for this game

Pierce, Celtics cruise past Bulls

Mar 8, 2008 - 5:21 AM By Mike Petraglia PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

BOSTON (Ticker) -- The Boston Celtics showed Friday night that they are far from satisfied with just clinching an Eastern Conference playoff berth.

Paul Pierce scored 16 of his team-high 22 points in the third quarter and Kevin Garnett added 16 as the Celtics showed no hangover from their emotional win over Detroit, easily dispatching of the Chicago Bulls, 116-93, at TD Banknorth Garden.

Pierce and Garnett were rested the entire fourth quarter by coach Doc Rivers, leaving Garnett to wait until Saturday in Memphis to score the seven points needed to become the 32nd player in NBA history to reach 20,000 points.

"I think its great back-to-back, especially this late in the season, you get weary legs," Pierce said of the rest late in the game. "I think lately (coach) Doc (Rivers) has been doing a great job with our minutes.

"Me playing 24, Kevin playing about the same going into Memphis who can be a scary team when they have so much young talent, and a team you never want to take for granted."

Chicago was the road-weary team Friday, 24 hours after beating Cleveland at home.

"We caught a team clearly that was tired and we played with great energy," Rivers said. "That's a good combination for us. The offensive ball movement in the first half, and then the third quarter, was as good as you're going to see. And defensively was just solid. So, I was just happy. Good win. Good win for us."

Rajon Rondo also scored 16 points for Boston, which won its seventh straight and improved to an NBA-best 48-12, including 28-4 at home. Only Utah, at 27-3, is better in the league on its home floor.

"I don't even know our record, we don't even talk about it," Garnett said. "I think Doc said before pregame (Friday) that he didn't know our record and I felt a little better because I didn't know it. Up until seeing it come across the screen I didn't (know) we had clinched the playoff berth."

The Celtics led from start to finish and held a 44-36 lead after Ben Gordon's jumper cut the margin to single digits with 5:20 remaining in the second quarter.

But the Celtics responded with the next nine points en route to finishing the first half on a 19-7 run and took a 63-43 lead at the break.

The combination of Garnett and center Kendrick Perkins helped the Celtics dominate inside, as they had a season-high 55 rebounds compared to 35 for the Bulls.

"I think we came out with a lot of energy and a lot of focus, kept the intensity up," Perkins said. "We came out playing team ball. Came out and got the win. That was the only thing I could ask for."

Chicago's frustration began to boil over as starting power forward Drew Gooden argued an offensive foul and was ejected for consecutive technical fouls with 55.1 seconds remaining in the second quarter.

"I don't really want to get too much into officiating," Gooden said. "I think you guys saw what I saw out there, you guys were probably watching this game closer than I was watching this game throughout the years. I think it was a little awkward tonight, but you know, at the end of the day we can't rely on the refs."

With Boston continuing its onslaught early in the third and building the lead up to as many as 28, Bulls interim coach Jim Boylan picked up his team's third technical of the game. Larry Hughes earned Chicago's fourth technical with 1:13 remaining in the third.

P.J. Brown made his debut for the Celtics with 1:24 remaining in the third quarter and Boston leading, 90-68. Brown received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd.

Gordon finished with 20 points to lead Chicago, which fell to 4-5 since taking part in the 11-player, three-team blockbuster trade with Seattle and Cleveland on February 21.

With the loss, Chicago (25-37) failed to extend its winning streak to three games, which would have been a season best.

"Celtics are a very good defensive team as they showed tonight," Boylan said. "One of the things you need to do against them is make your open shots. We struggled in that area tonight. You know we had some looks but they didn't go down for us.

"We were fatigued and they beat us up on the glass. We just didn't seem to have an answer for them. In the second half, we tried to muster it up but could never get anything going."

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