Chicago Bulls Fall as Celtics Win in NBA Playoffs
Playing without injured superstar Derrick Rose, the Chicago Bulls were humbled 109-92 by Philadelphia in an NBA playoff stunner that exposed major weaknesses by the league's “winningest” team.
Jrue Holiday scored 26 points and Lou Williams came off the bench to score 20 points for the 76ers, who had the worst regular-season record of any NBA playoff team but evened the first-round Eastern Conference series at 1-1.
"Just a disappointing effort overall," Bulls center Joakim Noah said. "We didn't play well offensively. We didn't play well defensively. We got our ass kicked. We will see what we are made of."
Chicago, which had won 50 games in the regular season to seize a home-court edge throughout the NBA playoffs, must travel to Philadelphia for games three and four of the best-of-seven series on Friday and Sunday.
Momentum swung to the 76ers after the Bulls struggled without Rose, who suffered a torn left knee ligament in the final seconds of Chicago's game-one triumph on Saturday.
Rose, last season's NBA Most Valuable Player, was lost for the remainder of the playoffs and the Bulls missed his firepower, leadership and playmaking skills during a drought of 11 consecutive missed shots in the second half.
"It was different (without Rose)," Noah said. "There are no excuses though. We know we can play better than that.
"I feel determination. I feel frustration. It's disappointing but we live to fight another day and there's a lot of basketball yet to be played."
In another Eastern Conference game, Paul Pierce scored 36 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead Boston over Atlanta 87-80 to level that series at 1-1.
Kevin Garnett had 15 points and 12 rebounds for the visiting Celtics, who were without injured shooting guard Ray Allen and suspended point guard Rajon Rondo, serving a one-game ban for bumping into a referee in game one.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said there was no low-morale factor for his team in playing without Rose.
"They outfought us. They were a lot more physical," Thibodeau said. "We can play a lot better than we did," he added. "It starts with me. I can have us ready to play better. We have a couple days to make it right.
"We will come back a lot stronger."
Noah scored 21 points to lead the Bulls, who closed the second quarter on a 20-10 run for a 55-47 half-time lead.
But the 76ers outscored Chicago 36-14 in the third quarter, Philadelphia not making a turnover in the second half until the final seconds of the game.
"We let each other down," Noah said. "We've got to fight. The way we started that third quarter was unacceptable."
76ers coach Doug Collins saw it differently, saying: "That third quarter was as good a quarter as I have ever seen my team play."
Evan Turner, who was inserted into the 76ers starting lineup for the game, scored 19 points as the 76ers shot a season-best 59 percent from the field.
"Evan got me open (with) ball handling, penetrating in," Holiday said. "I had wonderful shots."
Chicago connected on only 45 percent from the field. Carlos Boozer went 4-of-10 for nine points while Britain's Luol Deng went 3-of-12 for only eight points and Richard Hamilton was only 4-of-10 for 10 points.
"The first half we were OK. The second half we weren't," Thibodeau said. "It was 62-37 in the second half. We've got to come back with more fight. I don't know if anyone played up to their ability. That's something we can improve on."
The Bulls had been 7-0 at home against the 76ers in prior playoff games.
At Atlanta, Pierce said the team felt an extra sense of urgency playing without Rondo, especially as the Hawks led 66-61 entering the fourth quarter.
"I wanted to be aggressive at the start," Pierce said. "I knew it was coming to me and I had to take the shots."
The Celtics will host the next two games in the best-of-seven series on Friday and Sunday and return to Atlanta for game five next Tuesday.
"We'll get Rondo back and hopefully we'll hold our home court before we come back to Atlanta," Pierce said.