The game had a playoff vibe, at least in one respect.
It was not because of the opponent, the overmatched Boston Celtics.
“I think it’s good preparation,” Bulls 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, improving their mark to 30-14 since Jan. 1.
Mike Dunleavy scored a game-high 22 points, with Joakim Noah (19) and Jimmy Butler (18) not far behind. Noah and Taj Gibson had 11 rebounds, and D.J. Augustin dished out a game-high 11 assists.
The Bulls trailed by as many as eight points in the second quarter but got back to even shortly after Kirk Hinrich outraced Jerryd (CQ) 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.
Chicago took command by scoring the first 13 points of the final quarter. The highlight: Gibson slamming one down on Kris (CQ) Humphries, who already gets heckled as the former groom of Kim Kardashian (CQ).
The Bulls dominated in the fourth after going to school on Boston one day earlier.
“It’s the same plays,” Thibodeau said, “so there’s a tendency for players to know what’s coming.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said that playing back-to-backs against the same opponent was no big deal.
“Unless they had more traffic going home and didn’t get to bed any earlier, I’d say it doesn’t have any impact on either team,” he said. “The biggest thing is, we don’t have Rondo.”
The Celtics rested guard Rajon Rondo, who underwent reconstructive knee surgery 13 months ago.
“He’s an offense unto himself,” Thibodeau said. “He can make something out of nothing. Their strengths are a lot different when he’s not on the floor.”