Midway through the third quarter of what looked like another unsettling loss, the Celtics  suddenly came to life. They played their defense, rotating to open players, helping the helper and in a moment that almost defied description, Jermaine O’Neal  dunked from outside the paint to bring them within eight points.
The Celtics eventually cut a Bulls lead that had been 20 points to a single digit after Mickael Pietrus  banged home a deep 3-pointer, bringing the sellout crowd at the Garden to its feet. But the Celtics didn’t have enough left to finish it off. Derrick Rose , however, did. The reigning MVP scored 12 of his 25 points in the final quarter as the Bulls won 88-79.
Paul Pierce  played 35 minutes, Kevin Garnett  logged 34, Ray Allen  played 41 and Rajon Rondo  played 39. There’s no rest for the aged as the Celtics travel to Indiana to play the Pacers Saturday night. Considering how much they put into trying to come back in this game, they’re probably fortunate to be up against the Pats-Broncos playoff game. It could get ugly.
WHAT WENT WRONG
— The Celtics once again got off a slow start, getting outscored 18-6 to start the game and 26-13 by the end of the first quarter. Doc Rivers  tried starting Brandon Bass  in place of O’Neal in an effort to matchup with the Bulls frontline of Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah , but it did little to change their first quarter woes.
— The Celtics shot 5-for-20 in the first quarter and it extended into the second when they missed their first six shots. The Celtics shot 33 percent in the first half and trailed by 19 points.
— Kevin Garnett was held scoreless in the first half and had just two rebounds and three fouls. The Celtics were once again killed on the boards, giving up 24 second-chance points. The Bulls are a terrible matchup for the Celtics because of their length and athleticism up front, but the margin was overwhelming.
— Luol Deng destroyed Paul Pierce. Deng had 18 points and 16 rebounds, while Pierce shot 3-for-12 and had only one rebound. It’s going to take time for Pierce to get into game shape and without practice, he’ll have to work it out in games.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
— Rondo showed up to play. He was responsible for 15 of their first 17 points, via either assist or scoring. Rondo finished with 14 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds but when he wasn’t in the game, the Celtics offense went from cluttered to catatonic. He played over 40 minutes and had an ice-wrap on his back in the rare times when he was on the bench.
— Chris Wilcox  had his first positive contributions in limited action. He followed a Rondo miss with a transition dunk and then slammed one home on the wing.
— Avery Bradley  played eight minutes and contributed his usual strong on-the-ball defense. He ran the second team in Keyon Dooling’s absence without incident, which is a small step in the right direction.