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Bulls vs. Celtics final score: A short handed Chicago squad falls short in Boston

Third loss in a row for the Bulls but there are takeaways to be happy about

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Despite missing two starters in Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine, the Chicago Bulls had a chance to win it with nine seconds left against the Boston Celtics. It was a hard fought effort from a short handed Bulls team that battled back from being down 12 to take the lead by 6 late in the fourth quarter. In the minute, four free throws by Robert Williams gave the hometown Celtics a two point lead as the Bulls had the final possession.

Off the inbound, DeMar DeRozan was immediately doubled and kicked it out to Nikola Vucevic at the top of the arc. The big man, who had a team-high 27 points, had a wide open three-point look from straightaway. But his attempt was short and clanked off the front rim. Chicago had one last crack at forcing overtime when DeRozan collected the miss, spun, and shot a fadeaway just outside of the paint. Sadly, the shot never hit the rim as it floated just underneath it and sealed the Bulls third straight loss 114-112.

Despite the loss, make no mistake about it: this was a solid performance from a Chicago team that was missing numerous rotation players. They shot 50.6 percent from the field and 44 percent from deep. They moved the ball well and always searched for solid shots, generating 31 assists on 44 made baskets. Unlike the past two games, Chicago didn’t stumble over themselves with self inflicted mistakes, having just six turnovers.

After a couple of rough games, Vucevic bounced back with a solid offensive night. He was hitting shots from the outside off the PNR or in kick out situations. In the post, he punished Boston whenever he had a mismatch and also did a solid job getting good position on his post touches to make it easier on himself.

DeRozan finished with 23 points despite having just 9 through the first three quarters and shooting just 35 percent for the game. DeRozan found other ways to contribute than just scoring, with seven assists and eight rebounds. And of course he was the leader in getting the Bulls a 4th quarter advantage.

Ayo Dosunmu had one of the best games of his young career, finishing with a double double of 21 points and 10 assists. With Ball and LaVine out, Chicago needed another lead ball handler and the rookie stepped up big time in that the role, showing why he was one of college basketball’s best players last season. Dosunmu was attacking the rim in transition, playing solid defense on numerous Celtics players, and splashed three-point shots from the corner when left open. Coby White also started the game in the wake of so many Bulls injuries, and finished with 19 points with five three-pointers, continuing to play some of the best basketball of his career.

Elsewhere, Alfonzo McKinnie was given the start but struggled with four fouls to just four points. The bench only scored a combined 18 points amongst four guys but they all gave decent minutes. Malcolm Hill, on his Bulls debut after signing a 10-day contract, played especially well in his 18 minutes. He had just five points but he was everywhere Chicago needed him, holding his own defensively while making the right plays when needed. Matt Thomas had five while Troy Brown Jr. had just two points but grabbed three rebounds. Tony Bradley made all of his three field goals for six points and had two boards.

As for Boston, they had five players in double figures, led by the 23 of Jayson Tatum. Jaylen Brown scored 19 points and grabbed seven rebounds. He had some big shots down the stretch when Chicago had the lead late in the fourth. Dennis Schroeder had 16 while

Robert Williams had a double of 14 and 13 rebounds, living at the rim and feasting on Chicago’s pick and roll defense. Each time the Celtics would have Williams roll to the hoop, it would pay off as either a Bulls big showed too much or was too slow to get back, leaving him open for an easy alley-oop. Williams capped his night with the go-ahead free throws in crunch time. Josh Richardson was the Celtics biggest spark off the bench with 13 points.

After what happened in the past two games, it was nice to see the Bulls, while still very shorthanded, come out with some fight on a road back-to-back. They fell behind early but grinded the entire game and even looked like they were going to snatch the win. But they just couldn’t stop Boston in crunch time and missed open looks on the offensive end. A loss always stings, especially one that comes down to the final shot, but there are positives to take away from this game. The play of the young guys in White and Dosunmu along with Vucevic having a bounce back game. DeMar picking things up in the fourth quarter again and above all, the overall effort of the team level was much higher.

But it’s still a loss in the standings, and Chicago’s lead at the top of the conference is dwindling. They are just half a game ahead of the Nets for first place in the East.

Next on their schedule is a Monday afternoon against a red hot Grizzlies squad led by Ja Morant.