BOSTON — Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau wasn’t thrilled with the way his team played defense Sunday night.
He didn’t think his players rebounded well, either, but they managed to beat the Boston Celtics 107-102.
They emerged victorious, a trademark of a team that is about to make the playoffs for the second consecutive year without star guard Derrick Rose.
“We always find a way to win — (Thibodeau) always writes it on the board before the game, ‘Find a way,'” guard D.J. Augustin said after his career-high 33 points, including nine straight for his team in the final 1:19, led the way. “Even though we didn’t play great defense tonight, we pulled it out. We know what we have to fix tomorrow night to get another win.”
Sunday’s win, Chicago’s third in four games, came in the first half of a home-and-home against the Celtics, who will play Monday night without Rajon Rondo. The star guard sits out the back ends of back-to-backs after knee surgery.
The Bulls (41-32) know all about playing without a star guard, and they again are postseason-bound — even after also trading away forward Luol Deng. They won for the 18th time in 26 games, and they sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, keeping pace with the two teams around them Sunday.
The Toronto Raptors, a game ahead of the Bulls in third place, won beat the Magic in Orlando, and the Brooklyn Nets, 1 1/2 games behind Chicago in fifth, won at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Bulls evened their road record at 18-18 with the tight win over the Celtics, losers of four straight and nine of 10.
“That is how we have to win,” Thibodeau said. “Our margin for error is not great. We’ve got to play with great intensity each and every night to give ourself a chance to win.
“We know we’re short-handed every night, so whatever way we can get them, that’s what we have to do. We just have to find different ways to win, and I thought we did that tonight.”
Augustin, who did his damage in 31 minutes off the bench, snapped a 96-96 tie with a 3-pointer with 1:19 left. He then went 6-for-6 from the foul line to hold off Boston, which stayed alive on two consecutive 3-pointers by forward Jared Sullinger.
“I was just trying to stay aggressive,” said Augustin, whose previous high was 31 when he was a Charlotte Bobcat. He said his teammates informed him of his new high after the game.
Boston forward Jeff Green hit back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game at 96-96.
Chicago center Joakim Noah scored 13 points, dished out 13 assists and had eight rebounds. Swingman Jimmy Butler scored 15 points, and forward Carlos Boozer 14.
Rondo led six Celtics in double figures with 17 points, and he also handed out 11 assists. Sullinger finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Green had 16 points. Forward Kris Humphries had 14 points and eight boards for Boston (23-50).
Asked for the umpteenth time this season if he takes any solace in losing close, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, “Nope. Zero.
“I just talked about it in the locker room — we can sugarcoat it, we can talk about it, we can say, ‘It’s nice to be close,’ and we have all year; and at the end of the day, it is what it is from a record standpoint.”
There were 19 ties, 16 lead changes and neither team led by more than seven points.
In the first quarter, Boozer was called for a clear-path foul as Humphries broke away after a steal. Boozer also gave Humphries an extra push at the end of the play to earn a technical foul. Chicago forward Mike Dunleavy was called for a clear-path foul in the third quarter, but the call was overturned upon review.
Later in the third, Humphries was called for a foul on a rebound and hit with a technical.
NOTES: Celtics PG Rajon Rondo will do television work for the first half of Monday’s rematch with the Bulls as he sits out to rest his surgically repaired knee. … Bulls PG Derrick Rose, out for the season with a knee injury, is working out with the team, and coach Tom Thibodeau believes the star contributes without playing. … Celtics coach Brad Stevens on Chicago C Joakim Noah: “How often do you have a guy that’s even mentioned as an MVP candidate that averages what he averages points-wise. I think that tells you what Noah’s meant to this team since Rose has been out and (Luol) Deng got traded. They haven’t skipped a beat.” … The Celtics took the floor for warmups wearing Boston Fire Department T-shirts, honoring the two firefighters killed in last week’s fire not far from TD Garden. The coaches wore BFD patches on their jackets.
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