The Celtics were due for an off night, and the Bulls needed a win. Perhaps Monday’s 121-107 loss — which snapped the Celtics’ nine-game winning streak — was predictable.
Here’s what happened.
The Big Picture
The Celtics started slow from three but dutifully kept firing away throughout the first quarter, piling up a 5-for-17 line from deep in the first 12 minutes. The Bulls took a quick early lead and expanded their advantage with a big second quarter to 63-50 at halftime.
The Celtics couldn’t make up any ground in the third as a Bulls team desperate for a win stretched the lead as high as 21. A quick flurry to start the fourth brought the Celtics back into the game briefly, but DeMar DeRozan buried a clutch 3-pointer at a crucial time that pushed the lead back to 13, and the Bulls held the Celtics at arm’s length the rest of the way.
Star of the Game
DeMar DeRozan: 28 points, 11-for-24, 3-for-3 from three, eight rebounds, four assists
DeRozan has had more impressive games against the Celtics, but he was clutch in the fourth quarter helping the Bulls pull out the win.
What It Means
The Bulls had lost four in a row, falling several games under .500. They needed a win badly, and they got one against a Celtics team that failed to claim its 10th consecutive victory but remains the top seed in the Eastern Conference after 17 games.
1. The Celtics struggled enormously from 3-point range in the first half, but their defense was perhaps the bigger issue. The Bulls took advantage of short closeouts early, which allowed Patrick Williams and Alex Caruso to get hot, and the Celtics struggled to contain both DeRozan and Zach LaVine at the point of attack all evening. Meanwhile, Nikola Vucevic tortured the Celtics once again in the post — either scoring or forcing double teams.
2. Al Horford entered Monday’s game shooting 56.3 percent from the floor and 47.5 percent from 3-point range. He walked off the floor shooting 51.8 percent from the floor and 42.4 percent from 3-point range.
An 0-for-9 shooting performance — which included 0-for-7 from deep — will do that to you.
3. In his second game after returning from a hamstring injury, Malcolm Brogdon was a bright spot for the Celtics, burying five of his six 3-point attempts en route to 23 points, and he dished out six assists in 25 minutes. Without Brogdon, the Celtics likely would not have made a second-half push, which was a double-edged sword — Brogdon kept the game close, which meant the Celtics’ stars racked up minutes in an ultimately fruitless attempt to rally.
4. Marcus Smart returned to the floor after missing two games with a bone bruise. He told reporters he expects to monitor that injury for a while, but Joe Mazzulla said after the game he trusts Smart’s work ethic and his “ability to stay healthy.”
Smart finished with eight points and eight assists.
“Felt good,” Smart said. “First game back, you’re trying to figure out how it feels, you don’t want to do too much. Once you realize that it is feeling good, you start to press a little bit. So tonight was a good night.”
5. Jayson Tatum and Bulls guard Javonte Green became close friends when the two played for the Celtics, and they still exchange jabs through the media seemingly whenever they match up. On Monday, Green closed out too hard to Tatum and committed a three-shot foul.
What did Tatum tell Green in the aftermath?
“I told him he needed to get a damn haircut,” Tatum said told reporters after the game. “He was looking rough. I did. That’s what I told him. I said, ‘Yo, you need a haircut. That’s why you fouled me.’”
6. Losing one game that snaps a big winning streak isn’t a big deal. Every winning streak comes to an end, and the Celtics have shown how deadly they can be offensively through 17 games with plenty of room to improve on the defensive end.
If there are concerns to be had, the Celtics have now lost four games, and all four have been against two teams who could be potential opponents in the Eastern Conference playoffs: The Bulls and the Cavaliers.
But given how the Celtics have started this season — and given the pending return of Robert Williams to shore up some of the defensive issues — any concerns about the Celtics after Monday’s game are premature. How they respond to a loss on Wednesday could be telling, especially given their opponent: The Celtics return to Boston on Wednesday to face Luka Doncic and the Mavericks at 7 pm
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