It felt like Groundhog Day all over again. And then, it didn’t.
If that description of the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game fails to make sense, consider that neither do the 2021-22 Boston Celtics.
Despite losing an early double-digit lead to an undermanned Bulls team – one that roared back from a 19-point third quarter deficit to beat the C’s handily back in November – the Green gritted their teeth and pulled out a 114-112 win on Saturday night at TD Garden.
The Celtics scored the last eight points – including four clutch Robert Williams free throws – to get the duke.
Jayson Tatum tallied 23 points and Jaylen Brown had 19 as Boston placed six players in double figures. Dennis Schröder chipped in 16, Al Horford bullied his way to 15 on an efficient 7-of-11 from the floor, and Robert Williams had a 14-point, 13 rebound double-double. Josh Richardson had 13 off the bench.
Boston dominated the glass by a 50-32 margin.
Chicago was led by Nikola Vucevic, with 27 points on 12-of-20 from the field. Demar DeRozan had 23 points while Ayo Dosunmu (21 points on 9-of-10 shooting) and Coby White (19 points and 5-of-10 from downtown) combined for 40. Dosunmu also dished out a game-high 10 assists.
The Celtics fell behind early in the first quarter but outscored the Bulls 26-11 to take a 10-point lead 12 minutes in. Boston shot a blistering 60 percent in the opening frame – with 13 points for Tatum – attempting just five three-pointers and no free throws.
While the Bulls fought back in the second, Boston hit the halftime bell with a five-point advantage. The threes still weren’t falling (2-of-12 overall at the midway point) but the Celtics got to the line (8-of-8 from the charity stripe).
Chicago did eventually wrest the lead from the Green in the third and trailed by just one at the quarter pole, 84-83. They’d go ahead by as many as seven – with 4:07 left in the contest – before Boston’s furious comeback bid.
The win puts the Celtics back at .500 again (22-22). The Bulls slipped to 27-14 – still good for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Zach LaVine and Lonzo Ball missed the game for Chicago, both with left knee soreness. An MRI on LaVine’s knee before Saturday’s game revealed no structural damage. Marcus Smart (health and safety protocols) was inactive for Boston.
The Celtics host a matinee matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans on Martin Luther King Day – Monday – with tip-off at 12:30 p.m. Pregame coverage starts at noon on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Sean Sylver can be heard on 98.5 The Sports Hub. Talk hoops with him on Twitter @TheSylverFox.