BOSTON -- The depleted Boston Celtics had just survived a 71-69 rock fight with the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night when Kevin Garnett injected some negativity into the post-game mood.
"This is definitely my last All-Star Game," Garnett, 36, said after his 12 points and 11 rebounds helped Boston to its eighth win in nine games without Rajon Rondo, one of three Celtics players lost for the season to surgeries in a span of 2 1/2 weeks.
Pressed on what he had said and reminded how well he is playing as he heads for his 15th All-Star Game this Sunday in Houston, Garnett said: "Ya'll don't know what I know, though, so ... let's just put it like this: I'm more than grateful for going, I'm not going to act like I got more All-Star Games in me, so I'm just going to actually enjoy this one with friends and family; that's what I meant."
Did he mean he will walk away from the remaining two years on the three-year contract he signed after last season? Did he mean he no longer sees himself as an All-Star after this visit? Did he mean if he is selected next season he will elect to stay home and rest?
The answer wasn't clear, fitting for a bizarre night that saw the Celtics set a franchise shot-clock-era record for fewest points in two consecutive quarters, totaling 19 while shooting 20.5 percent from the floor in the second and third.
"You've got to love this team, you really do," coach Doc Rivers said. "This group of guys. And we just keep talking about we choose to live. We're not going to just roll over. ... We have enough guys and there's no help coming."
Boston had only 10 players dressed (counting little-used rookie Fab Melo) after losing Leandro Barbosa for the season Monday night, after Rajon Rondo and rookie Jared Sullinger were previously lost to season-ending surgeries.
But they just keep winning.
They lost at lowly Charlotte on Monday night, but that was after a triple-overtime win over Denver in Boston the previous night. Rivers is mad at himself for even bringing Garnett to Charlotte, and he took the big guy out for a fourth-quarter rest Wednesday night.
Whatever the coach is doing is working. Garnett is averaging 15.1 points and 7.7 rebounds in 30.3 minutes per game.
The Celtics went 11-for-16 from the floor in the fourth quarter, when they used a 12-0 run over a 4:41 stretch to take the lead for good.
Boston almost gave it away at the end but didn't. The Bulls, who have played without star Derrick Rose all season and have guard Kirk Hinrich out because of an elbow injury, lost their fifth in the last seven games.
"We're short-handed," said Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau, whose team is 30-22. "We've been down multiple starters for a good part of our season, the entire season.
"So we exhale, relax, we're in trouble. So we gotta come out (after the All-Star break) with the right mindset, the right approach."
Boston scored 20 points in the first 8 1/2 minutes of the game, then went cold. The 19 in the middle two quarters broke the old mark off 22 in a loss at New Jersey on Jan. 9, 1990. The 71 points were the third-lowest scored by the club in a victory during the shot-clock era.
The teams combined for the third-lowest-scoring game of the NBA season.
The Celtics, who blew an 11-point first-half lead, trailed by eight late in the third quarter and were down by seven when they went on their run over a 4:41 span of the fourth. Brandon Bass started the run with two straight baskets, and Jeff Green capped it with a flying reverse slam.
Garnett hit two huge jumpers late.
The Bulls had a chance to win when, down by three with 6.2 seconds left, Nate Robinson hit a free throw and then missed the second on purpose.
There was a scramble and Chicago's Marco Belinelli, the hero the last time the Bulls were in Boston, tried a shot, but Terry swiped it away.
Taj Gibson picked the ball up and took a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it came up well short.
Bass led the Celtics with 14 points and nine rebounds and Terry added 12 points. Paul Pierce finished with eight points, six rebounds and six assists.
Belinelli led Chicago with 12 points off the bench. Jimmy Butler had 11 points and six rebounds. All-Star Joakim Noah finished with 10 points and 16 rebounds, Carlos Boozer contributed 11 points and 11 rebounds, while All-Star Luol Deng had only eight points.
NOTES: Pierce on the break: "It's coming at the right time." ... The win gave the Celtics a split of the four-game season series. ... Coach Doc Rivers on his team's injury woes: "We literally can't have another (injury). So if someone gets hurt, they can't get hurt. We have to ignore it." He said the Celtics will take their time on a roster addition or two. ... A day after Derrick Rose said he might not return from knee surgery this season, Noah said, "I think he'll be back when he's ready, whenever that is." The center indicated he didn't think Rose would miss the entire season after tearing his left ACL back in April. ... Rondo underwent right knee surgery on Tuesday, the operation performed by Dr. James Andrews, whose handiwork got the Minnesota Vikings' Adrian Peterson back on the football field sooner that might have expected. The Celtics feel Rondo will be ready for the start of next season. Barbosa will have knee surgery in about a month. GM Danny Ainge more than hinted the club would like to bring Barbosa back. ... The Celtics play 11 of their first 13 games after the break on the road, opening a five-game trip at Denver on Tuesday. The Bulls resume play at New Orleans the same night.