Celtics rally past Bulls in defensive struggle

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Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler looks for an opening to shoot against Boston Celtics forwards Jeff Green (8) and Kevin Garnett (5) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013. Looking on are Bulls forwards Carlos Boozer, center left, and Taj Gibson (22). The Celtics won 71-69. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

BOSTON, Massachusetts—The Boston Celtics rallied in the fourth quarter to edge the Chicago Bulls 71-69 on Wednesday behind a strong defense and a 12-point performance from forward Kevin Garnett.

Garnett scored eight of his points in the final quarter and grabbed a total of 11 rebounds for the Celtics, who outscored the Bulls 30-20 over the final 13 minutes in front of a crowd of 18,624 at the TD Garden arena.

Brandon Bass finished with a game-high 14 points for the Celtics, who improved to 8-1 since all-star guard Rajon Rondo was lost for the National Basketball Association season last month with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

Marco Belinelli led Chicago with 12 points and Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer each recorded double-doubles in the loss.

Noah finished with 10 points and 16 rebounds while Boozer had 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Bulls, who have now lost four of their last five contests.

“There are a lot of areas we want to clean up,” Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We have to get our energy up both offensively and defensively. We’re playing a low-energy game now.”

Belinelli scored with 44 seconds left in the fourth to cut the Celtics’ lead to 67-66, but Garnett responded at the other end.

Boozer’s putback with 10 seconds on the clock cut the Celtics’ lead to one, but Boston’s Paul Pierce nailed two free throws and the Bulls twice couldn’t connect on potential game-winning three-point attempts just before the final buzzer.

Chicago shot just 36.5 percent from the floor and went three-of-17 from three-point range, with Boston hitting on only 36.8 percent of its field goal attempts in the contest.

The Celtics, who are 20-9 at home and unbeaten in the last seven at TD Garden, lost another guard this week after Leandro Barbosa suffered a torn ACL.

Barbosa joins Rondo and rookie forward Jared Sullinger (back) on the sidelines for the rest of the season.

Like the Celtics, the Bulls are missing key players with injuries.

“Getting our team healthy would help,” Noah said. “We have to execute our offense better. Defensively, we did a pretty good job. But teams are scoring on us in transition because we’re turning it over.”

Bulls star Derrick Rose said Wednesday he might have to miss the entire season while he recovers from surgery to fix a torn ACL.

“I really don’t know,” Rose told USA Today newspaper. “I’m feeling good but like I said if it is where it’s taking me a long time and I am still not feeling right, I don’t mind missing this year.”

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