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Bulls’ offense AWOL in 71-69 setback marred by 22 turnovers

(MCT) — BOSTON — The All-Star break is here, which means players scattered to experience family time, warm beaches or other diversionary pursuits.

And Tom Thibodeau prepared to lock himself in a darkened film room at the Berto Center.

What Thibodeau will see — for the second time, with rewind options to boot — is an injured Bulls team that limped into the break After Wednesday night’s 71-69 loss to the Celtics. The season-low scoring performance dropped the Bulls to just 4-6 in their previous 10 games, with Kirk Hinrich still out, Joakim Noah still battling plantar fasciitis and no imminent return of Derrick Rose.

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

In a brutal offensive game, the Bulls saved the worst for last.

Going scoreless in the fourth quarter for 5 minutes, 44 seconds, the Bulls blew a seven-point lead and fell when Jason Terry blocked Marco Belinelli’s 3-point attempt and Taj Gibson’s desperation 3-point heave at the buzzer fell well short.

Kevin Garnett’s baseline jumper with 19.8 seconds left just beat the shot clock after the Bulls had pulled within one on Belinelli’s driving layup with 44.6 seconds left. Following Garnett’s jumper, Carlos Boozer tipped in Nate Robinson’s 3-point miss that rattled in and out.

Paul Pierce sank two free throws with 10 seconds left. Avery Bradley purposely fouled Robinson with 6.2 seconds left, and he missed the second free throw on purpose after making the second. The Bulls came up with the rebound, but that’s when the final flurry of Belinelli and Gibson misses occurred.

“Getting our team healthy would help,” Joakim 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.”

The Bulls committed a season-high 22 turnovers, which the Celtics converted into 20 points. Those were critical in a game in which neither team broke 36.8 percent shooting.

“That cost us the game,” Thibodeau said.

Brandon Bass’ 14 points led the Celtics. Belinelli’s 12 points topped the Bulls. Nobody from either team broke double figures through three quarters.

“We’re not satisfied because it’s a long fight and things can change very quickly on you,” Thibodeau said. “If we start feeling good about ourselves, we’re going to be in trouble. We have to come out with greater fight and a collective spirit that gives us a chance to win every night.”

Best foot forward: Noah will undergo more treatment on the plantar fasciitis in his right foot Thursday, and all signs point to the center traveling to Houston and playing limited minutes in Sunday’s All-Star Game.

“He’s managing it fine,” Thibodeau said.

Noah said he felt “awesome” Wednesday, but part of that surely stemmed from him renewing his rivalry with the Garnett. Noah has called Garnett “a dirty player” and accused him of throwing elbows and taking cheap shots during the Bulls’ last trip here on Jan. 18.

But Noah also has praised Garnett’s competitiveness.

“I respect him,” Noah said. “I don’t know if you would call it a relationship, but he’s a hell of a competitor. He’s going to try to do everything to win a game, whatever it takes. We feel the same.”

Hinrich update: Thibodeau said Hinrich “should be good” to return from his infected right elbow after the All-Star break. “I don’t want to speak too soon, but he’s coming along well,” Thibodeau said.

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