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Rondo leads Celtics, as Bulls’ rally fizzles

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CHICAGO – Rajon Rondo extended his own pursuit of a record and helped the Boston Celtics reverse some recent history.

Rondo had 20 points, nine rebounds and 10 assists to lead the Boston Celtics to a 101-95 win over the Bulls on Monday night. He stretched his streak of consecutive games with 10 or more assists to 31, the longest in the NBA since John Stockton had 37 straight from Feb. 27 to Nov. 29, 1989.

“We played pretty well offensively,” Rondo said. “Besides the turnovers I had, we took pretty good care of the ball. We got out on the break, kept it simple offensively.”

Rondo, who leads the NBA with an average of 12.9 assists a game, took advantage of Bulls point guard Nate Robinson by getting all of his scoring in the first three quarters to help the Celtics build a 12-point lead while shooting 56 percent.

“[Rondo] had an excellent game,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “He is starting to get comfortable with the players that are out there on the floor and what he can call with them there.”

Brandon Bass led four other Celtics in double figures with 16 points as Boston held off a furious late Bulls rally to snap a five-game losing streak at the United Center. Kevin Garnett had 15 points.

Luol Deng led the Bulls with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Joakim Noah added 17 points and 11 boards and led the fourth quarter rally with nine points.

The Celtics became the first team to score 100 points against the Bulls since April 8 of last season, ending a streak that had reached 15 straight games.

“They scored 58 points in the first half,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “You give up 33 (points in the first quarter) to a team like that, you’re giving them confidence and they’re hard to slow down after that.”

The Bulls held Boston without a point for 5:15 of the fourth quarter, scoring 10 straight pull to 87-84. The Bulls had five straight possessions to close the gap further but couldn’t, and Jason Terry finally snapped the Celtics’ drought with a jumper with just under 5 minutes to play.

“They did make a good run at us,” said Paul Pierce, who was held to 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting. “We just have to run to the finish line in games. There were a few times when I thought we were up 12 to 14 and could have gone to 20 and didn’t.”

Rookie Marquis Teague replaced Robinson in the fourth and helped curb Rondo’s scoring. Noah outplayed Garnett during the Bulls’ spree, aggressively driving to the basket while Garnett missed three straight jumpers on the other end, including an air ball that landed out of bounds.

In the final minute, Deng made two free throws to cut the lead to three, but after a timeout Rondo passed to Garnett for an alley-oop dunk with 41.9 seconds to play.

“Actually we covered that play in the pregame,” Thibodeau said. “They’re good at it.”

After Taj Gibson missed two free throws, Rondo then passed to Bass for a dunk to seal the win and extend his assists streak. The Celtics shot just 35 percent in the fourth after their strong start.

“We thrive in situations where it’s a tight ballgame,” Boston’s Jason Terry said. “We’ve all been in that situation plenty of times--we know what to do.”

The Celtics used a 10-0 run over a 3:45 stretch of the second quarter to establish its biggest lead of the first half at 51-38. Boston led 58-46 at the break, getting 59.5 percent shooting.

Rondo continued to take advantage of Robinson in the third quarter, scoring 10 points in the period as the Celtics maintained their shooting touch. Boston led 82-70 after three and appeared to be in good shape.

The Celtics have won their last 27 games when leading after three quarters, a streak more than twice as long as any other in the NBA.

“This is a competitive group of guys and they want to find a way to win,” Rivers said.

Pierce and Rondo scored eight points apiece as the Celtics took a 33-27 lead after the first quarter, shooting 63.6 percent from the field and setting a new season high for points in a quarter.

“I don’t know where to start,” Gibson said. “There were a lot of things. They got a lot of confidence early.”

NOTES: Chicago played without starting PG Kirk Hinrich, who sat out with a strained right hip. Hinrich suffered the injury in Saturday’s win over Minnesota and is considered day to day. Robinson started in his place. ... Boston coach Doc Rivers called the news that the rival Los Angeles Lakers had hired Mike D’Antoni as their new coach “very interesting” and added that “I hope they don’t do too well.” . In what has become an annual ritual, the Bulls will play their next five games on the road over the next two weeks while a circus occupies the United Center. ... Carlos Boozer snapped out a recent shooting slump to score 10 points on 5 of 6 shooting in the first quarter for Chicago. Boozer finished with 15 points, but didn’t play in the fourth quarter.

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