Coming into Friday, the Boston Celtics knew that they simply could not suffer a loss to Chicago as they try to avoid the play-in. Despite the high stakes that Boston faced, it was an embarrassing showing at the United Center in a blowout loss.
Fans were allowed at the United Center for the first time this season and even with Chicago’s playoff hopes slipping away, it was a relatively dominant performance from the home team against the Celtics.
Kemba Walker was a bright spot for Boston, tallying a season-high 33 points with six 3-pointers. However, it was Zach LaVine and Coby White who stole the spotlight. Both of them scored 25 points to lead the way for the Bulls. Nikola Vucevic also had his second triple-double of the season with 18 points, 10 assists and 14 rebounds. Chicago shot 18-40 from beyond the arc and Coby White managed to knock down seven of them.
In Boston’s losing effort, Evan Fournier had 17 points, but Jayson Tatum had a quiet night shooting just 3-15 with nine points. Boston were without Jaylen Brown (ankle) and Robert Williams (turf toe).
Chicago led by 21 points at one point in the third quarter, but Boston came within eight in the fourth quarter. The Bulls responded to this run with one of their own, scoring 12 straight points to secure the victory.
There is still hope for the Bulls, who have come within three games of the Washington Wizards for the final play-in spot in the Eastern Conference with five games remaining. Chicago will head to Detroit to face the Pistons on Sunday.
With the loss, Boston fell to seventh in the Eastern Conference, which would require them to take part in the play-in round if the regular season ended today. They are currently a game back of sixth place Miami. The next two games for the Celtics will be pivotal as they host the Miami Heat on Sunday and Tuesday. These upcoming encounters with Miami will likely decide whether or not Boston will avoid the play-in.