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Celtics, Bulls collide at United Center

11:57 AM, Jan 2, 2014   |    comments
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(SportsNetwork.com) - Two struggling former Eastern Conference powerhouses will try to get on track Thursday night when the Boston Celtics visit the Chicago Bulls.

Both teams are unimpressive in the win-loss department, but the Celtics are just 2 1/2 games behind the Toronto Raptors in the woeful Atlantic Division.

The Bulls are well behind the Indiana Pacers in the Central, but have won three of their last five. They are on game two of a four-game homestand, which got off on the wrong foot Tuesday night with an 85-79 setback to the Raptors.

Luol Deng scored 16 points and Jimmy Butler finished with 15 points and seven rebounds for Chicago, which has lost six of its last nine. Mike Dunleavy and Taj Gibson contributed 13 and 12 points, respectively, for the Bulls.

The Bulls led by five heading into the fourth quarter, but got thumped 28-17 over the final 12 minutes.

"The fourth quarter has to be your best quarter. The fourth quarter is different," said Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. "It requires a different intensity. Your decisions have to be quicker. I thought we had a lot of plays in the paint we just have to finish stronger. We can't just flip the ball up there. We're capable of doing better."

The Celtics have lost four of their last five games and play six of their next seven outside of Beantown. They'll host the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday, then hit the road for five straight on the west coast.

On Tuesday, Boston fell to the Atlanta Hawks, 92-91.

Atlanta's Jeff Teague made a pair of free throws with 1:30 left and that resulted in the final margin, as both teams came up empty the rest of the way. Jordan Crawford missed two shots in the final seconds for the Celtics, losers of their last two on the road.

"Jordan lives for that," said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. "I think he'll probably beat himself up over it, but that's OK. We play again on Thursday."

The loss spoiled Kelly Olynyk's career-best 21 points on 8-of-11 shooting off Boston's bench. Kris Humphries finished with 18 points and 10 boards, also off the bench, as the Celtics reserves outscored their counterparts, 56-16.

The Celtics starters - Crawford, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger and Avery Bradley - combined for just 35 points on 12-for-47 shooting. Sullinger did have 10 rebounds.

Boston and Chicago split last season's four matchups, although the Celtics are just 1-6 in their last seven in the Windy City.

The Sports Network

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