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D.J. Augustin’s career-high 33 points lead Bulls past Celtics

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Updated: March 30, 2014 10:57PM



BOSTON — The player making $17.6 million this season again was running with the second team Sunday, recovering from his season-ending knee surgery and helping to prepare the Bulls’ starters as part of a virtual scout team.

That’s about all Derrick Rose can do these days.

As for the player who was out of a job and looking for work back in December, well, all D.J. Augustin did as Rose’s replacement was continue to save the Bulls’ season.

Augustin scored a career-high 33 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter, to help the Bulls hold off the pesky Boston Celtics 107-102 at TD Garden.

‘‘We wouldn’t be in this position right now if it wasn’t for [Augustin],’’ center Joakim Noah said after the game. ‘‘I never knew he would be this effective. I think nobody did, otherwise he’d be playing somewhere. I think he found a home here. I hope he can stay for a long time.’’

Augustin would like to stay. But with Rose’s salary rising to $18.8 million next season, he likely will be out of the Bulls’ price range when he enters free agency.

But all that mattered to Augustin on Sunday was this season. The offseason concerns will come another day.

‘‘Nah, man, I believe in myself,’’ Augustin said when asked if he is surprised about how well he has been playing late in games. ‘‘I’m a basketball player, and I always thought of myself as a pretty good basketball player. I think everyone on this level is pretty good, or you wouldn’t be in the NBA. It’s just having confidence in myself and my teammates giving me that confidence. Just feeling comfortable.’’

Augustin showed that comfort with 1:19 left in the game, sinking a huge three-pointer that gave the Bulls (41-32) a 99-96 lead. Then when the Celtics put him at the line, all he did was make six consecutive free throws to put the game on ice.

‘‘I don’t think it’s that much of a coincidence that we started playing well when he got here,’’ guard Kirk Hinrich said. ‘‘It’s something we really needed as a team, and you can’t say enough about what he’s done for us.’’

As for Rose, he limped his way into the news when coach Tom Thibodeau revealed he still isn’t taking contact in practice but would remain involved in practices even when the playoffs start, working with the second-stringers as a virtual scout-team player.

‘‘Right now, he’s working more with the second unit, so that’s basically how we’re using him,’’ Thibodeau said. ‘‘But he’s done a great job with his leadership. He wants to help in any way he can, so it’s all a plus. . . . Right now, we’re concentrating on what we have to do the rest of the way.’’

And that will be without Rose. According to teammate Taj Gibson, there’s a lot of rust in Rose’s game, especially considering he has played in only 10 games since blowing out the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the 2012 playoffs.

‘‘He’s still working out kinks, still trying to figure out the plays that he used to know, but he looks good,’’ Gibson said.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com



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