With Kyrie Irving and Marcus Morris out the Celtics went with a youth-heavy lineup in their matchup against the Bulls. Marcus Smart started in place of Kyrie and big man Aron Baynes remained in the starting lneup for Morris. While Al Horford who was questionable to play before the game did end up starting but saw fairly limited minutes.
The game got off to a slow start with neither team finding the bottom of the basket for the first few minutes of play. For his part Marcus Smart showed confidence in the starting position and knocked down a few early shots from behind the three-point line while also helping to distribute to his teammates.
As the quarter continued the Celtics had players up and down the roster showing some solid shooting. The Bulls returned fire though and managed to keep things competitive. By the end of the first the Celtics were out in front but only by a single point leading 29-28.
The second quarter opened up with a strong run from Chicago who showed some spirit and took the lead. Coach Brad tinkered with various slightly experimental lineups with varying degrees of success. The likes of Shane Larkin, Abdel Nader, Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis all saw minutes in the rotation before the end of the first half.
On the Bulls side of things Bobby Portis caught fire in the second quarter and seemingly couldn’t miss – scoring at will for a time. He also had help from his sometimes jousting partner Nikola Mirotic and the Bulls young gun Kris Dunn.
Refusing to look back after taking the lead the Bulls walked all over the Celtics for much of the second quarter taking a double-digit lead and showing few signs of slowing down. On the second night of a back-to-back and the third game of their road-trip the Celtics offense lacked energy and imagination and the Bulls took advantage of the Celtics stagnation.
The final minute of the first half saw both sides scramble to convert their opportunities but in the end neither team had much luck and the score remained fairly static. At the half the Bulls were out in front 56 to the Celtics 42. Marcus Smart was the only Celtic to have scored in double-digits with 11 points and 4 assists.
The Celtics continued to struggle through the third finding little relief as the Bulls offense kept on firing. Whether they were on their last legs due to their packed schedule or they were disorientated due to the changes to the roster the Celtics failed to find their form and the Bulls maintained a solid lead.
The Celtics plan to get back into the game seemed clear they needed to double down on defense and run the floor for easy buckets, but they failed to execute. Ultimately Chicago’s defense deserves credit for some solid closeouts and pretty impressive defensive pressure overall.
The end of the third quarter was slowed down by a series of foul calls but the quarter finally finished with the Celtics still down by double-digits and in desperate need of a fourth quarter comeback.
Watching this game like... pic.twitter.com/mZzMFH51Wx— Celtics on NBCSB (@NBCSCeltics) December 12, 2017
The absence of Kyrie Irving was particularly apparent during the final quarter when his clutch buckets were most needed. Despite some renewed effort in the final frame from the Celtics young players the deficit proved too much to overcome and the Bulls continued to pile on.
In what was one of their ugliest games of the season the Celtics looked completely lost without Irving on the floor. Not only did the team lack offensive execution but their defensive effort was lacking as well. While the Bulls might not be a great team this season underestimating an opponent is exactly how ugly losses like this happen.
In a loss that could have and probably should have been avoided the Celtics were stagnant and unfocused. In the end some of the Celtics young players got taught some hard lessons in a tough loss and the Bulls got the upset victory.