(WSCR) – The Chicago Bulls have lost the previous two games while the Celtics were on a four-game winning streak. That changed Saturday when the Bulls blocked the Celtics from getting ahead and taking a 90-79 victory.
Derrick Rose scored 36 points, Carlos Boozer added 22 points and 10 rebounds, and the Chicago Bulls cooled off the Boston Celtics with a 90-79 victory on Saturday night.
Rose set career highs for free throws made and attempted with a 15-for-19 performance from the line, driving by Rajon Rondo over and over again before usually drawing contact from one or more of Boston’s big men. Rondo and Jermaine O’Neal each finished the game with five fouls and Shaquille O’Neal had four.
Paul Pierce had 21 points and Ray Allen added 19 for Boston, which had won four straight and five of seven. The Celtics also dropped to 5-2 since star forward Kevin Garnett went out with a right calf injury.
The Bulls, trying to avoid a season-worst third straight loss, grabbed control with a 9-1 run that started at the end of the third and carried over into the fourth. Boozer capped the spurt with a jumper that gave Chicago a 73-65 lead.
Rose carried the Bulls home from there. He hit consecutive jumpers with 5 minutes remaining to extend the lead to double digits and again heard chants of “MVP! MVP!” from the United Center crowd when his 3-pointer in the final minute made it 90-77.
Rondo finished with 13 points and eight assists for Boston, which dropped to 2-1 against Chicago this season. The Celtics forced 21 turnovers but were outrebounded 48-27.
The Bulls ripped through December and carried it over into 2011, winning 14 of 16 while playing against some of the worst teams in the league. The surge included four victories over lowly Cleveland and Toronto, and 13 games against teams that began Saturday with a sub.-500 record.
Chicago’s successful run ended Wednesday at New Jersey, when coach Tom Thibodeau left Boozer on the bench for the entire fourth quarter in a 96-94 loss. Then the 76ers avenged last month’s 45-point loss at the United Center with a 105-99 victory in Philadelphia on Friday night.
So it looked bleak for the Bulls, with the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics coming to town for Chicago’s sixth game in nine days.
Thibodeau’s team responded with a gritty effort, led by Rose.
Jermaine O’Neal, playing with a sore right knee, made two free throws to give Boston a 30-26 lead with 8:10 left in the second quarter. But the Bulls responded with a 9-2 spurt, powered by an impressive stretch from Boozer.
After two nifty moves inside, he hit a turnaround jumper to give the Bulls a 32-30 lead. Boston called timeout and Rondo tied it again with a driving layup before Boozer converted a three-point play to put Chicago in front again.
Boozer later made a nice pass inside to Ronnie Brewer, who converted a reverse layup despite a foul by Allen. Brewer’s free throw gave Chicago a 40-34 lead with 3:32 left in the second.
Brewer finished with 10 points and Luol Deng had nine after getting off to a rough start.
NOTES: Celtics rookie Luke Harangody, who set career highs with 17 points and 11 rebounds in the victory over Toronto, failed to score in 13 minutes. … Chicago Bears wide receivers Devin Hester and Johnny Knox, cornerback Danieal Manning and kicker Robbie Gould all attended the game. The Bears earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs. … Director Ron Howard and Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. also were at the game. … Garnett, averaging 15 points and 9.5 rebounds, could be back next week.
AP Sports Writer Jay Cohen contributed to this report.