In a close game, the Boston Celtics eked out a 123-119 win over the Chicago Bulls on Friday night in Boston. Jayson Tatum led all Celtics scorers with 36 points on 8-of-23 shooting, 17-of-20 from the line in addition to 12 boards and six assists. Beyond that, one of the biggest factors was Boston’s second unit, who won the bench battle with Chicago by outscoring them 41-15. That was in no small part due to Malcolm Brogdon’s stellar performance, where he dropped 25 points on 9-of-10 shooting, 7-of-9 from the line with two rebounds and four assists.
On the night, Brogdon was Boston’s second leading scorer, and in the closing minutes of the game, it was Brogdon who was on the floor helping close out the game. In the 4th quarter, Brogdon scored six points, including 4-of-5 from the line, and was the only other Celtic besides Jayson Tatum to play the full 12 minutes of the quarter. It was a strong finish from a Boston team that has had its share of late game frustrations, with a loss to Chicago and two overtime losses to Cleveland so far this season.
“I’m comfortable, man. I’m comfortable finishing games,” said Brogdon. “I’ve really been doing it my whole career. When I was in Milwaukee, I was finishing games. When I was in Indiana, the ball was in my hands and I was finishing games. But now it’s really the big stage and I’m playing with great players that definitely helped me close the game out. My job when I’m on the floor at the end of games is to keep us organized, and to get the ball into JT and JB’s hands, and help them create advantages to close the game out for us.”
The addition of Brogdon still cannot be overstated, and he’s been a fantastic fit in Boston’s rotation with their needs and his skillset. Even with his early success so far with the Celtics, Brogdon acknowledges that there’s still room to improve as he continues to get acclimated to the team.
“I’m learning every game, it’s going to be a learning process every game,” said Brogdon when asked where he was in the process of finding his fit. “Teams play us differently, every night they’re really locked in on JT and JB. But for me, it’s about playing off of those guys and making the game easier for them, and relieving some of that pressure on them.” Jaylen Brown was briefly listed as questionable due to illness before the game, and while he ultimately played, he didn’t seem to be at 100%; Brogdon helped pick up his scoring workload on a night where Boston truly needed it.
In the last game between Boston and Chicago, the Celtics bench struggled against the Bulls and ultimately played a factor in their loss. At the time, Brogdon brought the bench together and gave them a message. “I’ve been telling them ‘we got to be the best second team in the league,’” said Brogdon, “‘We got to embrace that. We are the second team, we’re going to be the best in the league.’ And we’re going to take full ownership of that. I thought it was unacceptable how we came out when we were in Chicago. (Our) first team came out and played great... and we came out and really laid an egg. So I did not want to repeat that, especially against this Chicago team, this really good team that we’re gonna have to play probably, most definitely, in the playoffs as well.”
Due to his experience over the years as a key part in both Milwaukee and Indiana, Brogdon has a calm demeanor and his approach to leadership has been integral to improving this roster. “I want us to be prepared and learn how to beat this team, and beat good teams down the stretch,” said Brogdon. “Especially coming in and just being ready and adding on to what the first team is doing.”
Whatever Brogdon’s message was to the second unit, it seemed to work, as the Celtics got some solid and impactful play from Grant Williams, Sam Hauser, and Luke Kornet. “I thought the second team was great,” said Brogdon when asked of their performance. “I thought we provided the lift, that we came in and we were down a few points, we got us back in the game... I thought we kept the energy and momentum and the pace all night.”
Boston has done a good job of staggering minutes and making sure not to overwork their key guys, and that includes Brogdon. “I feel incredibly fresh, because I’m not having to do a lot,” said Brogdon, “I’m not a top two, top three option. So, when that’s the case, you’re not burned out by the end of games, or even after the game. So I can come into every game and I’m fresh, I have fresh legs. It’s definitely a benefit for me coming off the bench, and not playing 40 minutes a game and taxing my body out.”
The Celtics will play tonight against the Knicks, 7:30PM EST tipoff.