The Bulls managed to not get totally embarrassed after scoring a season-low 14 points in the first quarter and trailing by 18 points at halftime, but they still took home a 113-101 loss to drop to 14-27 on the season. That’s a 28-win pace in Year 3 of the rebuild.
The Bulls were behind the 8-ball coming into this road tilt without several key starters and playing their third game in four nights against a mostly healthy Celtics squad. The Bulls certainly looked like a tired team in the first quarter, shooting just 5-of-19 from the field and missing all seven 3-pointers. Aside from some unforced errors, the Celtics roasted the Bulls’ defense, with Enes Kanter (starting in the place of Daniel Theis) running a layup line as the home team racked up 14 points in the paint.
The Celtics continued to score at will in the paint in the second quarter. Daniel Gafford’s foul trouble meant a lot of Luke Kornet, and he turned back into a pumpkin after his big performance against the Pistons. The Bulls continued to run their blitzing pick-and-roll scheme despite terrible results, especially with Kornet on the floor, and he was a minus-18 in not even 13 minutes in the first half. While Gordon Hayward struggled with his shot, he was terrific at finding open men under the basket, and Kanter led the way with 15 first-half points.
The Bulls’ offense slowly started to wake up out of its slumber thanks to Thaddeus Young’s post work, but they still were at just 34.2% shooting when halftime rolled around with the Celtics holding a 55-37 lead. Boston had 32 points in the paint in the first half.
It would have been easy for the Bulls to pack it in for the night, but they deserve at least a little credit for coming out with a ton of energy in the third quarter and smacking a seemingly indifferent Celtics team in the mouth. The Bulls opened the second half on a 17-5 run to cut the deficit to six points, relentlessly attacking the paint and finally getting a handful of stops on the other end.
Unfortunately, Gafford’s foul trouble caught up to him again, taking the energetic big man off the floor midway through the third quarter. The Bulls were able to hang around for much of the rest of the quarter thanks to Young once again going to work in the post, and they scored a whopping 20 points on 10-of-11 shooting in the paint in the third quarter.
Unfortunately, the Celtics found their groove again offensively. While Young was doing work against rookie Grant Williams, the youngster responded with seven big points in the quarter to keep the Bulls at bay.
The Celtics took an 83-71 lead into the fourth quarter, and the Bulls never really threatened the rest of the way despite Boston (especially Marcus Smart) doing a bunch of goofy stuff as they tried for highlight-reel plays. Kemba Walker, who had been quiet all game, put the final nails in the coffin with a pair of late triples.
LaVine led the Bulls with 30 points, his fourth 30-point game of the month. 22 of those points came in the second half, and he did have a sweet alley-oop slam ... to cut the deficit to 13 late. At least it looked cool:
Young finished with 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting overall and 8-of-10 on 2-pointers. The Bulls made it a point to isolate Young in post-up situations, and he did damage against the smaller Celtics with his strength and crafty finishes.
Nobody else from the Bulls really stood out except for maybe Gafford, who had 10 points and several impressive blocks, including this one of Jayson Tatum:
Tatum tried to poster Gafford. Score this one for Gafford. pic.twitter.com/kTUWsm5JaN— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) January 14, 2020
The Bulls were actually plus-8 in Gafford’s 20 minutes, but his foul trouble meant a lot of Kornet, who scored zero points and was a minus-24 in 22 minutes. Somehow, Lauri Markkanen played only 25 minutes and managed just nine points on 4-of-9 shooting. That’s a fitting way to finish this disappointing first half of the season for Markkanen.
The Bulls actually managed to outscore the Celtics in the paint (58-52), but their 6-of-25 mark from 3-point range helped doom them. LaVine went 3-of-6, so his teammates went 3-of-19 from long distance.
I wouldn’t say the Celtics were all that sharp in this one, clearly playing on cruise control for much of the game against an outmanned opponent. I’m glad the Bulls didn’t totally fold, but this is just yet another loss against a team above .500.
The Bulls get to face a crappy opponent on Wednesday when they host the Wizards, though the first matchup between the two teams really should have been a loss.