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6 takeaways from the 129-112 defeat to Boston Celtics


A resounding chant filled the United Center with about two minutes left in Thursday’s 129-112 loss to the Chicago Bulls: “Let’s go, Celtics!”

The game was a near sellout, which is normal for the Bulls despite the team’s 26-30 record. But as Boston fans turned out in droves to see the best team in the Eastern Conference, the UC was filled with plenty of green shirts and jerseys. And while Bulls fans opted to give up on the final minutes of a 17-point burst and head for the parking lots, the Celtics faithful took control of the arena in the first game after the NBA All-Star break.

This defeat wasn’t as demoralizing as the Bulls’ 30-point rout in November, which resulted in a 5-14 start to the season. But he still took home the difference between where the Bulls were at the bottom of the play-in seedings and where the Celtics were at the top of the East.

“They’re a really good team, probably the best team in the NBA,” center Nikola Vučević said after the loss. “I still felt like there were things we could have done better tonight, especially in the second half, to give us a better chance.”

Here are my six takeaways from the defeat.

1. Deleting early mistakes

The opening quarter was played as expected based on the ranking of these teams in the East. The Celtics took a 16-point lead by making five 3-pointers, blocking seven shots and forcing the Bulls into four turnovers.

However, this lead was broken in the second quarter as the Bulls found an offensive rhythm through Vučević and guard Ayo Dosunmu. Coby White made his first three-point attempt of the game in the final seconds of the half, giving the Bulls a three-point lead with 5.2 seconds left on the clock.

Photos: Boston Celtics 129, Chicago Bulls 112

2. Third quarter meltdown

The leadership was short-lived. The Celtics opened the third quarter with an 8-0 run and the Bulls missed their first seven shots before coach Billy Donovan called a timeout. But there was little to do to stop the bleeding.

The Bulls missed just two more shots in the quarter, but it wasn’t enough to counter the Celtics’ 13-point lead with 37 points and seven three-pointers. Heading towards the fourth.

3. Shake deeply

The Celtics are one of the league’s best three-point shooting teams, and they showed little sign of rust during the All-Star break.

They scored 69 points on 23-for-47 shooting from beyond the arc. They shot a blistering 52% on 25 shots in the second half and missed just four 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter. Derrick White (28 points) and Jayson Tatum (25) went 5 for 10 in 3 seconds.

The Bulls made just 28 attempts from beyond the arc. Even though he shot a respectable 35.7% from three-point range, it was impossible for the Bulls to keep up.

“I think when you play against a team like this you have to take advantage of some opportunities and we just couldn’t take advantage of our offense,” coach Billy Donovan said. “When you have a team that can defend really well and still shoot, I think it can demoralize you a little bit. We’re fighting like crazy, I think we challenged 90% of the shots in the first half. So you’re not going to do any better.

4. Make a mess

The Celtics dominated the first quarter by making seven shots from the basket, including three each by Derrick White and Kristaps Porziņģis.

As the three-point shooting imbalance began to deepen, the Bulls defeated the Celtics 50-30 in the paint. But these early mistakes at the rim prevented the Bulls from taking advantage of the ball movement that would have put them in key positions.

5. Jumbo rotation indicates vulnerabilities

The Bulls continue to rotate two big rosters with Vučević and Andre Drummond, but the group showed more flaws against the fast and spread Celtics offense. The Celtics went on a 10-1 run after the Bulls switched to two big squads in the third quarter.

Drummond had a hard time matching his last performance and finished the game with 11 points and 8 rebounds. Vučević, who lost 20 points in the first half, managed to score only one basket in the second half.

6. Young players come to the fore after injuries

Torrey Craig will be sidelined for two to four weeks after spraining his right knee while practicing away from the team during the All-Star break. After being completely non-contact for two weeks due to bone edema in his left foot, Patrick Williams is trying a slow ramp-up, but he is still in pain and cannot yet resume running.

These two losses forced the Bulls to rely more on rookie Julian Phillips and sophomore guard Dalen Terry. Phillips was the first player to come off the bench and had the sixth highest playing time with 9 points, 2 rebounds and an assist in 18 minutes. Terry recorded three points, three rebounds and two assists in 12 minutes.


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