First Impressions: Bulls 96, Celtics 83


BOSTON -- Instant reaction after the Chicago Bulls posted a 96-83 triumph over the Boston Celtics Thursday night at the TD Garden:

How the game was won:Luol Deng paced all five Bulls starters in double figures with 25 points as Chicago built an early lead and held off a handful of Boston charges. Paul Pierce paced the Celtics with 20 points and 8 rebounds, while Kendrick Perkins registered a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds).

Turning point: The Bulls scored nine consecutive points during a stretch starting less than three minutes into the game to help build a 10-point cushion that the Celtics could never overcome. With the game tied at 6, Taj Gibson registered a pair of buckets to highlight the run. Boston rallied within four in the fourth quarter, but Chicago always answered with a key hoop to keep the hosts at arm's length.

Stat of the game: The Celtics finished 15 of 28 at the charity stripe, missing key free throws throughout the night, which didn't aid their attempt to rally.

Unsung hero: Joakim Noah posted 15 points and 11 rebounds, finishing with a game-high plus-18 in the plus/minus category. He was efficient, hitting 4 of 6 shots and 7 of 8 free throws.

What it means: The Celtics simply didn't have the legs to compete Thursday night. Already playing shorthanded, Boston performed in spurts while wrapping up a grueling stretch that featured four games in five nights in three cities, including two back-to-backs (each of which featured a road and home game). The Celtics will get a three-day break before hosting the Mavericks Monday night at the Garden, a game that could start the recovery process with Rasheed Wallace potentially able to return from a foot injury that has sidelined him the past three games.