In one of the more painful games to watch in recent memory, the Boston Celtics pulled out a 71-69 win over the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night.
If you ever wondered how to win a game while shooting 36.8 percent from the field, getting out-rebounded by 10, and scoring only 71 points, you should rewatch this one. Otherwise, let's get through this quickly.
The Celtics won this game despite scoring only eight points in the third quarter. Brandon Bass led all scorers with 14 points, while Paul Pierce was held to just 2-of-12 shooting.
Kevin Garnett and Joakim Noah got their dream matchup, as this was a sloppy defensive battle that featured two of the top defensive minds in the NBA on the sideline. Though Noah posted the better numbers, it was Garnett who got the last laugh, as the Celtics now go into the All-Star break on a reasonably high note.
The win, no matter how strange it was, move Boston to 28-24 on the season—1.5 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls drop their second straight and fall to 30-22—only a half-game ahead of those same Hawks.
Bear with me as we hit the Bleacher Report classroom to hand back some tests marked up in red ink.
Avery Bradley, BOS PG: C
This turned into a heated matchup that definitely introduced Avery Bradley to the Bulls-Celtics rivalry. Within five minutes, Bradley had sufficiently ticked off both Nate Robinson and Richard Hamilton.
His defense was pesky and tough all night, which unfortunately led to some early second-half foul trouble. He was a presence hindering everyone in a red uniform who tried to bring the ball up the court and helped hold the Bulls to 36.5 percent shooting.
Given the offensive standard that was set for this game, Bradley actually had a pretty good game all things considered. He scored 10 points, shooting 4-of-12 from the field, in just 26 minutes.
Nate Robinson, CHI PG: D+
It is clear the Bulls play with an extra skip in their step with Nate Robinson in the starting lineup.
He forced the issue constantly and never let up in going at Avery Bradley. Because of this, the Bulls got a handful of easy looks, including a couple Robinson sank. He provides a different look as a starter, and it seems like the rest of the team is working harder to keep up.
Unfortunately, as has always been the case with Robinson, things sometimes get too hectic and the Bulls wound up turning the ball over 20 times. Robinson wound up with just six points on 2-of-7 shooting, as he was unable to figure out the Celtics in the half court.
Defensively, he was covered by the overwhelming team defense of his teammates. Still, he allowed the Celtics backcourt a number of open shots, and was more fortunate than good that the majority of them missed.
Courtney Lee, BOS SG: C-
Courtney Lee is the winner of the irrelevant-shooting-guard matchup against Richard Hamilton.
Lee was pretty effective early on, scoring seven points, but that is all he would get. He saw only 28 minutes, with Boston leaning toward Jeff Green and Jason Terry down the stretch.
Lee shot 3-of-7 from the floor and finished with a rough minus-13.
Richard Hamilton, CHI SG: D-
Rip Hamilton made one nice play early in the game and then didn't factor into the game for the remainder of it.
He played just 18 minutes, not giving him much time to get anything going, and finished with two points on 1-of-6 shooting.
Luol Deng, CHI SF: C
Luol Deng always has one major duty when the Bulls face the Celtics, and that is to smother Paul Pierce.
He was outrageously successful in that goal, holding Pierce to a horrendous shooting night. Deng's length and athleticism gave his counterpart immense trouble in getting good looks at the basket.
The Bulls could have used more than 4-of-10 shooting and eight points from their star small forward, as adding in that mediocre offensive performance really evens out the final grade. But, for the most part, Deng did what was needed to win.
Paul Pierce, BOS SF: D+
He was bound to cool off eventually, so after such a hot couple of weeks, it wasn't too surprising that Pierce couldn't hit a thing Wednesday night.
Yikes, was he bad. Pierce finished 2-of-12 from the field for a measly eight points. He wasn't much of a factor during the Celtics' fourth-quarter run, either, but did will a three-pointer down late and iced the game with two free throws, saving him from an F. He also had six assists and six rebounds to help his case.
Brandon Bass, BOS PF: B+
Amid the Celtics' worst offensive game of the year, leave it to Brandon Bass to be the shining light.
The underperforming power forward was active from the get-go, scoring six points in the first quarter, capped off by an athletic putback dunk. Then, with the Celtics fading away to open the fourth, Bass scored six straight C's points to keep them right in it.
In one of Bass' better games of the year (and at a brilliant time for the Celtics), he finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, deserving the majority of the credit for this win.
Carlos Boozer, CHI PF: C+
Carlos Boozer tends to put up quiet but solid games every time Chicago faces Boston.
This time around, Boozer resembled the game to a T. He did not shoot remotely well, finishing 5-of-14 from the field. However, he visibly played very hard.
Boozer crashed the boards for 11 rebounds and delivered a couple tone-setting fouls in the paint.
Despite the loss and a fittingly weak offensive output, Boozer had a pretty bare-minimum double-double, scoring 11 points.
Kevin Garnett, BOS C: B+
The matchup everyone was looking at did not disappoint. The two centers went hard at each other all night in the low-scoring battle we have come to expect from these two squads.
Garnett played an increasingly rare, dirty inside game. He pounded the glass at both ends, earning four offensive rebounds and 11 total. His offense was sporadic, but with the shot clock expiring, Garnett hit the shot the Celtics needed him to make with 20 seconds left in the game. He wound up with his 15th double-double of the season, scoring 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting.
With two minutes remaining, Garnett earned the Celtics another possession the hard way. He dove and grabbed a Jimmy Butler turnover, hitting the floor hard. At 36 years old, that earns extra points in my book.
Joakim Noah, CHI C: B-
This is the type of game Joakim Noah lives for.
There was rarely a shot taken inside that he didn't contend, grabbed a game-high 16 rebounds, and did his part offensively as well with 10 points.
It wasn't all good for the Bulls' leader though. He had an uncharacteristic amount of turnovers, giving the ball up five times to just two assists.
Still, Noah was under control all game, a testament to his mental power. Not only are he and Kevin Garnett two of the best physical defenders in the league, they also play more mental games than anyone.
Truthfully, that is what makes this matchup so appealing to watch—even when nobody can buy a basket.
Jimmy Butler, CHI SF: C+
Jimmy Butler had himself a ferocious start to the game, scoring seven points in the first half.
It was typical of Butler's breakout season; his incredible athleticism allows him to break free of the best of defenders. He finished with 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting and grabbed six rebounds. Four of those boards were on the offensive side.
That shows just how active Butler is when he's on the court. And, defensively, he played a role in keeping Paul Pierce and Jeff Green to their 4-of-20 combined shooting.
Jeff Green, BOS SF: C
Jeff Green's points were fantastic. Unfortunately, they were few and far between.
Green took the ball aggressively to the basket with fair consistency, but finished only 2-of-8 from the field. Half of his eight points came from the free-throw line.
It was nice to see Green continue to look for his shot—something he has been doing with greater frequency over the last handful of games. In those games, though, he hit the shots. Wednesday night, they just weren't falling for him.
He did manage to grab five rebounds and was forced to play out of position some with Leandro Barbosa out.
Boston Celtics Bench: B-
Jason Terry continues to be a major factor in the Celtics' recent success. Whether it is scoring 26 points and coming up with plays in triple-overtime, or simply blocking a desperation jumper to save a hideous win, Terry is contributing.
After scoring 12 points and hitting a couple big threes, Terry snuck up behind Marco Belinelli and deflected his last-second jumper. After what Belinelli did to the Celtics the last time around, that block could not have been bigger.
Outside of Jeff Green, no other Celtic scored off the bench, but Chris Wilcox and Jason Collins were solid presences in the paint.
Chicago Bulls Bench: B-
The Bulls bench was shorthanded, just like Boston's, but they still came up with some solid play.
The aforementioned Marco Belinelli scored a team-high 12 points, even though he was unable to get that last shot off.
Marquis Teague had five points and three assists in 19 minutes of action. Taj Gibson was somewhat of a disappointment. He usually plays a bit more loudly against unathletic frontcourts like Boston's, but finished with just four points and three boards.