Pondering a 10-man roster that had Tyson Chandler in Chicago with a sore back and Corie Blount in street clothes with a sprained right ankle, Bill Cartwright furrowed his brow an hour before tipoff at the FleetCenter.
"Somebody better be coaching their [rear] off," Cartwright said. "It looks like a zone night to me, doesn't it?"
Take a dash of zone. Add some Jalen Rose hustle. Toss in a yeoman effort on the boards by Eddy Curry and Donyell Marshall and a turn-back-the-clock fourth quarter from Scottie Pippen.
Mix it all with a night in which Paul Pierce played like Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United States, and the result was an 89-82 Bulls victory on Wednesday before an irritated crowd of 13,852.
For those who purged the poor play from their memories, the Bulls have won as many road games in four tries this season as they did in 41 efforts all of last season.
"We're road warriors," Cartwright said with a smile afterward.
Reminded of his pregame comment, Cartwright waved off any credit. There was more than enough to go around.
Rose returned to the starting lineup to score a team-high 20 points on only 13 shots and added four assists and passable defense on Pierce, who shot just 4-for-15.
"I just want to be judged on how much we win or lose and not be considered a crybaby or a spoiled jock," Rose said. "But to take it a step further, all I was doing with those comments was taking pride in what I do."
Curry battled foul trouble to add 16 points and 14 important rebounds, helping the Bulls to a 47-42 edge on the boards despite the loss of Chandler and Blount.
"I'm trying to be more active," said Curry, who fell one rebound shy of his career high.
Marshall shot just 1-for-10, but contributed 11 rebounds and three blocked shots in a wearying 43 minutes.
"Donyell has been around the league long enough to know that if you can't put the ball in the basket, you go get the ball at the boards," Cartwright said.
And Pippen played 11 of his 22 minutes and scored eight of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Bulls take control of the game with an 11-2 run. Pippen scored the first six points of the run and took a charge from Eric Williams in the decisive spurt.
"The thing about Pip is that he really can't be judged for our team by numbers," Rose said. "It's going to be the intangibles, little things beyond numbers."
Speaking of numbers, Boston, playing its second game in as many nights, shot just 32.9 percent. Mike James hit six three-pointers to lead the Celtics with 18 points.
The Bulls didn't win their third road game last season until Feb. 18, then dropped their final 11.
They made improved road play a priority for this season. Thus far, that focus has paid off, which bodes well for a difficult West Coast trip that begins next week and in which they are 0-27 over the last four seasons.
Are the Bulls ready?
"Why not?" Cartwright said. "We're road warriors now."