The Boston Celtics get destroyed by the Chicago Bulls tonight by a score of 121-99. Entering yet another game shorthanded, this time with Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams missing the action, the Celtics struggled mightily on both sides of the ball, and the Bulls took full advantage to keep their slim hopes of a play-in tournament spot alive. Kemba Walker was the only bright spot for the Celtics, dropping 33 points, while the Bulls were led by the trio of Nikola Vucevic, who posted a triple-double, and Zach LaVine and Coby White, with both scoring 25 points.
The game started off well enough, as both teams went back and forth with the lead in the first quarter. Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker combined for 19 points, as the Celtics managed to go into the second quarter down only two.
Things completely unraveled in the second quarter however, as the Celtics labored through the frame. As we’ve seen them do so often throughout the season, they showed no defensive resistance, and continually fired away from the three point line to little avail. The Bulls really killed the C’s from the three point line on the other hand, as the Celtics were just leaving shooters wide open, and ended up losing the quarter 30-18 as a result, making the deficit 14 points.
While the offense regained their footing offensively in the third, Chicago continued to get whatever they wanted at the perimeter. Walker again carried a heavy load, putting up 13 in the quarter, and was basically the only thing keeping the Celtics alive. But the defense had no answer for the Bulls shooting, and allowed them to build up a 21 point lead, which would settle in at 20 by the time the quarter ended, meaning the Celtics would need another furious comeback to even make the game close.
The Celtics showed shades of a comeback attempt in the first half of the fourth quarter, and even brought the deficit back down to eight at one point. And fittingly, right after hitting eight, they allowed Chicago to go on a 12-0 to shut down the comeback attempt. The Bulls kept going to Nikola Vucevic, and when someone came over to double him, he would dish out to the open man at three, which is basically the story of the game.
Whereas everything went right for the Celtics in their previous matchup against the Orlando Magic, everything went wrong today. The offense had absolutely no source of offense aside from Kemba Walker, as Jayson Tatum labored through a 3/15 shooting performance, meaning the only other double-digit scorer was Evan Fournier, who did basically all of his damage in the first half. It’s been the storyline all season, but they continually fired up threes and refused to drive to the paint, which pretty much explains the offensive struggles.
Defensively, the Celtics were undermanned in this one. Missing Robert Williams to injury was a killer, as the Bulls double big lineup of Vucevic and old friend Daniel Theis killed Boston tonight. There was really no one who could properly guard Vucevic, as the Celtics constantly doubled him, leaving other guys wide open. Brad Stevens tried to find any sort of solution, and briefly did with Grant Williams to begin the fourth, before things completely exploded. It’s OK to double on defense if people rotate, but the Celtics get passed around so easily when they double it just leads to wide open looks, which teams usually convert. The Bulls shot 45% from behind the arc while the Celtics shot 28%, which is pretty much where the game was lost.4
So, with another disappointing loss, the Celtics playoff hopes are somewhat on life support. They have a two game set coming up with the Miami Heat, which will most likely determine who ends up in the play-in tournament and who gets a guaranteed playoff spot. The Celtics will probably have to win both of these upcoming games to avoid the play-in tournament at this point.
The Heat are in a pretty similar spot to where they were last season, as they lurk in the middle of the Eastern Conference. While they’ve struggled this season, there’s no way the Celtics can take this team lightly. We saw just how dangerous this team is last season in the Eastern Conference Finals, and the Celtics will need to exorcise some ghosts this time around if they want any shot at avoiding the play-in tournament.
Click on the images below to shop for new Celtics gear!