CHICAGO (AP) – Paul Pierce took the initiative this time and the Boston Celtics seized control.

Pierce scored 24 points, Rajon Rondo added 20 and the defending champions beat the Chicago Bulls 107-86 on Thursday night to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

The teams split two dramatic games in Boston, but this one never really was in doubt. The Celtics led by 11 after one quarter and 22 at the half on their way to an easy win behind Pierce and Rondo. Particularly Pierce.

“We know what kind of team we are,” Pierce said. “The way we played tonight is the way we want to play.”

Now, Boston is in good shape heading into Game 4 Sunday even though the injured Kevin Garnett is wearing a suit instead of a uniform these days.

Rondo looked just fine after spraining his right ankle in Game 2 and missing practice Tuesday, hitting eight of 15 shots, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out six assists. A teammate helped him down the hallway afterward, but he insisted he’s OK.

“The ankle’s fine,” said Rondo, averaging 22.7 points, 9.7 assists and 10.7 rebounds in the series.

Pierce was more than fine.

He asserted himself after two rather quiet games, hitting his first six shots and going 9 of 15 overall. He was aggressive from the start, setting the tone as the Celtics pulled away early.

“In Game 1 and 2, I was a little indecisive but I’m getting comfortable with what (the Bulls) want to do,” he said.

Ray Allen added 18 points after scoring 30 and hitting the tiebreaking 3-pointer to lift the Celtics to a 118-115 victory in Game 2 on Monday. And Boston hit 12 of 21 3-pointers.

The Bulls covered the arena in rose petals in honor of Derrick Rose, who was named Rookie of the Year on Wednesday, but they couldn’t cover Pierce, Rondo or Allen. They couldn’t hang onto the ball. They couldn’t shoot, and they couldn’t hit their free throws.

It was that kind of night.

The Bulls committed 22 turnovers, shot 37.5 percent from the field and were 17-of-27 at the line after going 46-of-51 in the first two games.

Ben Gordon scored 15 on 5-of-13 shooting after pouring in 42 in Game 2, while John Salmons added 14.

Rose, who scored 36 as the Bulls won the opener in overtime, got outplayed for the second straight game by Rondo, finishing with nine points, seven turnovers and two assists.

Content to defer in the first two games, Pierce went right at the Bulls, scoring 13 in the first quarter as the Celtics grabbed a 32-21 lead. He drove, buried jumpers and scored from all angles.

He looked like his usual self after shooting 40 percent while averaging a rather quiet 20.5 points in the first two games. That he didn’t assert himself earlier was a surprise, considering the man guarding him – Salmons – has a strained left groin.

“I thought he set the tone for us,” coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought he came out extremely aggressive and attacked early. He played the perfect decoy but was aggressive at the same time. I thought it was beautiful how he played.”

For Rondo, it was simply more of the same.

Any doubts about the ankle were quickly evaporated during a nine-point first quarter that he capped with a 3. Allen was quiet for most of the first half until the final 1:10, when he followed a 3-pointer by Stephon Marbury with two of his own to make it 59-37.

It was an impressive showing by the Celtics, who are trying to make due without Garnett. The Big Ticket’s status for the postseason is in doubt because of a knee strain that limited him to four games over the final two months.

Notes: Celtics coach Doc Rivers said no date has been set for surgery on Leon Powe, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee in Game 2 and is done for the season. Powe averaged 7.7 points and 4.9 rebounds this season, missing 13 straight games down the stretch with an injury in his right knee. … Commissioner David Stern said he’s been speaking to GM Danny Ainge “through the Celtics” after his mild heart attack last week. “There was a meeting last week in New York. Danny, that morning, he had been hospitalized and we were getting up-to-the-minute (reports).” Stern also said he would try to speak to Garnett before the game. “The KG situation is a tough one,” he said. “Guys play and play and play, and we know, statistically, that at some point this happens. … It’s sad.” … The Bulls are the last team to eliminate the defending champions in the first round, after sweeping Miami in 2007.

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