Bulls on a roll

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CHICAGO, March 22- Derrick Rose and Kyle Korver each scored 18 points and Britain's Luol Deng added 17 to lead Chicago over Sacramento 132-92 on Monday, giving the Bulls their first 50-win season since 1998.

Carlos Boozer added 16 points on his return after missing five games with a sprained left ankle, while Joakim Noah contributed 14 points and a game-high nine rebounds for Chicago, which at 50-19 stayed even with Boston for the Eastern Conference lead.

The Bulls roared to a 64-47 half-time lead and a 98-72 lead entering the fourth quarter, allowing Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau to rest his starters for much of the night.

Rose, who had a game-high eight assists, sat on the bench the entire fourth quarter as the Bulls stretched their home win streak to 13 games, their longest such run since the 1997-1998 campaign.

That was the last of the six NBA championship seasons the Bulls enjoyed in the 1990s under now-retired superstar Michael Jordan.

At 31-4 at home, the Bulls trail only NBA overall leader San Antonio for home wins. The Spurs are 32-3 at home.

Sacramento, led by Marcus Thornton’s 25 points, fell to 17-52.

Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds while Paul Pierce added 21 points as the Boston Celtics defeated New York 96-86, rallying to win by scoring the game’s final 10 points.

Rajon Rondo added 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Celtics and Ray Allen contributed 15 points despite a cut on his head that forced him out of the game briefly on a body-banging night that saw bloodied noses and sprawling players.

"Felt like we were in a bar fight," Garnett said. "This felt like a playoff game."

The Celtics, 50-19, stayed level with Chicago for the best record in the Eastern Conference by inflicting New York’s sixth loss in seven games, dropping the Knicks to 7-9 since capturing Carmelo Anthony in a trade last month.

Anthony scored 22 points but failed to score in the fourth quarter just as Amare Stoudemire, who scored 16 points, went pointless in the final 12 minutes.

Chauncey Billups, who came to the Knicks in the trade from Denver, scored 21 points.

New York, 35-35, fell a game behind Philadelphia in the fight for sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

Rondo broke an 86-86 deadlock on a basket with 3:10 to play then flipped a pass to David for a layup 40 seconds later. Pierce added a basket and Allen finished off the deciding run with a dunk and a pair of free throws.

"We just got to a point there, I thought we just panicked," Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni said. "We’ve got a lot of work to do."

Celtics coach Doc Rivers called his team "soft" at half-time, inspiring a more physical style from Boston in the second half.

"Doc thought we were soft," Garnett said. "He thought our play was soft. He thought everything we were doing was soft. So we got firm."

Boston’s Troy Murphy suffered a bloody nose in the second quarter. Glen Davis took an elbow in the head from Anthony and fell to the floor. Allen had a bloody cut over his eye from an elbow by New York’s Jared Jeffries.

"We’ve been in every game that you can imagine, big games, so you know we don’t really get rattled," Pierce said. "We know how to respond when the games get testy and physical and sometimes we keep our poise, sometimes we don’t.

"But tonight we did."

Allen needed seven stitches to close the gash.

"We like to say that we’re always going to battles with different teams," Allen said. "We’ve just got to make sure that we bring that fight."

 

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