After taking an 11-point lead in the second quarter, it looked like the Bulls were going to get run out of the gym by the Celtics in the third quarter as everything went to hell. The offense was sloppy, the Celtics were raining 3-pointers and Zach LaVine just didn’t have it. Boston led by 19 points with two and a half minutes remaining in the third, but a little surge made it a 14-point deficit.
Then the Bulls unleashed a can of whoop ass on the Celtics.
A lineup of LaVine, Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu, Derrick Jones Jr. and Tony Bradley led the charge on a 12-0 run. Moments later, Ayo gave the Bulls their first lead in forever with a clutch triple. The Celtics momentarily regained their advantage at 110-108 midway through the final frame, but the Bulls closed on a 20-4 run to earn a truly bonkers 128-114 victory.
DeMar DeRozan played the role of closer down the stretch, scoring 10 of those last 20 points, including a corner 3-pointer that was the dagger. Funny enough, that corner 3-pointer came right after a corner 3-pointer from the same exact spot was waved off because of a shot-clock violation.
DeRozan led the Bulls with 37 points on a scorching-hot 15-of-20 shooting from the field and 3-of-4 from 3-point range. DeRozan hit a 3-pointer to start the game as the Bulls made their first five triples of the night, and he just kept it going from there. It was DeRozan and the bench who helped the Bulls build the 11-point lead in the first half, and it was DeRozan who closed the game after LaVine and the bench flipped the game.
LaVine got off to a really rough start in this one (2-of-10), with at least four 3-pointers going halfway down and out that got him noticeably frustrated. But he turned that frustration into dominant rage to help turn the game around, attacking the rim with ferocity and ultimately finishing with 26 points. He made only one of his eight 3-point attempts, but he made 8-of-12 from 2-point range and hit all seven of his attempts from the line.
And how about that freaking bench?
After a sterling performance against the Jazz with their new rotation in a Patrick Williams-less world, that same bench unit was dominant in this one. Ayo seems to have supplanted Troy Brown Jr. in the rotation and showed why against the Celtics, scoring 14 points on 6-of-6 from the field and 2-of-2 from 3 in 22 minutes (plus-15). He had some rookie moments still, but he brought a ton of juice off the bench on both ends and is looking like a guy who could play legitimately quality minutes in this rotation.
Jones and Bradley were also outstanding again. Jones was disruptive defensively on the wing against the Jays, blocked two shots and scored four big points down the stretch to finish with nine points and a game-best plus-23. Bradley was again a deterrent at the rim with two more blocks and other efforts of stellar rim protection. He fumbled a few rebounds, but overall he played well in his 13 minutes.
Caruso has had a number of ugly turnovers to start the season and is doing a bit too much ball handling at times, but his defense was huge down the stretch. It’s truly amazing to watch him play defense when he’s locked in because he’s so smart and so physical. His defense was the catalyst for this awesome Ayo-to-DJJ alley-oop:
Caruso also racked up six assists and was a plus-21 in his 23 minutes.
Nikola Vucevic needs a shoutout as well. While he had some ugly moments on defense, to the point where I was wondering if Bradley should close over him, he responded with some key plays late and nearly finished with a triple-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. He added a pair of blocks as the Bulls racked up eight blocks for the game.
As for the other two starters, Lonzo Ball was pretty quiet after hitting three triples in the first quarter, and he had a rough go of it defensively at times against the Jays. But he buckled down late to help close the game out. Javonte Green was a minus-14 but had some nice hustle plays (four offensive rebounds) and had this sick dunk where he literally hit his head on the bottom of the backboard:
The Bulls wound up shooting 57.0% from the field (13-of-16 in the fourth quarter) and 13-of-31 from the 3-point line. They also continue to kill it from the charity stripe, making 17 out of 18 attempts. They even grabbed 10 offensive rebounds in this game and won the rebounding battle overall, 50-38. The 18 turnovers weren’t great, but they were able to overcome them with their hot shooting.
After the incredible win over the Jazz, this was an even more satisfying victory. The Bulls easily could have packed it in on the road in the second half when the Celtics went up big. The Jays looked to be in complete control and Boston was 15-of-24 from 3-point range at one point. But then the Bulls regained their composure offensively, flustered the Jays in crunch time and saw the Celtics miss their final nine 3-point attempts. That’s how you turn an ugly loss into the best win of the young season for Chicago.
The Bulls now travel to Philly for a road tilt against a Sixers team that’s playing well but will likely be a bit shorthanded. Ben Simmons isn’t back yet (if he ever will be), but Joel Embiid missed Monday’s game with knee soreness and Tobias Harris just went into health and safety protocols. Danny Green also left Monday’s win over the Blazers with a hamstring injury. This should be another good game, no matter who plays.