CHICAGO -- Joakim Noah proved you don't have to be a point guard to pile up the assists. The Chicago center recorded his second triple-double of the season as the Bulls rolled over Boston 100-89 on Tuesday at the United Center.
Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo leads the league in assists by a wide margin. He finished with 26 points and eight assists on this night, while Noah stole the show with 11 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
"I always tell everybody I'm a point center anyway," said Noah, who is averaging 4.5 assists on the season. "I always feel like I can pass the ball. I feel more comfortable with the offense. We have a lot of people who can score in different ways."
Boston coach Doc Rivers went a step further when describing what Noah's passing and playmaking meant to the Bulls.
"At times, without (injured guard Derrick) Rose, we really consider him their point guard," Rivers said. "He makes their decisions. He bails them out. I bet 10 times in the first half, it was a late clock, he flashes to the ball and makes a play, either by scoring or with his passing. He's just an extremely high IQ basketball player. I've said it for four years now, and it's getting higher and higher."
Chicago was in control most of the way, opening a 13-point advantage in the second quarter. The Celtics got as close as three in the third quarter, but the Bulls poured it on late, building a 95-75 lead with six minutes remaining. Boston scored the game's final 10 points while both sides substituted heavily.
Luol Deng scored 21 points for Chicago, while Carlos Boozer added 21 points and 12 rebounds. Starting point guard Kirk Hinrich went scoreless, but backup Nate Robinson, a one-time Celtic, more than made up for it with 18 points.
Paul Pierce scored 16 points and Courtney Lee had 14 for Boston, which lost its third straight game.
The Bulls dropped a defensive struggle at Memphis on Monday night. They scored more points in the first half against Boston (55) than they had at the end of three quarters against the Grizzlies (53).
"I thought we showed a lot of toughness," Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau said. "I thought we played hard last night, too. We moved the ball a lot better tonight and that made a big difference in the game."
Chicago made its first run early in the second quarter, when baskets by Noah, Robinson and reserve forward Jimmy Butler made it 42-29. Both sides shot better than 50 percent from the field in the first half.
Rondo led a third-quarter push, scoring 13 points in the quarter and bringing Boston within 70-67 by following his own miss with 3:39 left in the third.
The Bulls answered with a 9-0 run, then back-to-back 3-pointers by Robinson made it 87-73 with just under nine minutes remaining. Robinson hit 5-of-7 attempts from 3-point range on the night.
Boston finished a three-game road trip with its third straight loss and dropped to .500 on the season. The Celtics were widely expected to be one of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference.
"This team is not a good team right now," Rivers said. "We're going to keep searching. I think we have the group. We've got to find the right combination at the right time. We're going to keep searching."
NOTES: Before becoming head coach of the Bulls, Tom Thibodeau was an assistant in Boston for three years. Celtics coach Doc Rivers paid tribute to Thibodeau's job performance before Tuesday's game. Chicago had allowed 87 points in its previous 12 games. "I know early into the season Thibs was frustrated with their ability to defend, but now I think they're terrific," Rivers said. "They're back to what they were." ... Bulls rookie Marquis Teague played well in two victories while Kirk Hinrich was out with a bruised left knee. When Hinrich returned to the lineup at Memphis on Monday, Teague didn't play at all. The former Kentucky point guard logged five minutes in the first half against Boston. ... Celtics guard Rajon Rondo had seven turnovers in the two previous games, losses at Houston and San Antonio. "Just trying to do too much, force it instead of letting the ball find the scorer," Rivers said. ... Chicago forward Taj Gibson hurt his ankle during the game, but continued to play and predicted he won't miss any time.