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Salmons, Bulls surprise Celtics 127-121

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[March 18, 2009]  CHICAGO (AP) -- John Salmons tied a career-high with 38 points, and the Chicago Bulls rallied for another surprising victory, beating the Boston Celtics 127-121 on Tuesday night despite 37 points from Paul Pierce.

The Celtics were trying to clinch a share of the Atlantic Division. They'll have to wait for that.

Coming off a 86-77 loss at Milwaukee on Sunday in which they set a season-low for points scored, the Celtics set one for points allowed in another disappointing loss for a team that's trying to lock down homecourt advantage in the playoffs

HardwareBoston led by 13 in the third quarter, only to give it away, and Chicago surprised another playoff-bound team after beating New Orleans 97-79 on Saturday.

Leading the late charge were Brad Miller, Derrick Rose and Salmons.

The Bulls, who are leading the race for the eighth playoff spot in the East by a half game over Milwaukee, shot 70 percent in the fourth quarter, with Miller scoring 13 of his 21 points and Rose and Salmons adding nine apiece.

Pierce, Rajon Rondo (26 points) and Ray Allen (17 points) did what they could for the Celtics, who have dropped four of five and have struggled lately through injuries -- the most notable being Kevin Garnett's sprained right knee.

The Bulls scored six in a row to grab a 117-111 lead and were ahead 122-117 after Salmons drove across the lane for a three-point play with just over a minute remain, the ball bouncing off the back of the rim before falling through the net.


Salmons came up with another big basket after Miller rebounded Rose's miss and handed off to him, making it 124-119 with 29.8 seconds left. The Celtics called a timeout, and coach Doc Rivers got whistled for his second technical, leading to an ejection and a free throw for Ben Gordon. Salmons then hit two more foul shots after a layup by Rondo, making it 127-121, and the Bulls escaped with their seventh straight home win.

The Celtics simply got another dose of frustration. It would help if they had all their star.

They are 6-6 since Garnett hurt his knee, and although they hope to have him back this week, there's no guarantee they will.

Rivers initially expected to have the All-Star forward back for Friday's game at San Antonio, but a more likely return date appears to be Saturday, when they visit Memphis. And that's no sure thing.

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Garnett hasn't practiced since Feb. 19, and Rivers doesn't want to risk aggravating the condition by bringing him back too soon.

"With Kevin, the problem for me will be that he may get clearance at the end of the week without having practiced," Rivers said before Tuesday's game. "That's going to be very difficult for me to play him, even though, obviously we need to play him in those games."

Rivers said the shootaround would have to go "better than I expect" for Garnett to play Friday, and if he does, he'll sit out Saturday's game.

Notes: The Bulls wore green uniforms in honor of St. Patrick's Day. ... Besides Garnett, the Celtics were also without Brian Scalabrine (post- concussion syndrome) and Tony Allen (left thumb injury). Leon Powe joined them on the sideline after he bruised his right knee in a collision with Gordon and will be re-evaluated on Wednesday.

[Associated Press; By ANDREW SELIGMAN]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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