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Celtics survive the back-to-back in Chicago with 111-104 win

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Dunks, stepbacks, and Enes Kanter’s post moves were just barely enough to overcome tired legs and unforced errors

NBA: Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Get out your Boston Celtics bingo cards.

Injured starter? Check. Sluggish start? Check. Second game of a back to back? That’s the free space in the middle. Getting torched by a guy who inexplicably torched the Celtics last time? Big ol’ check (thanks, Zach Lavine). Enes Kanter double double? Not on the card, but it should be, I guess?

Zach Lavine put Boston in an early 18-6 hole, scoring 11 points in the game’s first six minutes. Gordon Hayward helped stabilize the offense early with his signature turn-around jumper, while Tatum began to make amends for last game by finishing at the basket. As soon at the deficit reached 12, Tatum and Hayward quickly got it back to seven.

The Celtics’ ability to stop the bleeding early is a major improvement over last season, although sometimes I wonder if they’re better off trailing by 18 before stepping on the gas.

Sure enough, The Celtics chain-sawed through a 12 point deficit to end the first quarter with a two point lead, thanks to Tatum’s mid-range shot with 1.7 on the clock. Jaylen Brown also went on a personal 6-0 run to keep things close enough for Boston to regain momentum.

The second quarter started a bit like the first, but with Boston leaning pretty heavily on their bench with a Tatum/Smart/Kanter/Ojeleye/Green lineup. Grant Williams came in, and the Celtics immediately went up by five.

I’m struggling to find the right words to describe how unremarkable the first half of this game was, so how about this: the official Celtics Twitter account posted exactly one highlight in the entire first half. And it wasn’t even that exciting:

Very cool!

Boston led 55-52 at the half. Brown, Tatum, and Hayward all had a dozen in the first two frames. The Bulls shot 10-19 from three.

The third quarter was a lot of back and forth, with Boston maintaining a small lead. Jaylen Brown stayed hot from three:

And then Tatum’s lob to Hayward felt like the first real bit of action all game:

Late in the third, Enes Kanter went on an 8-0 run of his own, including two consecutive and-1s before converting a beautiful transition pass from Grant Williams. (I’ll gladly take another opportunity to point out that good things always happen when Grant comes in.)

Tatum’s layup with 0.5 left pushed Boston to a 12 point lead to end the third quarter.

A 16 point Boston lead was cut down to four in the span of about five minutes. My favorite bit was Jaylen Brown clapping in Kris Dunn’s face, leading to Dunn taking an ill-advised drive to the basket, followed by Jaylen Brown throwing a rocket of a pass directly to the Bulls’ hands off the miss. Loved the intensity, hated the result.

Kris Dunn got his revenge, too, but grabbing another steal and feeding Lavine for a fast break dunk. Turnovers were a huge issue for Boston down the stretch, as they allowed the Bulls to hang around in a game that could have easily been put out of reach.

Tatum’s dagger put Chicago away for good:

Quick post game notes:

Tatum finishes the game with 28 points on 12-15 shooting. Hayward with 24 points on 9-14, Brown with 19 on 7-13.

Boston committed 19 turnover’s to Chicago’s 15.

Enes Kanter posted 17 points, 12 boards, and two more blocks.

Grant Williams added a three-pointer, three rebounds, two assists, and two steals