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 2-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 (19) and Jimmy Butler (18) not far behind. Noah and Gibson had 11 rebounds, and D.J. Augustin dished out 11 assists.
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. The highlight: Gibson slamming one down on Kris Humphries.
"That dunk wasn't easy," Gibson said. "There was a lot of contact. But, hey, that's what it is when you're in the post."