The Boston Celtics held off the Chicago Bulls late in the fourth quarter, winning 107-99

middle Boston CelticsStarting 21-5 in the 2022-23 regular season, only one team seemed to truly let them down: The Chicago Bulls, who scored two wins over the Celtics over an extended period as their other three losses came in overtime. The Bulls have had a largely mercurial season, but for whatever reason, they’ve been up against the Celtics this season. That trend continued again tonight, but ultimately, the Celtics ended their season series against Chicago in a 2-2 tie with a 107-99 win.

Jason Tatum led the way for the Celtics with 32 points, helped by 20 from Grant Williams and 19 from Jaylen Brown. The Bulls lost star player DeMar DeRozan to an injury early in the second half, but managed to keep the game close behind 27 points from rookie Zack LaVine and 21 from quarterback Nikola Vucevic.

Two days after Tatum expressed his desire to have Robert Williams III back in the starting lineup, he got his wish. With Marcus Smart (left knee contusion) sidelined, Joe Mazzola elected to return the fourth-year center to his starting role. The move immediately paid dividends, as Williams quickly slotted his way open a pair of paint finishes in the feed from his teammates, while adding a blocked shot and putting up a number of quality first-quarter screens.

Along with Williams, Tatum (16 points) and Brown (15) were both effective in the first half, and the bench bench contributed 15 points collectively. But the Bulls played the Celtics as hard as they had all season, refusing to let Boston go a long way for most of the half. As the second quarter ended, however, the Celtics pulled away 15-5 to finally give them space on their possessions. They entered halftime leading by nine, 59-50.

A scary moment arose early in the third quarter, as DeRozan hit the ground while trying to work against Al Horford off the dribble. He hit the ground after what appeared to be a non-contact injury to his knee, and was on the ground for some time. DeRozan stayed in the match after the ensuing televised timeout and appeared to avoid a major injury, but returned to the locker room shortly thereafter and was quickly ruled out for the evening with a right quadruple strain.

The second half began with Chicago surging, redeeming themselves on one possession early in the third quarter. But with play resuming after DeRozan’s injury, the scales have tipped sharply in favor of the Celtics. Led by a spurt from Tatum, they turned Chicago around halfway through the third, and managed to extend their lead heading into the final frame, 84-73.

Even without DeRozan on the field, the Bulls refused to go soft. It was far from an explosive series, but they clawed their way back to a five-point lead in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter, buoyed by a long, scoreless streak of Celtics offense. It was a push-and-pull game from there, as the Celtics fought to extend their lead, but struggled through some wide-open looks before LaVine connected on a deep triple, vying to cut the score to 96-91 with less than four minutes left to play.

Lavigne hit again moments later, when Nikola Vucevic’s three-pointer hit him with another of his own to bring Chicago within two. A pair of Tatum’s free throws and a Vucevic throw later, the game came up in a deciding sequence with less than a minute to play. LaVine couldn’t connect on a mid-range jumper, and the Celtics let the clock run, resulting in a massive three by Horford with 24 seconds left in regulation.

From there, Tatum put the game on ice.

Then, the Celtics would start a back-to-back game against a pair of teams that were missing their star players, in a team-to-team showdown New Orleans Pelicans (sans-Zion Williamson) This Wednesday at 7:30 PM EST on NBC Sports Boston.

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