Just when they thought they were out.
It seemed like the sky was falling. But the Bulls found a way to beat the first-place Celtics 121-107 on Monday night, snapping their four-game losing streak and resetting the vibes prior to their long road trip.
“Games like this, we realize we can compete with anybody,” DeMar DeRozan said after the game at the United Center. “I really believe when you catch that rhythm, that confidence of playing at a high level, it’s going to be consistent.”
The Celtics entered the game with a league-leading 119.1 offensive rating. That number, if they sustained it, would be the greatest single-season offensive rating in NBA history.
They only mustered a 103.9 offensive rating against the Bulls.
The Bulls defended well despite giving up 19-of-50 three pointers. They prevented fastbreak opportunities and protected the rim at a high level.
Here are the major takeaways:
Celtics game plan gone wrong
Celtics came into the game prepared to take away the Bulls All-Stars by any means necessary.
The idea here is to load up on the Bulls stars and make their role players beat them.
This did not work out.
Williams was the primary beneficiary, going off for a season-high 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting. But the group as a whole took the right shots and ended up shooting 14-of-29 from three, 48.3 percent. It’s not a sustainable number, but it’s a positive that the Bulls were taking the shots available to them.
“They had a gameplan, which a lot of teams have, of heavy shifts,” Patrick Williams said. “Kind of making other guys make shots. I think we did that tonight. A lot of guys stepped up and took open shots and made open shots or created the advantage or the next play. And I think that’s what we have to do moving forward. Whoever has it, make the next play. If you don’t have a play, get off of it and try to help somebody else make the next play.”
“He’s putting the ball on the floor, he’s taking shots he feels comfortable taking,” Billy Donovan said. “I thought he really good tonight. Just running the floor, getting out in transition, just doing things, I think physically, he’s capable of doing. As time goes on, he gets more and more comfortable.”
Bend Your Knee To Our Midrange King!
Zach LaVine starts to get his groove back
After getting benched Friday night against the Magic, LaVine said he deserved a chance to shoot his way out of the slump on his off shooting night.
He entered the fourth quarter with 6:12 to go in the fourth, having shot 5-of-16 to that point. Immediately he hit two three-pointers and then capped off the game with a final dagger three.
“Everybody has a career-worst night,” LaVine said. “You just don’t know when it’s going to happen. Everyone in the NBA has. I guess that was my night.”
LaVine finished the game with 22 points on 8-for-20 shooting from the field and 5-of-10 on threes. He still gets tunnel vision and has some sloppy turnovers, but those are all manageable when he’s scoring at a high level and slamming the door shut on teams when they try to mount a comeback.
If this was a huge game for the Bulls to get back on track, the same was true for LaVine.
Nikola Vucevic playing through the post
Nikola Vucevic has been fantastic against the Celtics in all three matchups this year. His post scoring ability shines against their smaller frontline and switch-everything scheme.
He only finished with 12 points, but made 6-of-7 shots, grabbed 13 rebounds and added six assists. The Bulls looked to play through him in the post and he had a huge impact on the complexion of the game.
Adjusting the panic meter
All teams have struggles throughout the course of a long season. Is losing four-straight and six-of-seven too soon to worry? Ask DeRozan and he’ll tell you not to panic.
“No question,” DeRozan said. “Show me somebody who played an 82-game season and was perfect, that didn’t have a shitty game at some point. It happens. It happens. It’s part of the game. You can’t let that dictate who you are. Now if you’re playing 20 games in a row like that, then you’ve got a problem. But you’re going to games, you’re going to have lapses, here and there. A week, a couple games. It happens. It happens to the best of us. It’s all about how you respond and bounce back from it.”
“It’s still early in the season,” he continued “It’s still a lot we’re figuring out. I truly believe once we hit that stride, all this beginning of the season will be left out. Last year, we hit it towards the end of the season. I think I’ve said it before, I’d rather figure out our struggles now than later.”
Goran Dragic injury update
Dragic left the game with an injury with 2:30 in the first quarter after a collision with Sam Hauser. He ended up coming back into the game in the second quarter, but played only seven minutes and didn’t quite contribute to his standard level.
“I think he’s got a stinger, at least that’s what he told me,” Donovan said. “It’s his neck where he got hit. I think he’s got some numbness in the back of his arm and into his elbow.”
“When he came back in, I just didn’t think he looked right to me. That was totally my decision, I did not ask him. I think he would have continued to play. For whatever reason, I just didn’t think he looked great out there. I think he was definitely, in my opinion, bothered by it.”