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Bulls vs. Celtics final score: Chicago turns 19-point deficit into 120-102 victory

what a turnaround

NBA: Boston Celtics at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

After an ugly 32-point loss to the Cavaliers in their home opener, it looked like the Bulls were well on their way to another embarrassing home defeat against the Celtics on Monday night. The Celtics torched the Bulls out of the gate, scoring the first 12 points of the game and running out to a 35-16 lead eight and a half minutes in after a Marcus Smart triple made it 8-of-9 from deep for Boston. Jayson Tatum had 15 quick points and looked to be in full control.

Then the Bulls totally flipped the script, turning that 19-point deficit into a 21-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Celtics never threatened in the fourth quarter as the Bulls earned a 120-102 win to move to 2-2 on the season while handing the defending Eastern Conference champs their first loss.

It was Ayo Dosunmu who started to get the Bulls going after falling in that 19-point hole, and he put forth a terrific all-around performance with 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 from 3-point range in a game-high 34 minutes. He only had two assists, but he put good pressure on the defense for much of the night and had this nasty hockey assist:

The second unit also played a major role in the comeback. There was a total vibe shift after the sleepy opening minutes, with Derrick Jones Jr., Alex Caruso and Goran Dragic providing a major spark. The Bulls started pushing the pace more and turning defense into offense as the Celtics finally started to cool off, and Jones was especially productive in the first half as the 11th man. He got out in transition and wreaked havoc with cuts, scoring all 10 of his points in the second quarter. Dragic didn’t have a good shooting game, but he had six assists and was constantly trying to push pace. Caruso stuffed the stat sheet and was a game-best plus-29 in just 18 minutes off the bench. Coby White even had a quiet four assists in nine minutes as the Bulls racked up 29 dimes as a team.

The Bulls wound up outscoring the Celtics 35-15 in the second quarter. The only reason it was a 20-point margin in the quarter was a late Marcus Smart 5-0 run to close out the half, helped out by bad Zach LaVine decision-making and a ridiculous banked 3 for Smart with time running out. The Celtics then trimmed the Bulls’ lead to just three at the start of the third quarter, and it felt like things might fall apart.

Instead, the Bulls responded in dominant fashion, with Ayo again providing a spark with nine third-quarter points. That three-point lead surged back out to 21 heading to the fourth as the Celtics unraveled in the process, with coach Joe Mazzulla getting tossed in the third quarter and Grant Williams then getting tossed early in the fourth quarter.

It was a terrific team effort for the Bulls after that brutal start. DeMar DeRozan bounced back from his dud against the Cavaliers with an efficient 25/5/5, while birthday boy Nikola Vucevic pummeled the smaller Celtics inside to the tune of 18 points, 23 rebounds (10 offensive!) and five assists. It wasn’t the most efficient scoring game for Vooch (7-of-19 from the field and 0-of-3 from 3), but he brought it all night as the Bulls won the rebounding battle, 60-46, and also scored 46 points in the paint to just 34 for Boston. Andre Drummond added 12 rebounds in 15 minutes off the bench.

The Bulls shot 48.3% from the field and made the most of their 21 3-point attempts, hitting 10 of them. They also made hay at the free-throw line, going 26-of-29 form the charity stripe. The Celtics got up 100 shots and only made 37 of them, with 48 of those attempts coming from beyond the arc. While they made 18 of those triples, they went 10-of-39 after that 8-of-9 start and fell in love with the 3-ball too much. They only went 10-of-12 from the line and were clearly frustrated by the officiating, but the Bulls were the aggressors for much of the night.

If there was any negative in this game, it was another dud for Patrick Williams, who had just four points on 2-of-7 shooting in 15 minutes. Williams did come out relatively aggressive but couldn’t convert on his early attempts, and he was effectively given Keith Bogans rotations by playing the first six-ish minutes of each half before coming back in to close out the game in garbage time. This type of usage for Williams doesn’t seem like it’s going to help anybody, and he’s clearly fighting himself right now. Bringing him off the bench and letting him get out and run with second units feels like a better option than having him flounder with the starters, but we’ll see if Billy Donovan decides to make a change anytime soon.

That aside, this was one hell of a win for the Bulls after the terrible start. It’s always sweet to beat the Celtics, and to absolutely destroy them with this kind of turnaround is even sweeter. The Bears even pulled a double whammy of Boston by blasting the Patriots on Monday Night Football, making it a great night for Chicago sports fans.

The Bulls play the Pacers at the United Center on Wednesday.