CHICAGO - No one knows the vaunted defensive system of Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau quite as well as Boston's Doc Rivers. Thibodeau was a Celtics assistant from 2007 to 2010 and the two won an NBA championship together in 2008.
Boston tore up that defense to the tune of 58 points and 59.5 percent shooting in the first half to take control of Monday's game at the United Center.
Celtics guard Rajon Rondo piled up 20 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds, as the Celtics held off a late Bulls' surge to post a 101-95 victory over Chicago.
"(I have) no more (advantage) than he has on me," Rivers said. "We do the same thing. It's no secret defensively. We come from the same place - the Dick Harter school of defense, and the Pat Riley and Jeff Van Gundy. We come from the same place. So I don't think it's an advantage either way."
This had the potential to be a good night for Rondo when the Bulls announced defensive-minded point guard Kirk Hinrich would sit out with a right hip strain. Then Thibodeau used rookie Marquis Teague in the fourth quarter instead of backup Nate Robinson.
"I think he's starting to really get comfortable with the players on the floor, with what he can call," Rivers said of Rondo. "You can see that coming on."
Forward Brandon Bass scored 16 points and Kevin Garnett added 15 for the Celtics. Luol Deng led Chicago with 26 points and 11 rebounds., while Joakim Noah had 17 points and 11 rebounds.
After trailing by 13 points early in the fourth quarter, the Bulls put together a furious rally, getting as close as 95-93 with 49 seconds left when Taj Gibson rebounded a missed free throw and fed Deng for a bank shot.
Needing a basket, Boston went to a pick-and-roll with Rondo and Garnett. When both Gibson and Noah jumped at Rondo, he tossed an easy lob to Garnett for a dunk with 41.9 seconds left.
The Bulls quickly drew a foul, but Gibson missed both free throws and the Celtics put things away with a Bass dunk with 22.4 seconds remaining.
"The difference in the fourth quarter, we tried," Thibodeau said. "To me, if we come into a game against a quality team like that, if we think we can just trade baskets with them, you're not going to be successful."
The Bulls held Boston to 19 points and 35-percent shooting in the second half, but it was too little and too late.
"It's unfortunate we couldn't play with that kind of energy for 48 minutes," Noah said. "We played kind of desperate at the end and came close. We're going to get better. We've got to keep fighting and not point fingers right now. Stay together as a group."
It seemed like this just wasn't the Bulls' night when Boston finished the third quarter with a three-pointer from rookie big man Jared Sullinger, boosting its lead to 82-70.
But the home team came alive with a 10-0 run, while holding the Celtics scoreless for more than five minutes. Noah scored seven points in the surge and his free throw brought Chicago within 87-84 with 8:23 remaining.
The Bulls then failed to score on six straight possessions while trailing by three. Jason Terry finally broke Boston's drought by draining a jumper with 4:54 left.
The Celtics dominated Chicago's defense in the first half while building a 58-46 lead.
Boston was credited with 10 fast-break points before halftime, and it seemed as though the Celtics were constantly beating the Bulls back on defense after forced shots or careless turnovers.
After hitting nine of their first 13 field-goal attempts, Boston opened an early 23-12 advantage. Chicago got as close as three points a few times before a 10-0 Celtics run made it 51-38 with 3:24 left in the first half.
NOTES: Hinrich missed Monday's game with a right hip strain. He sat out the second half of Saturday's game against Minnesota with the injury and had an MRI exam Sunday morning. His status is officially listed as day-to-day. ... Boston forward Jeff Green left the game in the second quarter with a mild right ankle sprain, which occurred when he stepped on teammate Garnett's foot on a drive to the basket. Green returned to the game. ... Thibodeau said injured guard Derrick Rose is expected to work on his knee rehabilitation in Los Angeles while the Bulls are away on a five-game road trip, which starts Wednesday in Phoenix.