Once the Bulls were over their collective hangover, allowing 35 points on nearly 60% shooting to the Celtics in the first quarter, they battled back and eventually took over for a win. The 4th was a disaster for the Celtics, who are young and pretty bad and even Rajon Rondo joined them in the bad department late in the game. The Bulls held them to 11 points in the final frame on 5-26 shooting, with Rondo going 1-8, and 0-2 on final minute free-throws. The Bulls really dominated defensively around the rim led by a returning (for over 36 minutes, so maybe the knee was a lot less scary than we'd feared?) Joakim Noah's 6 blocks. The final swat of Evan Turner was followed by a jumper on the other end, the only real solid offensive possession late by either team.
Noah missed a lot of attempts himself around the rim but otherwise had a fantastic day, adding those 6 blocks to 6 assists, 15 points, and 14 total rebounds. Noah had 7 offensive rebounds helping him get to the line to hit 7-8. Though you'd think the Celtics front line would be susceptible to offensive boards, they actually came in to today 5th in the league, allowing under 24% OReb%. The Bulls destroyed this margin, getting over 37% of the available offensive boards. Even Nikola Mirotic had some moments battling for those (and had one of his better games of the season overall, with 13 points on 6 shots. And 5 blocks!), and pulled down 3 offensive boards.
What the Celtics big did try and do was stretch out towards the 3-point line. Jared Sullinger singlehandedly made the Bulls pay with this strategy going 4-9 from three for 23 points. So while the Bulls defense was getting torched for much of the game early from midrange and three, and did allow more open looks especially to start that 4th, there was some regression at work as the Boston offense fell apart.
Derrick Rose also returned (in a sense) after his half-game on Tuesday, and looked quite a bit better. Rose was key in getting the Bulls the lead in the 2nd half with a blistering first 4 minutes where he hit two threes as a part of 12 points in that time. He missed his other 4 attempts from three though, and looked a step slow defensively, but it shows how talented he is by even not looking great still scoring 21 points on 18 shots with 4 assists. His transition game was especially solid even if there is still some work to be done in the half-court, where the Bulls 4th quarter offense overall wasn't very telegenic but was more than enough over a choking Boston team. The Bulls tried a lot of post-ups and were slow to get things going, and though it worked out well with Jimmy Butler (another huge FT game more than making up 6-15 shooting), Pau Gasol really struggled with 6-19 shooting for his 15 points.
The Bulls have another strangely-early start in Brooklyn on Sunday, and it'll likely fit a similar template. Eastern Conference!