The Boston Celtics missed the chance to move within one win of the Cleveland Cavaliers as they were beaten at the death by the Chicago Bulls in the NBA.
A foul from Marcus Smart with 0.9 seconds remaining allowed All Star Jimmy Butler to make both his free throws and seal a thrilling 104-103 victory.
“He got a piece of the elbow,” Butler said. “People are going to say ‘Aw, he didn’t foul him,’ but he did.
“So at the end of the day they made the right call.”
Butler’s clutch foul shots capped a memorable duel with fellow All Star Isaiah Thomas in the NBA’s final game before the break. Butler and Thomas both finished with 29 points and seven assists.
“That’s horrible when it costs you a game you should have won. That’s a bad call,” Thomas said.
The Celtics had looked set to extend their winning run to four games and record their 38th victory of the season to close on the Eastern Conference-leading Cavaliers.
After Butler’s free throws, Al Horford air-balled a baseline jumper on the Celtics’ last shot, giving Chicago (28-29) consecutive wins against Eastern Conference powers Toronto and Boston (37-20).
In the day’s only other game before the All-Star break, the Washington Wizards were 111-98 winners against the Indiana Pacers.
The Wizards are third in the East on 34 wins after recording their fourth straight victory.
Washington’s All Star guard John Wall scored 20 points and added 12 assists while Otto Porter Jr. made six three-pointers to finish with 25 points and eight rebounds.
Myles Turner finished with 17 points and nine rebounds for Indiana with All Star Paul George also adding 17 points.
The Pacers were never in the lead as they lost their sixth successive game.
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