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6 takeaways from another Chicago Bulls blowout loss to the Boston Celtics, including a 3rd-quarter meltdown

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

The game was close to a sellout, a norm for the Bulls despite the team’s 26-30 record. But the UC was filled with a smattering of green shirts and jerseys as Boston fans turned out in droves to see the top team in the Eastern Conference. And as Bulls fans chose to forego the final minutes of a 17-point blowout in favor of heading toward the parking lots, the Celtics faithful had command of the arena in the first game after the NBA All-Star break.

The loss wasn’t quite as demoralizing as the Bulls’ 30-point smackdown that capped a 5-14 start to the season in November. But it still drove home the gap between where the Bulls stand in the bottom tier of the play-in standings and the Celtics sit 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 there were things we could have done better tonight, especially in the second half to give us a better chance.”

Here are six takeaways from the loss.

1. Erasing early errors

The opening quarter played out in accordance with expectations based on these teams’ standings in the East. The Celtics racked up a 16-point lead while hitting five 3-pointers, blocking seven shots and forcing four Bulls turnovers.

But that dominance faltered in the second quarter as the Bulls found an offensive rhythm through Vučević and guard Ayo Dosunmu. Coby White knocked down his first 3-point attempt of the game in the final seconds of the half to put the Bulls ahead by three with 5.2 seconds left on the clock.

Photos: Boston Celtics 129, Chicago Bulls 112

2. Third-quarter meltdown

The lead was short-lived. The Celtics opened the third quarter with an 8-0 run as the Bulls missed their first seven shots before coach Billy Donovan took a timeout. But there was little to be done to stop the bleeding.

The Bulls went on to miss only two more shots in the quarter, but that wasn’t enough to counter an onslaught of 3-pointers from the Celtics, who notched 37 points — and seven 3s — in the quarter to take a 13-point lead into the fourth.

3. Slinging it from deep

The Celtics are one of the best 3-point-shooting teams in the league and they showed little signs of rust from the All-Star break.

They went 23-for-47 from behind the arc to account for 69 points. They shot a blistering 52% on 25 attempts in the second half and missed only four 3-point attempts in the fourth quarter. Derrick White (28 points) and Jayson Tatum (25) each went 5-for-10 on 3s.

The Bulls took only 28 attempts from behind the arc. Even shooting at a respectable 35.7% clip from 3-point range, it was impossible for the Bulls to keep pace.

“I think that when you’re playing against a team like that, you’ve got to capitalize on some opportunities and we just didn’t capitalize on offense,” coach Billy Donovan said. “When you’ve got a team that you can play really good defense and they still can make a bucket, I think that can become a little deflating. We’re challenging like crazy, I think the first half we challenged 90% of their shots. So you’re not going to do much better.”

4. Rimming out

The Celtics dominated at the rim in the first quarter, swatting seven shots, including three apiece by Derrick White and Kristaps Porziņģis.

The Bulls ultimately outscored the Celtics 50-30 in the paint once the 3-point-shooting imbalance began to deepen. But those early miscues at the rim kept the Bulls from taking advantage of ball movement that otherwise placed them in key scoring positions.

5. Jumbo rotation shows vulnerabilities

The Bulls are continuing to tweak a two-big lineup with Vučević and Andre Drummond, but the group showed more flaws against the fast-paced and well-spread Celtics offense. The Celtics went on a 10-1 run after the Bulls rotated into the two-big lineup in the third quarter.

Drummond struggled to match his recent production, finishing with 11 points and eight rebounds. And after dropping 20 points in the first half, Vučević managed only one made basket in the second half.

6. Young players step up amid injuries

Torrey Craig will miss two to four weeks after spraining his right knee while training away from the team during the All-Star break. Patrick Williams is attempting a slow ramp-up process after two weeks of full noncontact because of a bone edema in his left foot, but he is still experiencing pain and has yet to resume running.

Those two losses forced the Bulls to rely more heavily on rookie Julian Phillips and second-year guard Dalen Terry. Phillips was the first player off the bench and logged the sixth-highest volume of playing time, finishing with nine points, two rebounds and an assist in 18 minutes. Terry logged three points, three rebounds and two assists in 12 minutes.

Julia Poe , 2024-02-23 05:36:16

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