Jayson Tatum, Celtics Fall to Zach LaVine, Bulls Amid Race for East Playoff Spot

Adam WellsMay 8, 2021

Chicago Bulls guard Coby White, left, drives against Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Friday, May 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

After losing four straight games, the Chicago Bulls have back-to-back wins thanks to their 121-99 victory over the Boston Celtics at the United Center on Friday night. 

Chicago started the day 3.5 games behind the Washington Wizards for the final spot in the play-in tournament with six games remaining in the regular season. It's a steep hill to climb, but there remains hope thanks to wins over the Celtics and Charlotte Hornets. 

Boston entered Friday's game with the same record as the Miami Heat (35-31), but it had the tiebreaker advantage for the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. 

Head coach Brad Stevens' squad has now dropped five of their past eight games after winning seven of eight from April 7-22. 

Coby White and Zach Lavine combined to score 50 points in the win. Nikola Vucevic posted his first triple-double as a member of the Bulls with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists. 

The Celtics got another outstanding effort from Kemba Walker, who dropped 33 points. Evan Fournier was the only other player on the team to score in double figures (17 points). 

Notable Game Stats

  • Zach LaVine (CHI): 25 points (10-of-24 FG), 5 rebounds, 2 assists
  • Coby White (CHI): 25 points (9-of-16 FG), 7 rebounds, 5 assists
  • Nikola Vucevic (CHI): 18 points (7-of-16 FG), 14 rebounds, 10 assists
  • Kemba Walker (BOS): 33 points (10-of-21 FG), 4 rebounds, 3 assists
  • Jayson Tatum (BOS): 9 points (3-of-15 FG), 6 rebounds, 3 assists
  • Evan Fournier (BOS): 17 points (7-of-11 FG), 6 rebounds

White, Vucevic Lead Bulls in Blowout

With Zach LaVine still working his way back into form in his second game back, the Bulls got strong performances from Coby White and Nikola Vucevic. 

White played one of his best games of the season. The second-year point guard was able to use his scoring ability because Vucevic was in charge of setting up his teammates. 

Most of the damage White did came in the first half. He made four three-pointers through two quarters for the first time this season. 

Cody Westerlund @CodyWesterlund

Coby White's stepback 3 game is nasty tonight. He has 17 points on 6-10 FGs.

The Bulls selected White with the seventh overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft hoping he could develop into a reliable scoring option. The 21-year-old flashed potential late last season, but it hasn't carried over to the 2020-21 campaign.

If White can harness the consistency he displayed tonight against the Celtics, he will become the player that Chicago needs him to be. 

Vucevic was able to impact the game despite not putting up a lot of points. He dished out a season-high 12 assists and grabbed 14 rebounds. Vooch's passing skills were on display frequently in the win. 

Chicago Bulls @chicagobulls

Vooch finds LaVine for the tough bucket πŸ’ͺ@ZachLaVine | #BullsNation pic.twitter.com/1342wuMi5M

Even though the stretch run this season has been frustrating for the Bulls, tonight was a prime example of what their offense can do when LaVine, Vucevic and White are in the lineup together. 

It also says a lot about the team's performance that they were able to beat a good Celtics team with ease despite shooting just 43.4 percent from the field. 

Chicago's shot selection played a huge role in the win. Nearly half (18) of its 40 field goals were from three-point range. This wasn't an efficient overall game for the team, but head coach Billy Donovan had his squad playing with a sense of urgency with their playoff hopes hanging by a thread. 

Walker's Big Night Can't Lift Celtics

While the rest of his Celtics teammates were unable to get anything going, Kemba Walker played like a star trying to get his squad into the playoffs. 

After tying his season-high with 32 points on Wednesday in a win over the Orlando Magic, Walker passed that mark against the Bulls. 

Boston Celtics @celtics

taking it to the basket pic.twitter.com/nZ413hFrIa

Jay King @ByJayKing

In an otherwise gross game for the Celtics, Kemba Walker has a season high of 33 points. With 7:22 still left in this one, he now has 143 total points over his last five outings. He has matched or exceeded his previous season high three times during this stretch.

Walker went 6-of-13 from three-point range. The rest of the Celtics combined to go 5-of-26 from behind the arc. 

Boston entered this game not at full strength. Jaylen Brown missed his second straight game with an ankle injury. Tristan Thompson did play after missing one game with a strained left pectoral muscle. 

Jayson Tatum was a non-factor. He scored just two points on 1-of-7 shooting in the first half. The two-time All-Star's nine points were tied for his second-lowest single-game total this season.

Darnell Mayberry @DarnellMayberry

Jayson Tatum's last seven quarters against the Bulls:<br><br>22 points, 19 rebounds, 13 assists, 6-of-31 shooting, 1-for-11 from 3.

The second quarter was when things fell apart for the Celtics. Trailing by two points at the end of the first, they were held to just 18 points and trailed by 14 at halftime. 

Boston started the fourth quarter on a 15-4 run that got the deficit down to eight points, but that would be as close as it got to making this a game. 

Depth has been a problem for head coach Brad Stevens all year. It was a significant issue against the Bulls because he had no answers to slow down their offensive attack. 

Things are only going to get more difficult for the Celtics with two upcoming games against the Heat. If they turn in another performance like they did on Friday, they are going to be staring down a spot in the play-in tournament. 

What's Next?

The Celtics have a crucial two-game home series against Miami starting on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. The Bulls will go on the road for a matchup with the Detroit Pistons on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.