit 12 of 21 three-pointers — four by Pierce and three by Allen.
Gordon scored 15 on 5-of-13 shooting after having 42 in Game 2, while Salmons added 14.
Rose, who scored 36 as the Bulls won the opener in overtime, got
outplayed for the second straight game by Rondo, finishing with nine
points, seven turnovers and two assists.
“Hopefully, it will help us knowing that we have to work like this,’’ Rose said.