CHICAGO (AP)Zach LaVine and Coby White each scored 25 points and the Chicago Bulls overcame a big effort by Kemba Walker to beat the Boston Celtics 121-99 on Friday night.
With their playoff hopes fading and fans at the United Center for the first time this season, the Bulls had their way with the Celtics. They led by 21 in the third quarter and put this one away after Boston got within eight in the fourth, scoring 12 straight.
Chicago pulled within three games of Washington and 3 1/2 of Indiana for the final spots in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament with five to play. The Wizards and Pacers were off Friday.
”We’re playing really well,” LaVine said. ”We’re really competing. We know our back’s against the wall right now so, obviously, I wish we played like that from the get-go. We’d be looking at a totally different scenario. But it’s the position we put ourselves in.”
LaVine delivered a ”welcome back” message to fans before tipoff and finished the night with some big plays down the stretch in his second game back after missing 11 straight because of the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols. He started the decisive run with a dunk, had a steal in that stretch and finished it with a fadeaway 3 to make it 112-92 with about three minutes remaining.
White also made a 3 in that run. He hit seven in the game – one shy of his career high – and the Bulls made 18 of 40 from beyond the arc.
Nikola Vucevic added 18 points, 10 assists and 14 rebounds for his second triple-double this season and first by a Bulls player since Jimmy Butler at Philadelphia on April 6, 2017.
Chicago came away with its second dominant win in as many nights, after beating Charlotte by an almost identical score – 120-99 – on Thursday.
”We’re getting to know each other,” said Vucevic, acquired from Orlando at the trade deadline. ”We’re getting to be more comfortable with each other, playing together and also still playing our games within the team’s system. Coby and I, I think we’ve been able to really build a good chemistry out there.”
The Celtics, trying to avoid the play-in, fell to seventh in the East and trail Miami by a game with the Heat beating Minnesota. They’ll meet Sunday in Boston.
Walker scored a season-high 33 and made six 3-pointers. Evan Fournier added 17 points, but Jayson Tatum finished with just nine on 3-for-15 shooting. The Celtics came up short after winning three of four.
”They’re a tough matchup for us,” coach Brad Stevens said. ”Obviously, I think they played really well, and we did not shoot the ball well, and it kind of went from there.”
WHITE PROVIDES SPARK
White scored 12 in the second quarter and nailed four 3s as the Bulls stretched a two-point lead to 14. He and Patrick Williams hit back-to-back shots from beyond the arc to make it a 17-point game before Walker made one in the closing seconds of the half to cut it to 60-46.
Celtics: All-Star Jaylen Brown (sprained right ankle) missed his second consecutive game. … C Robert Williams III (turf toe on left foot) missed the game. Coach Brad Stevens said the pain is ”pretty significant” and wasn’t sure when he will return. He said Williams almost sat out Wednesday’s game at Orlando. ”I don’t know what his availability will be like anytime in the next week, but obviously, we’re going to have to have other guys step up,” Stevens said. ”It’s not ideal.”
Bulls: Vucevic recorded a triple-double for Orlando in a win over Golden State on Feb. 19 with 30 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists in his other triple double. … The Bulls made 17 of 18 free throws.
Celtics: Host Miami on Sunday.
Bulls: Visit Detroit on Sunday.
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