Bulls trample Celtics in home race

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The Chicago Bulls beat the Boston Celtics 97-81 on Thursday to open a four-game lead at the top of the Eastern Conference and move to within one victory of clinching home-court advantage throughout the NBA playoffs.

Chicago (58-20), winners of 17 of their last 19 games, closed out the third quarter with an 11-4 run to pull away from the Celtics (54-24).

"This meant a lot because you're going against a team you could see in the playoffs," Bulls guard Derrick Rose told reporters after scoring a game-high 30 points.

"You don't want those teams to have confidence. We were aggressive. That's the way it's going to be. We're a tough team. We grind wins out."

"I just thought they were far more physical, tougher, more prepared, which is on me," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "I thought Thibs (Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau) did a better job.

"I thought (Carlos) Boozer did a better job, I thought Derrick Rose did a better job. I just thought overall they just competed far better than us tonight."

MVP candidate Rose added eight assists for the Bulls and Luol Deng scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half.

The Celtics were led by Paul Pierce with 15 points while Kevin Garnett scored 10 and Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen were limited to seven each.

(Reporting by Mike Mouat in Windsor, Ontario; Editing by Alastair Himmer)