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Rondo helps Celtics take series lead over Bulls

The Sports Network

4/24/2009 1:55:45 AM

Chicago, IL (Sports Network) - Paul Pierce scored 24 points as the Celtics crushed Chicago, 107-86, in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

Rajon Rondo added 20 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and five steals to help the Celtics take the 2-1 series lead. There was cause for concern just after the game finished, as Rondo had to be helped to the locker room. He sprained an ankle in the first half of Monday's game.

"It's not the ankle. The bottom of my feet were hurting," said Rondo, who added he'd be fine for the next game.

The Bulls shocked the second-seeded Celtics in overtime in the series opener, but Boston bounced back for a 118-115 home win on Monday when Ray Allen hit a three-pointer with two seconds remaining.

Allen finished with 18 points in Game 3, while Glen Davis tallied 14 points, nine rebounds, six assists and six steals.

Stephon Marbury was a factor off the Boston bench with 13 points.

"With all the injuries we have, being able to rest guys is big," said Boston coach Doc Rivers. "I'm just happy for Steph. Obviously, you know the history. You can see our guys pulling for him all game."

Last year the Celtics lost three times on the road in the first round but were able to squeak by Atlanta. This time, the defending NBA champions made sure there wasn't going to be a repeat of that, as the Celtics built an 11-point lead after the first quarter and were up 22 at the half.

Pierce and Rondo combined for 34 first-half points, three less than the entire Chicago team. The Celtics cruised in the second half.

Ben Gordon had 15 points to pace the Bulls, who also received 14 apiece from John Salmons and Kirk Hinrich. Derrick Rose, who on Wednesday was named Rookie of the Year, was limited to nine points. Rose also committed seven of Chicago's 22 turnovers.

"I don't think any of our guys were nervous, we just had a terrible game," said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro. "We were forcing some issues. We weren't moving the basketball. If you think you're just going to drive by against the Celtics, they're going to load up on you."

Game 4 of the best-of-seven set is slated for Sunday at 1 p.m. (et), again at the United Center.

The Celtics, who led by as many as 34, never trailed and used a big run to open a quick double-digit lead in the opening quarter. Pierce scored the final six of a 10-2 spurt for a 23-12 lead.

Rondo's three-pointer in the waning seconds of the first provided a 32-21 cushion.

Boston's pressure defense clearly frustrated the Bulls. A dunk by Joakim Noah had the Bulls within 38-31 midway through the second, but the Celtics came back with a 9-1 spurt and notched the final nine before halftime for a bruising 59-37 advantage. Marbury hit a three-pointer, while Allen nailed two from beyond the arc to close the half.

One free throw from Kendrick Perkins pushed the lead to 70-45 and the margin stood at 83-58 moving to the fourth. That's when Marbury got extended minutes, starting the final period with a layup as Boston cruised down the stretch.

Game Notes: The Celtics scored 24 points off the 22 Chicago turnovers...Boston was 12- of-21 from three-point range with Pierce leading the way on a 4-of-8 effort...Chicago held a 45-37 rebounding advantage...Noah had eight points and 10 boards for the Bulls.