Bulls 94, Celtics 78
Deng scored 17 points and held Pierce to eight points on 2-of-14 shooting, leading the surging Chicago Bulls to a 94-78 victory over the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
It was the second time Deng held Pierce to his season low of eight points. In the first game of the season between the teams, a 100-82 Chicago victory on Dec. 4, Deng forced Pierce into a 4-of-13 shooting night.
The Celtics and Bulls play their third and final game of the season on Tuesday, this time in Chicago.
“I’m not going to hype it up as two straight so he comes out fired up on Tuesday,” Deng said. “We just did a great job as a team. I just forced him into the help. We did a good job of crowding him and not giving him easy looks.”
Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose team has lost seven straight to Chicago, was more straightforward.
“It’s Deng,” Rivers said. “Deng so far has done a terrific job on him 1-on-1. It’s rare that a guy can do that. But it’s been six or seven games in a row that Deng’s gotten up into him. He denies the catch, makes him work, catch it off his spot. Obviously, we have to do a better job to try to get him free. But then Paul probably has to shake the Deng off of him.”
Kirk Hinrich scored 26 points and Ben Gordon added 21 to help Chicago finish its road trip 3-1 and improve to 8-3 since the All-Star break. At 37-28, the Bulls have their best record after 65 games since starting 48-17 in 1997-98, Michael Jordan’s final season with Chicago.
Jefferson, who had averaged 25.8 points and 15.3 rebounds in the previous four games, finished with 10 points and six rebounds.
“I was aware of how he was playing,” Wallace said. “I was just trying to stay in front of him, make him shoot over the top, force him off the block a little bit.”
The Bulls led 48-41 at halftime, holding Pierce to two points on 0-of-6 shooting and Jefferson to four in the first half.
“When I got the ball, Ben did a great job,” Jefferson said. “You just got to take what Wallace gives you, and I just never got in a good flow with him. It’s a big challenge to go against him.”
Boston clawed back in the third thanks to Green, who scored eight in the quarter—including two on a reverse dunk in traffic. Tyrus Thomas and Gordon, however, had an answer to everything.
Gordon nailed a 3-pointer after Pierce’s jumper had pulled Boston to 50-49, then hit a long jumper to regain the lead for Chicago after Green’s layup tied it at 55 midway through the third.
Thomas’ hook shot snapped a 57-all tie and gave Chicago the lead for good. Thomas then blocked Pierce’s layup attempt in the closing seconds to preserve Chicago’s 66-63 lead heading into the fourth.
Boston cut the deficit to 71-69 early in the final quarter, but Deng scored six during an 11-0 Chicago spurt to blow it open. The Bulls outscored the Celtics 28-15 in the fourth.
“I didn’t feel like it was a beautiful game or anything,” Chicago coach Scott Skiles said. “But when we had an opportunity to put them away we did.”
Boston rookie F Leon Powe scored a career-high 11 points. … The Celtics wore their St. Patrick’s Day gold-trimmed green jerseys. … Boston G Delonte West missed his second game with a mild concussion, while F Ryan Gomes sat out his second game with a sprained left foot. … Chicago F Malik Allen stayed behind in Chicago after spending Thursday night in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat. He was released from the hospital Friday.