The Bulls got fans back at the United Center on Friday night against the Celtics, and they were treated to a truly delightful ass-whooping by the home team. After a tightly contested first quarter, Chicago took control of the game in the second and then mostly cruised to a 121-99 victory to stay alive in the play-in race.
There was some slight concern of a fourth-quarter meltdown after the Celtics turned a 20-point deficit to start the fourth quarter to eight midway through the final frame, but the Bulls regrouped and pushed the lead back out to blowout territory to finish things off.
Zach LaVine and Coby White led the Bulls with 25 points apiece, while Nikola Vucevic recorded the franchise’s first triple-double since Jimmy Butler with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists. While Chicago shot a pedestrian 43.4% overall, an 18-of-40 mark on 3-pointers (Coby was 7-of-12) and good work in the offensive rebound (15) and turnover (9) department helped lead to this beatdown. The Bulls took 13 more shots than a raggedy Celtics team that badly missed Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams.
Jayson Tatum put forth an absolute stinker of a game after sucking last game as well against the Bulls (despite a triple-double), going 3-of-15 from the field and 0-of-7 from 3-point range. He was a game-worst minus-22 on the night. Apparently Chicago is Tatum’s kryptonite for some odd reason, because he has looked truly awful in these last few meetings.
The Celtics shot just 40.7% from the field and 11-of-39 from 3-point range. Kemba Walker had 33 points and Evan Fournier had 17, but they had nobody else in double figures. They’ve been a bit of a hot mess all season and are in danger of being subject to the play-in tournament. You really hate to see them looking like frauds.
As for the Bulls, they’re still three games behind the Wizards with five games to play, but they’re clearly not going down without a fight. While my guess is they fall just short of the play-in, it’s nice to see LaVine, Vucevic and White playing well together and not just totally folding up shop.
Next up is another should-be win against the Pistons on Sunday before a really tough final week.