Tell me if you’ve heard this before: Boston gave up a fourth quarter lead. Here’s something you rarely hear: the Celtics came back and won in the clutch. Without Lonzo Ball and Zach Lavine, the Bulls came charging back after being down for most of the game, but Boston came uncharacteristically back late and won 114-112.
The Celtics found themselves in a quick 7-2 hole as play began, but it didn’t take long to right the ship against the severely shorthanded Bulls. They were able to exploit Chicago’s general lack of rim protection early on, with Williams and Schröder sparking the offense on some early touches in the paint. From there, Tatum took the reigns, piling up 13 first quarter points to lead the Celtics to a 32-22 lead.
A balanced attack kept Chicago in the game as the second quarter commenced. Six Bulls recorded multiple made baskets in the first half, led by 13 points from third-year guard Coby White. The Celtics maintained a small advantage, though, led by Tatum’s scoring and a strong second frame from Al Horford, who enjoyed a small bounce-back from his recent slump with a 7-of-11 performance on the night. The Celtics entered the halftime break with a 54-49 advantage.
Second half was a seesaw affair. Whenever the Celtics inched the lead near double digits, timely threes by Chicago’s second string guards kept the Bulls close. White finished the game with 19 points, including 5-of-10 from behind the arc. Ayo Dusunmu took advantage of the start with an efficient 21.
With just under nine minutes to go, Boston relinquished the lead after Brown traded buckets with DeRozan, but the Celtics couldn’t match Chicago’s onslaught from deep. Timely threes from White, Dosunmu, and Matt Thomas helped support All-Star worthy performances from Nikola Vucevic (27 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists) and DeRozan (23 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists).
With the Celtics down 4 with a minute and a half to go, Brown hit a clutch baseline jumper to cut the lead in half. On the ensuing offensive possession, Robert Williams was fouled on a rim run and hit two free throws to tie the game. On Chicago’s next possession, Williams tried securing the defensive rebound and was fouled. Again, Williams hit two clutch at the line for 14 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, and a ton of winning plays and gave the Celtics the lead for good.
Tatum finished with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Brown chipped in 19, 7, and 4.
Next up, the Celtics remain at home for an early afternoon tilt with the New Orleans Pelicans, at 12:30 PM EST on NBC Sports Boston.
For more postgame coverage of the Boston’s clutch finish, tune into the the Garden Report Postgame Show LIVE on CLNS Media right after the game. Join A Sherrod Blakely, Bobby Manning, Josue Pavon, Jimmy Toscano and host John Zannis for a full breakdown.