CHICAGO – The game had a playoff vibe, at least in one respect.
It was not because of the opponent, the overmatched Celtics.
But given that the Bulls left Boston with a win Sunday, Monday’s game gave them the rare opportunity for a two-day, two-game sweep.
It’s good preparation, coach Tom Thibodeau said, for what’s coming down the road.
The Celtics have just two road victories against teams better than .500, but they did provide a solid test. The Bulls finally pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 94-80 victory, moving into a tie with the Raptors for the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
We understand the Raptors lost tonight (in Miami) and we wanted to take advantage, Taj Gibson said. It was up and down, sloppy game, but it always comes down to who wants it more.
Mike Dunleavy scored a game-high 22 points, with Joakim Noah adding 19 and Jimmy Butler 18.
The Bulls trailed by as many as nine points in the second quarter but got back to even shortly after Kirk Hinrich outraced Jerryd Bayless for a loose ball and fed Noah for lefty lay-in. Hinrich missed a 3-point try, but Butler cleaned it up for a 48-48 tie.
The Bulls took command by scoring the first 13 points of the fourth quarter.
PISTONS 116, BUCKS 111: In Auburn Hills, Mich., Greg Monroe had 28 points and 14 rebounds and Detroit ended a three-game skid.
HAWKS 103, 76ERS 95: In Atlanta, Paul Millsap scored 28 points and Lou Williams added 22 off the bench, rallying Atlanta to a victory that denied the Philadelphia its first winning streak in nearly three months.
BOBCATS 100, WIZARDS 94: In Charlotte, N.C., Kemba Walker (21 points, 10 assists) and Al Jefferson (19 points, 11 rebounds) each had a double-double and Charlotte rallied from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit and prevented Washington from clinching their first playoff berth since 2008.
CLIPPERS 114, TIMBERWOLVES 104: In Minneapolis, Darren Collison had 28 points and seven assists, and Los Angeles didn’t miss a beat with Blake Griffin out with a back injury.
KINGS 102, PELICANS 97: In New Orleans, DeMarcus Cousins had 35 points and 14 rebounds, and Sacramento snapped a three-game skid.
KNICKS 92, JAZZ 83: In Salt Lake City, Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points on 11-of-19 shooting, and New York stayed one game back of the final Eastern Conference playoff berth.
GRIZZLIES 94, NUGGETS 92: In Denver, Zach Randolph had 20 points and 11 rebounds, Mike Conley added 19 points and Memphis moved into a three-way tie with Dallas and Phoenix for seventh in the Western Conference.