‘Coby! Coby! Coby!’ Bulls guard puts on spectacular, career-best performance in team’s play-in victory

CHICAGO (AP) — Coby White drew roars from the crowd early on with vicious crossovers and spins toward the basket. He was so effective he had fans chanting his name as the final minutes ticked away.

It was that kind of night.

White scored a career-high 42 points, and the Chicago Bulls advanced in the NBA Eastern Conference play-in tournament, knocking out the Atlanta Hawks with a 131-116 victory on Wednesday at the United Center.

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White had never scored more than 37 points in a regular season or postseason game. But in a breakthrough season, he delivered his best performance to date.

“It was a dope moment for that to happen,” White said. “I’m thankful for the fans. It felt like a playoff vibe. The place was rocking tonight.”

Heat up next

Chicago visits Miami on Friday for a shot at the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs and a first-round matchup with Boston. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. The Heat lost, 105-104, at Philadelphia earlier Wednesday night, as the 76ers secured the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference and a first-round matchup with the No. 2 seed New York Knicks.

Miami could also be without its top player Friday night.

Star guard Jimmy Butler suffered a possible MCL injury late in the first quarter Wednesday, sources told ESPN. According to ESPN, Butler said he’s getting an MRI on his knee Thursday. The Athletic first reported the injury.

Meanwhile, later Wednesday night in Chicago, Dejounte Murray led Atlanta with 30 points, but the Hawks came up short again after dropping their final six regular-season games.

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Nikola Vucevic had 24 points and 12 rebounds for Chicago. DeMar DeRozan finished with 22 points and nine assists.

Ayo Dosunmu added 19 points after missing the final four regular-season games because of a bruised right quadricep.

But White stole the spotlight. He went hard at the rim and made 15-of-21 field goals in a game where the Bulls shot 56.8% from the field. He also had nine rebounds and six assists.

Opponent impressed

White certainly impressed a player on the other side Wednesday night.

“I root for guys that work hard and are great people,” Murray said. “DeMar DeRozan’s a brother to me, and he speaks highly of (White). He says he works hard, he’s a great guy, he’s handled his business, he’s a professional on and off the floor. When I hear those things, I root for guys around the league just to have success.

“I think he’s always been good. He never really got the opportunity to showcase what he’s showcasing now, and the sky’s the limit.”

Atlanta’s Trae Young and Clint Capela each scored 22 points. Young, who missed 23 games late in the regular season because of a torn ligament in his left pinkie, had 10 assists but committed six turnovers. Capela grabbed 17 rebounds. Bogdan Bogdanovic added 21 points.

The Bulls were up 88-85 when Vucevic nailed a 3-pointer with 4:59 left in the third quarter to kick off a 17-2 run.

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White had the fans roaring when he scored on a neat spin around Young and fed a cutting Javonte Green for a dunk. White then scored on a layup following a block by Dalen Terry to make it 105-87 with 1:27 left in the third.

The Bulls led 40-22 after closing the first quarter on a 16-2 run, punctuated by Terry’s dunk off a steal by Alex Caruso. Young committed five turnovers in the period.

The Hawks quickly got back into it, reeling off 14 straight to start the second. The Bulls got the lead back up to 58-44 midway through the quarter when a rotating Dosunmu blocked De’Andre Hunter, drawing a huge roar from the crowd, and DeRozan broke for a three-point play.

The Hawks made another push near the end of the half, pulling within three in the closing minute. But Caruso answered an alley-oop dunk by Capela with a 3, and Chicago headed to the locker room with a 73-67 lead.

Caruso exited in the third quarter with a left ankle injury. Whether he’ll be ready to play against Miami was unclear.

“My mindset will be to play until my body tells me I can’t,” he said.

Up next

Bulls: The Bulls and Heat split four games, with each team winning one on the road.

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