Bulls Vs. Celtics: Derrick Rose, Chicago Overpower Boston, 97-81

Derrick Rose showed exactly why he is the league's presumed Most Valuable Player, finishing with 30 points and eight assists as Chicago toppled Boston, 97-81, on Thursday night. Read more at SB Nation Chicago, as well as CelticsBlog and Blog A Bull.

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Bulls 97, Celtics 81: Derrick Rose, Chicago Triumph Over Boston

Rajon Rondo and Derrick Rose are two of the NBA's premier point guard. Yet on Thursday night, Rondo played like a reserve while Rose played like an MVP-to-be. Put two and two together, and you have a Bulls' victory.

Rose showed exactly why he is the league's presumed Most Valuable Player, finishing with 30 points on 9-of-16 shooting and eight assists as Chicago toppled Boston, 97-81, on Thursday night at the United Center.

Boston (54-24) fell four games begin Chicago (58-20) for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, meaning that the Celtics will almost certainly finish second or lower in the conference.

After falling behind 26-18 after one quarter, the Celtics outscored the Bulls, 25-22, in the second quarter to cut their halftime deficit to 48-43. Boston scored 17 in the third quarter while holding Chicago to 13 points, cutting the lead to one entering the fourth. Rose and company outscored Boston, 26-21, in the fourth to claim victory.

Rondo totaled seven points on 3-of-10 shooting and dished out six assists for Boston, which shot 38.4 percent in the losing effort. Paul Pierce scored 15 points, Kevin Garnett had 10 points and 10 rebounds and Ray Allen scored seven on 3-of-11 shooting for the Celtics.

Jeff Green led the Celtics' bench scoring with 10 points. Delonte West scored nine, Glen Davis had eight points and Nenad Krstic chipped in with six points off the bench for Boston.

Troy Murphy, who returned to action for the first time since suffering an ankle injury during practice last month, finished with two points in three minutes for the Celtics.

Luol Deng scored 23 points and grabbed six rebounds and Carlos Boozer added 14 points and 12 rebounds for Chicago, which made 37-of-78 field goals to shoot 47.4 percent.

Boston returns to the hardwood on Friday when it hosts Washington at 7:30 p.m. EDT.

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Celtics vs. Bulls: Boston, Chicago Meet In Battle Of East's Beasts

As regular season games go, this one will be one of the biggest. With the playoffs just over a week away, the stakes will be that much higher.

Such is the case for the Celtics, who will meet their chief competition for the Eastern Conference's No. 1 seed Thursday night when they take on the Bulls at the United Center in Chicago at 8 p.m. EDT (TV/Radio: TNT/WEEI).

The C's, winners of their last two games, are in sole possession of second place in the East, three games behind the first place Bulls, with five games left to play. Boston, which is 6-4 over its last 10 games, looks like it may be coming out of the late season doldrums that have been hovering for the better part of the last month.

The Celtics (54-23) beat both Detroit and Philly, their likely first round playoff opponent, by double digits on Sunday and Tuesday, respectively, and have gotten a couple of premier shooting performances from Ray Allen in the process.

Allen was 10-of-13 combined from the floor in the wins over the Pistons and the 76ers and has averaged 19.3 points on 56.8 percent shooting in three games against the Bulls this season, including 50 percent from 3-point land.

Boston was fortified in the win over Philly on Tuesday by the return of Nenad Krstic from a two game absence due to a knee bruise. Krstic scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench and his play, along with that of Jermaine O'Neal (nine points, three boards and a block in 13 minutes against the Sixers), went a long way towards making up for the loss of Shaquille O'Neal, who suffered yet another injury on Sunday against Detroit.

The Bulls (57-20), as they have been for most of the year, come into Thursday night's contest red hot. They've won four in a row and are far beyond the back-to-back 41-win marks of the past two seasons. First-year coach Tom Thibodeau, the former Celtics' assistant, has the Bulls playing his trademark stingy defense, as they allow just 91.5 points per game, second in the NBA only to the Celts' 90.8.

Additionally, the Bulls are second in the league in rebounding with 44.2 boards per night, giving them a clear advantage over the board-challenged C's in that department. Point guard Derrick Rose appears to be the runaway favorite to win the league MVP award thanks to his 25.1 points and 7.9 assists per game, and big man Joakim Noah, always a thorn in the side of the C's, has returned from a series of injuries and posted 12 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals in a win over Phoenix on Tuesday.

A loss for the C's on Thursday would leave them four games behind the Bulls with four games left, just about eliminating them from any chance at the East's No. 1 spot. Boston has won two of this season's previous three meetings against Chicago with Rajon Rondo putting up 11.7 points and 12.7 assists in those games. Rondo has seemed much more like himself of late, averaging 10.8 assists over his last five games, including three with 13 or more.

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