Doc Rivers said before Monday nights tilt with the Bulls that he hoped his Celtics team could play a solid, 48-minute game.
Rivers didnt get his wish, as the Celtics nearly lost a 13-point fourth quarter, but their veteran leadership and ability to regroup late wouldnt let them falter down the stretch in their 101-95 win in Chicago.
The Celtics had moved through three quarters without any hiccups, scoring 82 points against a Bulls defense that hadnt allowed 100 points in 15 straight games. But following a Kevin Garnett jumper at the 10:08 mark of the fourth quarter, the Celtics went more than five minutes without scoring. They missed nine shots and allowed a 10-0 Bulls run that pulled Chicago pull within three with five minutes to play.
But Rivers group righted the ship down the stretch, connecting on five of their last eight shots to end the game. Jason Terry, who had six of his 13 points in the final quarter, ended the Celtics scoreless streak with a jumper and said Monday night was a position many of the players in the Boston locker room dont mind being in.
We're a veteran ball club and we thrive in situations where it's a tight ball game, he said. We've all been in that situation plenty of times. We know what we have to do to close games out. On one end it's get stops defensively, and offensively make or miss the shot that we want and we were able to do that.
Fourth quarter is my time of the game, and I'm just happy to be out there with players that feel the same way, Terry added. So it gives us multiple options.
The Celtics entered the fourth quarter with momentum, following a Jared Sullinger 3-pointer to beat the buzzer at the end of the third. It gave Boston an 82-70 lead, and Paul Pierce said he thought the Celtics could have pulled away with a good start to the quarter.
I thought a few times, when we were up 12, 14 points we had a chance to push the game to 20 but we didn't, Pierce said. That just shows you that they're a resilient team, well-coached, and they have players that are more than capable.
The Celtics didn't pull away, following the stagnant offensive stretch, but Kevin Garnett, who scored six in the fourth quarter, was happy with how the Celtics moved the ball late against to get the offense back in rhythm. Boston assisted on each of their final five baskets.
I thought we did a good job of moving the ball tonight, Garnett said. Against a great defense you have to do that, and I thought we shared the wealth tonight.
Rajon Rondo had four assists in the quarter, including three in the final two minutes to keep his streak of games with 10 assists or more alive at 31, and efforts from a clutch Terry late and even Chris Wilcox, who added two crucial free throws in the final minutes, drew praise from head coach Doc Rivers.
Overall I just told them I thought it was a good team win, Rivers said. I thought every single guy did something, from Jared's 3 to Chris Wilcox's 3-point play and Jason Terry comes off the bench when they're making a run.
It was just a lot of great efforts tonight.