The Boston Celtics fell for just the second time in the last thirteen games, heading into the All-Star break with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
A late foul by Marcus Smart on Jimmy Butler–on a highly contested shot and even more debatable foul call–gave Butler two free throws. Down by one, Butler calmly knocked them down, giving the Bulls a 104-103 lead and ultimate victory.
Thomas was up to his usual antics, scoring Boston’s last 11 points on route to a 29-point, 7-assist night. He did miss two crucial attempts down the stretch, though, as the Celtics narrowly missed out on the victory.
Thomas scoring 29 points marked the 41st straight game he scored at least 20 points, setting a franchise record.
The Celtics rode the play of their bench early in the second. Tyler Zeller, James Young and Terry Rozier combined for 17 second quarter points. Thomas added 13 as Boston was able to extend their lead to six at the break.
A third quarter lull by the Boston Celtics allowed Chicago to take the lead, ultimately pushing the margin to 75-68 on a put back by Lopez.
Offensive rebounds were once again a problem for Boston. The Bulls had 15 in the game, showing the need for a big man as the trade deadline approaches.
Down three entering the fourth, Boston used the combined play of Thomas, Kelly Olynyk (14 second-half points) and a huge three by Rozier to retake the lead. The Celtics led by no more than three until the final moments of the game.
On Chicago’s previous possession prior to the free throws, Smart had made a great defensive play in stripping Butler of the ball. A good look by Thomas missed, setting the stage for Butler’s free throws.
A last-second heave by Horford from the corner with .9 seconds left did not come close.
Olynyk continued his strong play, finishing with 17 points and 7 rebounds while Rozier added 11 points.
Butler led the Bulls with 29 points while Bobby Portis added a season-high 19. Portis also pulled down eight rebounds.
Chicago finished a perfect 22-22 from the free throw line and outrebounded the Celtics by 20 (51-31).
Both teams will be off for the next week as all-star weekend commences tomorrow in New Orleans.