BOSTON - Kevin Garnett played much better in the 1,000th game of his career than in his first of this season.
Boston's intense leader had 18 points and 10 rebounds three days after a mediocre season opener and became the youngest player in NBA history to play in 1,000 regular-season games when the Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 96-80 Friday night.
"It feels crazy," Garnett said. "To sit here and have a plateau with 1,000 games says a lot not only about my conditioning, but, through knocking on wood countless times, taking care of my body and trying to be the best player that I can be."
Garnett reached the 1,000-game mark at the age of 32 years, 165 days - three days before the 13th anniversary of his NBA debut with Minnesota when he scored eight points, but made all four shots, as a substitute. He broke the record of 33 years, 24 days set by Shawn Kemp on Dec. 20, 2002.
Kobe Bryant is two years and three months younger and already has played 868 games. And LeBron James is already up to 393 games and won't turn 24 until Dec. 30.
"That's amazing," Boston coach Doc Rivers said of Garnett's record. "I'm assuming Kobe will break the record and LeBron will break the record, but it's nice to have."
So is a 2-0 record this season after the Celtics' 17th championship banner was raised before Tuesday night's 90-85 win over James' Cleveland Cavaliers. Garnett scored just 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting in that game.
"Tonight I felt a lot more poised," he said after making 7 of 11 shots.
This one was much easier as Boston's active defence from the start held Chicago to 4-of-23 shooting in the first quarter.
"We wanted to go out and establish ourselves defensively," Paul Pierce said. "We felt like in Game 1 we didn't do that" against the Cavaliers.
Rookie point guard Derrick Rose, the top pick in the NBA draft, led the Bulls with 18 points and made six of their 25 field goals. He also learned a lesson from the champs.
"There ain't no time to wait," he said. "When you get the opportunity, you've got to take it. They don't waste no time when they come out. They mean business."
Three days after their emotional ceremony, the Celtics dominated early and led by at least 10 points throughout the final three quarters. The Bulls made only 10 of 45 shots (22.2 per cent) in the first half and went 25-for-84 (29.8 per cent) for the game.
On Tuesday, Pierce cried during the ceremony at which the banner was raised and championship rings were handed out. Then he led Boston with 27 points in the close game.
The Celtics didn't need that much from Pierce on Friday.
"They competed every possession and they have a swagger about them," Vinny Del Negro said after his first loss as coach of the Bulls following a 108-95 win over Milwaukee on Tuesday. "We never developed any type of flow offensively."
Nine days after the Celtics' title-clinching win over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Bulls drafted Rose following their 33-49 season. He played better Friday than he did against the Bucks but had just one assist. Tyrus Thomas, on 2-for-17 shooting, and Ben Gordon, who went 3-for-10, scored 11 each.
Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo scored 14 each for Boston.
The Celtics led 24-13 after one quarter as the Bulls didn't make a field goal until Kendrick Perkins was called for goaltending against Drew Gooden with 6:19 left in the period.
Boston opened the second quarter with a 7-2 run and Chicago went without a field goal until Rose made a layup with 7:18 remaining in the half.
Garnett scored eight of the Celtics last 12 points of the first half, giving them a 49-31 lead at intermission. Their lead ranged from 16 to 28 points the rest of the way.
Boston's starting forwards went 13-for-24 - Garnett's 7-for-11 and Pierce's 6-for-11. Perkins had 10 rebounds.
Now Garnett is ready for his 1,001st game at Indiana on Saturday night.
"I've always taken a lot of pride in playing games and never taking games off," he said. "I have exceeded a lot of the personal goals I have set for myself and I'm just enjoying this team, enjoying this year and enjoying every day that I can get up and play this game full strength."
Notes: Each team committed 20 turnovers but no player had more than three. ... Chicago's Joakim Noah led all rebounders with 13 in 23 minutes, 6 seconds coming off the bench. ... Each team took just eight 3-point shots and made two.