By K.C. Johnson
BOSTON – In a brutal offensive game, the Bulls saved the worst for last.
Going scoreless in the fourth quarter for 5 minutes, 44 seconds, the Bulls blew a seven-point lead and fell to the Celtics 71-69 on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
The Bulls limp into the All-Star break 4-6 in their previous 10 games.
Kevin Garnett’s baseline jumper with 19.8 seconds left just beat the shot clock after the Bulls had pulled within one on Marco Belinelli’s driving layup with 44.6 seconds left. Following Garnett’s jumper, Carlos Boozer tipped in Nate Robinson’s 3-point miss that rattled in and out.
Paul Pierce sank two free throws with 10 seconds left. Avery Bradley purposely fouled Robinson with 6.2 seconds left, and he missed the second free throw on purpose after making the second. The Bulls came up with the rebound, but Jason Terry blocked Marco Belinelli’s shot, and Taj Gibson’s desperation shot at the buzzer was well off.
The Bulls committed a season-high 22 turnovers, which the Celtics converted into 20 points. Those were critical in a game neither team broke 36.8 percent shooting.
The Celtics scored just 11 points in the second and eight points in the third quarter and still won. Brandon Bass’ 14 points led the Celtics, who also got a huge 3-pointer from Paul Pierce late.
The Celtics played their first full game without Leandro Barbosa, who joined Rajon Rondo with a torn anterior cruciate ligament with both out for the season.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said the Celtics are still dangerous before both teams’ final game before the All-Star break.
“They have quality depth,” Thibodeau said. “When you lose a guy like Rondo, it galvanizes the team. They know they have to play hard and together. What makes them so unique is the versatility of [Paul] Pierce and [Kevin] Garnett. You can run your offense through them. Paul has a unique skill set in the sense he can play as a point guard. And Garnett is a great passer.”