The Boston Celtics avoided another last-ditch loss against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday when they eked out a scrappy 71-69 home victory in a low-quality encounter between two injury-ravaged teams.
Last month, Marco Belinelli sealed a 100-99 victory for the Bulls with three seconds left but his potential game-winning basket in the latest match-up was blocked, before Taj Gibson missed an attempted three-pointer as the clock ran down.
"You win games on the defensive end and that's what we did tonight," Boston's Jason Terry, who blocked Belinelli's late shot, told reporters. "We played great defense today - we played great team defense and we rebounded the ball."
Kevin Garnett scored eight of his 12 points in the fourth quarter to help Boston overcome a six-point deficit and Brandon Bass added 14 points and nine rebounds to help the Celtics (28-24) grind out an ugly victory.
The injury absence of several key players was exposed in the stats column with both teams registering a measly 36 percent success rate from the floor in their final game ahead of the All-Star break.
The Celtics will be without guards Rajon Rondo and Leandro Barbosa for the rest of the season while the Bulls have been unable to call on the services of Derrick Rose so far this campaign and have missed Kirk Hinrich for the last seven games.
Belinelli had a team-high 12 points and Joakim Noah pulled down 16 rebounds to go with his 10-point haul for the stuttering Bulls (30-22), who have lost five of their last seven contests.
Boston started well and raced to a nine-point lead after the first quarter but lost ground when they managed just 19 points in the second and third combined.
The home team rediscovered their early spark in the fourth, however, where they opened with a 16-5 run to regain control.
Paul Pierce had a disappointing game, scoring eight points on 2-of-12 shooting, but the Celtics' forward made a key contribution with three minutes remaining when his three-pointer stretched Boston's advantage to five.
"We're not going to just roll over," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said of his team's long-term injury crisis. "We choose to live."
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by John O'Brien)