CHICAGO You just knew that sooner or later the Chicago Bulls were going to make a run and force the Boston Celtics to scurry for defensive stops and a much-needed bucket or two.
It has been like that the last couple of years, especially at the United Center.
But rather than stick to the usual script, the Celtics ad-libbed this one and delivered an unexpected ending in Chicago - a Celtics victory as Boston managed to edge the undermanned Bulls, 101-95.
In addition to Derrick Rose (torn ACL, left knee), the Bulls (4-3) also played without Kirk Hinrich who was out with a hamstring injury. Replacing Hinrich in the starting lineup was former Celtic Nate Robinson, who had 11 points and seven rebounds.
Rajon Rondo led the way with a near triple-double of 20 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists.
His last assist came on a baseline dunk by Brandon Bass with 22.4 seconds to play that all but secured the Celtics' win.
Not only did Monday's victory push the Celtics (4-3) above-.500 for the first time this season, it also snapped a five-game losing streak at the United Center.
In addition, Boston's 101 points scored also snapped the Bulls 15-game streak (dating back to last season) of limiting opponents to less than 100 points.
But the Bulls did their best to keep the game interesting up until the very end.
With the Celtics ahead 95-91, Luol Deng missed a pair of free throws. The Celtics, about as rebounding-challenged a team as you'll find in the NBA, failed to secure the loose ball that ultimately wound up in Deng's hands for a lay-up.
And just like that, the Celtics' comfortable lead was a one-possession game, 95-93, with 49.5 seconds to play.
Doc Rivers called a time-out, knowing full well his team was on the verge of letting yet another game in his hometown, get away from his club.
But down the stretch, Boston got all the necessary stops defensively in addition to some much-needed free throws.
Chicago's late-game surge was indeed too little, too late on a night when the Celtics led from the very beginning.
Signs of a Bulls comeback surfaced in the third quarter when Chicago had trimmed Boston's lead which peaked at 14 points in the quarter, back to single digits.
It appeared that would be their deficit going into the fourth quarter, but a last-second 3-pointer by Jared Sullinger gave the Celtics an 82-70 lead going into the decisive fourth quarter.
Boston opened the game with a steady dose of timely shot-making and stellar defense as their lead peaked at 11 points in the first.