The Celtics needed a night off and the Bulls needed a win. Perhaps Monday’s 121-107 loss – which ended the Celtics’ nine-game winning streak – was perhaps predictable.
Here is what happened.
The big picture
The Celtics started slow from three but dutifully kept shooting throughout the first quarter, accumulating a 5-for-17 line from deep in the opening 12 minutes. The Bulls took an early lead and widened their lead with a big second quarter 63-50 at halftime.
The Celtics couldn’t make up ground in the third as a Bulls side desperate for a win extended the lead to 21. A quick flurry to start the fourth briefly brought the Celtics back into the game , but DeMar DeRozan buried a 3-point clutch at a crucial moment that cut the lead to 13, and the Bulls held the Celtics at arm’s length the rest of the way.
DeMar DeRozan: 28 points, 11 for 24, 3 for 3 of three, eight rebounds, four assists
DeRozan had more impressive games against the Celtics, but he was tight in the fourth quarter, helping the Bulls to the win.
What this means
The Bulls had lost four straight, falling several games below .500. They badly needed a win, and they got one against a Celtics team that fell short of their 10th straight win but remains the top seed in the Eastern Conference after 17 games.
Take away food
1. The Celtics struggled tremendously from 3 points in the first half, but their defense was perhaps the biggest problem. The Bulls took advantage of short fences early, which allowed Patrick Williams and Alex Caruso to warm up, and the Celtics struggled to contain both DeRozan and Zach LaVine in the offensive line all night. Meanwhile, Nikola Vucevic has again tortured the Celtics in the position – either scoring or forcing double teams.
2. Al Horford came into Monday’s game shooting 56.3% from the floor and 47.5% from 3-point range. He left the floor shooting 51.8% from the floor and 42.4% from 3-point range.
A 0 for 9 shooting performance – which included 0 for 7 depth – will get you there.
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 gave away six assists in 25 minutes. Without Brogdon, the Celtics probably wouldn’t have made a second-half push, which was a double-edged sword – Brogdon kept the game close, meaning the Celtics stars racked up minutes in an ultimately unsuccessful bid to rally.
4. Marcus Smart returned to the floor after missing two games with a bone bruise. He told reporters he planned to watch the injury for a while, but Joe Mazzulla said after the game he was confident in Smart’s work ethic and his “ability to stay healthy”. .
Smart finished with eight points and eight assists.
5. Losing a game that ends a big winning streak isn’t a big deal. Every winning streak comes to an end, and the Celtics have shown just how deadly they can be offensively through 17 games with plenty of room to improve on the defensive end.
If there’s any concern, the Celtics have now lost four games, and all four have been against two teams that 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 imminent return of Robert Williams to fix some of the defensive issues – any concerns about the Celtics after Monday’s game are premature. How they react to a loss on Wednesday could be telling, especially considering their opponent: The Celtics return to Boston on Wednesday to face Luka Doncic and the Mavericks at 7 p.m.
We will have more takeout later in the evening.
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