Curry scored 16 points in 23 minutes, Tyson Chandler added 13 points and 10 rebounds and the Bulls closed out their fourth straight win with a 14-4 run, beating Boston 94-86 Friday night.
The Bulls moved a half-game ahead of Cleveland for the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and also moved within a game of Boston for home court advantage in a possible first-round playoff matchup. The Celtics are 3 1/2 games ahead of Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division title and the No. 3 seed.
“This is a huge win for us,” Chandler said. “Anybody you feel you’re going to face in the playoffs, you want to leave a statement. You want to leave something in the back of their heads.”
After the Celtics tied the game at 84, Ben Gordon hit a 3-pointer with 2:49 left to give Chicago an 87-84 lead. Chris Duhon then followed with a pair of free throws and Chandler added a field goal to put the Bulls ahead 91-86 with 1:51 remaining.
Curry led the Bulls with six points and four rebounds in the final 8:34 after sitting on the bench in foul trouble for a 12-minute stretch. Curry’s three-point play with 3:57 left gave the Bulls an 84-82 lead.
“Guys did a good job looking for me down the stretch,” Curry said. “We knew that at any moment, we could have taken the game at any point. And I think we came and changed the game at the right time.”
Pierce had a chance to pull Boston within two, but his 3-point attempt with 31 seconds left rimmed out and the Bulls made three free throws to pull away.
Boston shot just 5-of-26 in the fourth quarter and was outscored 28-14.
“It was definitely a letdown by us, but maybe we learned a lesson tonight about what we’re going to have to do to win ballgames,” Pierce said. “We have to play each possession on defense as if it were our last, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Following the game, Celtics coach Doc Rivers met with the team’s medical staff to discuss Gary Payton’s ailing back. Payton played 34 minutes and scored 13 points, but Rivers suggested that, at the very least, Boston might have to limit the 36-year-old point guard’s minutes the rest of the season and hope his back will be in better shape come playoff time.
“We’re just going to have to find out more about his back,” Rivers said. “But its becoming a concern. We don’t know yet … it’s not anything great. I can just say that.”
With the win, Chicago evened its season series at two games apiece.
Eric Paitkowski started for the Bulls in place of Kirk Hinrich, who strained his left hamstring Monday night in Chicago’s 105-91 home win over Atlanta. … The rule giving the team with the better record home court advantage in the playoffs regardless of seed was enacted before this season.