There are no secrets when playing a team on back-to-back nights. And even though the lowly Boston Celtics are nowhere near playoff contention, the Bulls again had their hands full.
On Monday at the United Center, the Bulls' ability to change roles helped pull out a 94-80 victory over the Celtics. The Bulls led by 1 point heading into the final quarter, then opened the fourth with a 13-0 run.
When these teams played Sunday in Boston, D.J. Augustin scored a career-high 33 points and center Joakim Noah collected 13 assists.
In the rematch, they basically swapped roles. During the decisive 13-0 run, Noah scored 6 points and Augustin dished out 3 assists.
"Definitely tonight, they sat on a lot of things," Augustin said. "They clogged up the lane on me. I couldn't get in the lane like I was (Sunday) night. I just had to make adjustments. I shot the ball when I was open. They didn't fall tonight, but I tried to get my teammates involved and they did a great job getting open."
Augustin hit just 1 of 9 shots in Monday's contest and scored 4 points, but he finished with a game-high 11 assists. Noah recorded his seventh straight double-double against the Celtics, producing 19 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists.
"Every game is different and it's all about finding ways to win," Noah said. "Just try to be as versatile as possible. The reason why D.J. was able to be a facilitator was because they put more pressure on him and that opened up the floor for other guys."
Mike Dunleavy was the Bulls' top scorer with 22 points. Jimmy Butler also shot the ball well, hitting 8 of 13 shots for 18 points, mostly on long jumpers. Carlos Boozer added 16 points.
The Bulls (42-32) trailed by as many as 9 in the second quarter and led 71-70 heading into the fourth. The biggest difference was Boston shot 31.6 percent (12-for-38) in the second half.
"You have a night like tonight where you don't feel the greatest about your performance," Dunleavy said. "But we did play well in the fourth quarter. Playing a team on the second night of a back-to-back, the same team, it's tough to pitch a perfect game."
The victory moved the Bulls a season-high 10 games over .500 and into a tie for third place in the East with Toronto, which lost to Miami on Monday. The Bulls would lose a third-place tiebreaker to the Raptors, because that would mean Toronto finished first in the Atlantic Division. Division champs get the advantage over teams that don't win a division and the Bulls are destined to finish second to Indiana in the Central.
In other interesting news, though, the slumping Pacers were blown out at home by San Antonio and fell behind Miami for the top spot in the East. The Bulls can't look past the first round of the playoffs, but it's probably safe to say they would prefer to see Indiana instead of Miami in the second round.