The Boston Celtics took the court on Monday night facing off a team that looked to be moving in the opposite direction. Winners of nine consecutive games, the Celtics traveled to Chicago to face a Bulls team that had lost their last four. Despite the two teams’ recent fortunes, however, this was no matchup to take lightly; the Bulls entered the game as the only team to hand the Celtics a loss in regulation thus far this season. Their apparent knack for making the Celtics look like the worst version of themselves proved to perhaps be a trend, as they controlled the affair for much of the night and snapped Boston’s win streak with a 121-107 win.
Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown led the way with a pair of stat lines that may have looked better than they actually were in practicality. Tatum scored 28 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and dished 7 assists, while Brown scored 25 points and connected on four threes, but both finished as negatives in terms of plus-minus on the night (limited though that stat may be). Malcolm Brogdon bounced back from a difficult return to the Celtics lineup on Friday with 23 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field (five made threes). But a balanced effort from Chicago proved too much to handle. DeMar DeRozan scored 28 points, leading the way among six Bulls players who recorded double-digit scoring.
The word for the first quarter was “sloppy.” Namely, on the offensive side of the ball. The Celtics shot just 27% from the field in the quarter and coughing up six turnovers, even prompting a timeout from the otherwise-timeout-averse Joe Mazzulla in the early minutes. As poor as the early results may have been, though, the Bulls did surprisingly little to capitalize. They struggled with Boston’s defense and managed to accumulate just a five-point lead heading into the second quarter, 28-23.
The Celtics’ issues on the glass reared their ugly head once again as the second quarter progressed. They had little answer for the duo of Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond, who combined for 25 combined rebounds on the night, and as a result, they had little wiggle room with which to dig themselves out of the hole they dug with their anemic scoring. The Bulls took advantage, pulling ahead by as many as 15 points and entering the halftime break leading 63-50.
There was little relief to be found as the second half commenced, as any small progress the Celtics made was quickly erased by an early 11-0 Bulls run. The Chicago offense began to click, and the lead stretched as far as 18 points as the third quarter progressed, with little in the way of resistance on the part of the Celtics to prevent it. Every Boston punch saw several Chicago counterpunches, and the Celtics lost their third straight quarter en route to a 95-79 deficit entering the final frame.
And then: signs of life! Awoken from their near-two-hour slumber, the Celtics kicked off the fourth quarter with an 11-2 run to cut the Chicago lead back down to single-digits. For a moment, it looked as though Boston might have the energy to pull off another come-from-behind win, as in their victory over the Thunder last week. But the glimpse of hope was brief; the Bulls rebounded to keep the Celtics around a 10-point deficit, and a three-pointer from Zach LaVine with just under four minutes to play provided the dagger.
Next up, the Celtics will return home from their mini-road trip to kick off a six-game homestand against the Dallas Mavericks, this Wednesday night at 7:30 PM EST on ESPN.