Deng and Noah Lead Rose-Less Bulls Past Celtics

Luol Deng scored 18 of his 26 points in the second half and Joakim Noah added 17 points and nine rebounds to rally the Chicago Bulls to a 93-86 win over the on Thursday night.

The Bulls again played without Derrick Rose, out due to a strained groin for the 12th consecutive game. Chicago, which has been without Rose for 22 games this season, improved to 15-7 in his absence — including 8-4 during the latest stretch.

“I think the big thing is you look at what you have. Our team has shown all year that we have great fight and we believe we can win with whoever we have out there and they have shown that all year,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Noah will be glad have Rose back, but does not want the Bulls to get complacent when Rose returns to the lineup.

“We definitely want Derrick back out there, he helps, but even when Derrick comes back it’s not going to be easy,” Noah said. “We have a long road ahead, a lot of games, a lot of battles. With Derrick back we have to play hungry. When we play hungry, we’re tough to beat.”

The Bulls rallied from 13 points down in the first half and pulled away in the fourth quarter to end their first two-game losing streak of the season. Trailing by 11 at halftime, Chicago outscored Boston 55-37 after the break — which had Celtics coach Doc Rivers steaming after the game.

“I had to use two timeouts … to remind us that we are actually having an NBA game tonight,” said Rivers. “I thought this was the worst loss for us this year the way we approached the game.”

Paul Pierce scored 22 points for Boston, who has lost two in a row after a winning a season-high five straight. Pierce had only one point in the fourth quarter.

“That was an unacceptable effort for us. I don’t say that very often. I don’t think I’ve ever said that before,” said Rivers.

Besides Deng’s offense, he was also a factor in Pierce’s struggles in the fourth quarter.

“He made a lot of big plays for us. We needed the scoring and that’s what he provided. He had a tough matchup with Pierce, he’s going to make you work,” Thibodeau said.

Rose, who last played March 12 in a win against New York, was a game-time decision. He practiced on Wednesday, taking contact for the first time since the injury, and said afterwards he was optimistic he will be able to play against the Knicks on Sunday.

“Obviously we are excited to get Derrick back as soon as possible, but we just need him back right,” said Noah.

Leading 74-73 in the fourth, Taj Gibson and Deng had back-to-back baskets, and after Avery Bradley’s steal and layup for Boston, Kyle Korver made a 3 to give Chicago a 81-75 lead with about 7 minutes remaining.

Later in the quarter, Deng had eight points during a 10-4 run that was capped by Carlos Boozer’s dunk to put the Bulls up 91-81 with 1:42 left.

The Celtics gave the Bulls a little scare in the final two minutes. Rajon Rondo had a breakaway layup and Ray Allen’s 3-pointer was changed to a 2 after a replay, pulling Boston to 91-86 with 42.3 left. Rondo missed a 3 with 10 seconds left that would’ve cut the Celtics’ deficit to three points.

“We had a good lead. They didn’t have their star (Rose) in the game. But they’ve won a lot of games without him. So you can’t take them for granted,” said Pierce.

C.J. Watson finished with 15 points and Boozer had 12 points and 14 rebounds for Chicago.

Trailing 56-47 with 8:10 left in the third quarter, the Bulls scored eight straight points to cut Boston’s lead to one. After Brandon Bass’ putback dunk, Watson made back-to-back 3s to give Chicago a 61-58 lead with 3:42 to go in the period.

Leading 38-33, the Celtics went on a 11-3 run late in the second quarter, capped by Rondo’s runner that gave the Celtics a 13-point lead. Watson made two free throws to cut the Celtics lead to 49-38 at halftime.

Rondo had 10 points and 12 assists for Boston after an 87-86 loss to the Spurs at home on Wednesday night.

NOTES: Allen came off the bench for the fifth time in his career. He scored 14 points. Before playing on Wednesday, Allen missed six games with a sore right ankle.

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Cole Comes Up Big, Heat Beat Celtics 115-107

No, this wasn’t a scene from his days at Cleveland State.

Taking over in just his second NBA game — and with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all on the floor, no less — Cole scored 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, including three huge jumpers down the stretch to save the Heat in a 115-107 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night.

“You grow up and live for moments like that,” Cole said.

James scored 26 points, Wade had 24 points, eight assists and four blocks, and Bosh scored 18 for the Heat, which led by 20 points midway through the third quarter before having its lead twice sliced to three points in the final minutes. And both times, Cole took passes from James and knocked down jumpers, keeping short-handed Boston at bay.

“He’s got savvy,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “Great pickup.”

Ray Allen scored 28 points on 8 for 12 shooting for the Celtics, while Rajon Rondo finished with 22 points and 12 assists and Keyon Dooling scored 18 off the Boston bench.

Through two games, Miami (2-0) has trailed only once — by two points, for all of 14 seconds. Boston turned the ball over 24 times, and Miami turned those into 33 points.

“Any team you turn the ball over that much they’re going to score on you,” Allen said. “We just have to settle in on both ends of the floor. Whether you score or not, they’re going to run down your throats.”

Cole’s jumper with 3:01 left gave Miami a 108-98 lead, most of which disappeared in the next 59 seconds, thanks to Dooling — a former Heat guard. He scored seven straight points, including a 3-pointer with 2:02 remaining, cutting the Heat’s lead to three. And when Boston got a stop on the next Miami trip, the Celtics looked for Dooling again.

But Wade stepped in front of a pass intended for Dooling, starting a play where James found Cole for another jumper, and Miami’s cushion was back to 110-105 with 1:31 to play. A half-minute later, Cole struck again to restore the five-point edge, and Miami had the win.

“He’s earned their respect,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Even though it’s been a short period of time, about three weeks, because he’s pure, he’s all about the team. He’s mature … and he gets them the ball. You’re always a popular guy when you find people when they’re open.”

Boston was again without forward Paul Pierce (bruised right heel), who worked out both Monday and Tuesday and is getting closer to a return. It won’t come on Wednesday, however — the Celtics have already ruled him out of that game in New Orleans, but there is some hope of Pierce being in the lineup when Boston makes its home debut against Detroit on Friday.

Maybe spurred by the new Eastern Conference championship banner hanging from the rafters, Miami came out flying.

A short bank shot by Wade made it 26-15 at barely the midpoint of the first quarter, setting the tone for an offensive bonanza the likes of which Boston typically doesn’t allow. After a late flurry — James setting up Wade for a lob, Wade missing at the rim but James trailing for a tip-in being perhaps the most impressive of Miami’s highlight reel to close the second quarter — the Heat took a 69-54 lead into the locker room.

That represented the most first-half points allowed by the Celtics since Feb. 8, 2005, according to STATS LLC.

Six straight points by James made it 85-65 midway through the third, and Miami was well on its way to a blowout. But then everything changed — Boston went to a zone, and Miami’s offense stopped in its tracks.

Feasting on Miami’s second unit, with James being the only starter on the floor, the Celtics closed the third on an 18-6 run to make it 91-83 entering the fourth. The Heat missed their last eight shots of the quarter — after having missed 14, total, in the first 32 minutes of the game.

Boston never got the lead down the stretch, though, thanks to Cole.

“We have confidence in whoever’s on the floor at that time,” James said. “For him to make those shots and come up big in a game like that, give credit to him.”

NOTES: After two games, the Heat have 131 points in first halves this season. After three games last season, Miami had 130 first-half points. … Celtics F Chris Wilcox didn’t play in the second half because of a bruised left shoulder. X-rays were negative. … The Heat said the luster of the matchup wasn’t hurt by Pierce not being available. “We play the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back,” Wade said. … Celebrity sightings included Miami Dolphins RB Reggie Bush, rapper Rick Ross and retired tennis star Boris Becker.

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