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Jayson Tatum’s first career triple double not enough to beat Bulls, Celtics lose 102-96

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Boston started off strong against the Bulls, but Nikola Vucevic was too much to handle.

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Nikola Vucevic, the Chicago Bulls’ big deadline splash, proved his worth Monday night against the Boston Celtics. The Windy City’s new All-Star center was too much for the shorthanded Celtics to overcome. Despite a last-ditch comeback effort, Boston lost 102-96 to the Bulls.

The Bulls entered the Monday night match 4-9 since making a blockbuster deal to acquire Vucevic. The two-time All-Star took control without the help of Zach LaVine, scoring 29 points and grabbing nine boards.

Daniel Theis returned to Boston for the first time since being traded for Mo Wagner and Luke Kornet. In his homecoming, Theis scored six points and grabbed six rebounds on the parquet he spent four years calling home.

Jaylen Brown picked up where he left off against the Lakers – a game where he dropped 40 points on hyper-efficient 17-20 shooting. He scored 13 points early on 6-6 shooting against Chicago.

Vucevic was dealing from the jump, manipulating the Boston defense to get himself or others open. Vucevic had nine points in the first, but the Boston defense played a good team first quarter. At the end of the first frame, the home team led 30-24.

The Celtics struggled again with turnovers. Boston turned the ball over six times in the first, which gave Chicago chances to linger around. The Celtics coughed up 15 turnovers total—a bug that has stayed with them all season—and the mistakes were crucial to Chicago’s winning effort.

Jabari Parker once again played significant minutes. After making his debut against Golden State, Parker made an impact offensively with the bench unit. Parker hit two of his first three shots, and finished with eight points on 4-7 shooting.

Romeo Langford led the team defensively. He recorded two steals in the second quarter, flashing his instincts and length. He also nearly had two blocks, had the whistles gone the other way.

Langford had a few assists as well, flashing some impressive passing on a between-the-legs pass to the Green Kornet in the pick-and-roll.

Payton Pritchard was efficient and effective in his second career start, scoring nine points on 4-5 shooting in the first half, adding two assists as well. Pritchard finished with 14 points and hit two 3-pointers.

Boston held a 12-point lead late in the first half, but Chicago was able to close the gap, cutting the Celtics lead to six at halftime. The Celtics led 48-42 in a defensive-oriented first half, as both shorthanded squads struggled to find offensive consistency.

Chicago took their first lead of the game with 3:04 remaining in the third, 66-64. In the third quarter, the Bulls were able to chip away at the lead with second chance buckets, notably on kick outs from Vucevic. Vucevic and Theis were active on the offensive glass, they finished with six combined.

After taking their first lead, Chicago was pushing the pace with a renewed energy. The Bulls were running often and capitalized on turnovers and long misses. Chicago’s lead stretched to eight at the most, as Boston was forced to make a fourth quarter comeback if they wanted to remain one of the NBA’s hottest teams.

Tremont Waters saw action with Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier and Robert Williams III out, and made impact plays in his fourth quarter minutes. Waters made an intelligent read on a screen before hitting a three, and created problems defensively, forcing three turnovers. Waters finished with nine points.

One way or another, it was Tatum trying to revive Boston as they clawed back. Tatum recorded a triple-double, uncharacteristically recording double-digit points after rebounds and assists. Tatum recorded more than 10 assists for the fourth time in his career in his first triple-double.

After a jump ball with six minutes remaining, Tatum flew past the Bulls defender and stole two points after drawing a foul. The hustle play put the Celtics down one. Later, Tatum would hit a big three to tie the game at 90 with three minutes to go.

Chicago answered back, utilizing Vucevic in every way possible. The one-man Swiss wrecking crew was the best player on the court the whole night. After a Vucevic jumper, then a Coby White layup off a Vucevic screen, Chicago was back in control.

Down 96-92, Langford missed an open three then a hook shot, taking time off the clock and giving Chicago the ball with 30 seconds left.

Despite some late-game theatrics, Boston couldn’t make miracles to pull out a win, and Chicago escaped with a win, something that had been hard to come by recently.

Boston fell to 31-27 on the season, putting them half a game back of the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference standings.