Bulls Drop Intense Game Vs. Celtics Despite DeMar DeRozan Explosion – NBC Chicago

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10 observations: Bulls fall to C’s despite DeRozan outburst originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Playing in a TD Garden environment that appeared to have the atmosphere of a playoff game, the Chicago Bulls had a chance to topple the reigning Eastern Conference champion Boston Celtics for the second time in their first 10 games of the season.

Despite 46 points from DeMar DeRozan and multiple comeback gasps late, though, the visitors fell short, losing 123-119 to drop their record on the season to 5-5.

Here are 10 observations:

1. DeRozan wasted little time moving on from his down night against the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday, when he scored nine points on just 2-for-11 shooting. In the first quarter alone, he well eclipsed that scoring total by tallying 13 points and knocking down four of his six attempts from the midrange, then added another six points in the second to lead all scorers at the half with 19.

In a third quarter the Celtics pulled ahead by as many as 11, DeRozan added another 16 to keep the game close and enter the fourth with 35 points on 11-for-19 shooting. The show continued in the fourth, with another 11 down the stretch to finish with 46 points on 13-for-23 shooting (9-for-15 in the midrange), plus a whopping 20-for-22 from the free throw line.

This was a performance reminiscent of DeRozan’s most dominant stretches last season — in his production and also his share of the Bulls’ offense. He dove deep into his bag of tricks to launch 23 shots and visit the free throw line 22 times, which marked the lion’s share of the Bulls’ 25 charity stripe trips as a team.

2. His initial hot shooting helped the Bulls get off to an impressive start, leading 31-26 after the first quarter with the benefit of 25 combined points from DeRozan, Nikola Vučević (seven) and Zach LaVine (five). The Bulls also converted six points off of four Celtics turnovers, a recipe for success.

3. But Boston gave the Bulls a taste of their own medicine in the second quarter by flipping the momentum of their game with the bench. Jumping out to a 13-5 run to start, the Celtics won the frame 37-26 and carried a 21-5 bench scoring advantage into the half, led by 14 points via knifing Malcolm Brogdon drives and some solid two-way play by old friend Luke Kornet.

4. The Bulls’ reserves, however, supplied their typical brand of active defense and timely shotmaking by combining for 10 points and two steals in the third quarter. In a particularly impactful sequence, back-to-back 3-pointers by Alex Caruso and Javonte Green trimmed an 11-point Celtics lead to five at a juncture the game could have gotten away from the visitors.

But the Celtics’ bench got the last laugh by way of some big buckets from Brogdon, Sam Hauser and Grant Williams in the fourth. In all, Boston’s reserves outscored the Bulls’ 41-15, led by 25 points by Brogdon, who made nine of his 10 field goal attempts and drew nine trips to the free throw line. Andre Drummond and Coby White, who missed their fourth and third consecutive games, respectively, are missed.

5. After completing his first back-to-back set of the season, LaVine was off the Bulls’ injury report entirely in the run-up to Friday’s game, which marked the Bulls’ third in four nights. He shot the ball well in the first half, going 2-for-4 from mid- and 3-point range en route to 10 points. But he struggled in the second half until a flourish at the end, finishing with 16 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

The game, overall, continued an early-season trend of the two-time All-Star lacking his typical comfort and explosiveness on drives and finishing around the basket. LaVine entered play shooting 44.1 percent in the restricted area so far this season, and in this one, did not attempt a shot in that zone, going 1-for-2 in the paint, overall. Each of those attempts came past the midway point of the fourth quarter — one was blocked, the other was an and-one as he barreled through Derrick White — and in a pair of telling first half possessions, he either failed to beat or eschewed driving lanes when matched with Hauser and Kornet.

While LaVine has repeatedly said he expects his driving and finishing to return to form as he finds his rhythm amid managing his recently-operated-upon left knee, this is certainly worth monitoring moving forward. Even when he does get downhill, the elevation Bulls fans are accustomed to is not present.

6. The Celtics offer a favorable matchup for Vučević, not only because they run small with Al Horford, Grant Williams and Jayson Tatum sharing the majority of the frontcourt minutes, but also because they employ a switch-heavy defensive scheme that often attached guards and wings to the Bulls’ big man on the interior.

Following an 18-point, 23-rebound performance in the Bulls’ 120-102 win over Boston at home on Oct. 24, Vučević posted 24 points and 12 boards in this one, and even got rolling from behind the 3-point line, drilling 3-for-3 in the fourth as part of a handful of Bulls comeback bids.

7. Although the Celtics shot a dismal 9-for-31 (29 percent) from 3-point range, the Bulls’ containment of dribble penetration and interior deterrence were both lacking throughout. By game’s end, Boston had established a whopping 52-34 advantage in paint points and out-attempted the Bulls 39-25 at the foul line, with DeRozan the only thing keeping the deficit even that close.

8. Patrick Williams exhibited some nice flashes early, stacking seven points and three rebounds in the first half while defending Tatum (36 points, but on 8-for-23 shooting) as physically and actively as could be asked for throughout. But the third-year forward also committed four turnovers and had a tough final minute of regulation, presumably playing over Caruso because of the size he adds on the perimeter.

With 41.9 seconds remaining and the Celtics ahead 117-115, a defensive rebound opportunity off a missed Horford 3-pointer bounced off of Williams’ hands and into the arms of Tatum, who drew a foul and made one of two free throws. Then, on the ensuing offensive possession, Williams had a layup attempt blocked by Tatum, and, after LaVine stole a pass in transition, clanked a 27-footer that could have tied the game with 22.9 seconds to play. He fouled out moments later.

The 21-year-old will have to make it a learning experience.

9. Billy Donovan again deployed his coach’s challenge early in this one, trying unsuccessfully to reverse a shooting foul by Williams on Tatum in the third quarter. Donovan last season typically insisted on saving his challenge for late-game situations, but has burned it before the fourth quarter multiple times in the first 10 games of this one. While no notable controversial calls presented in the final minutes of the contest, the change in strategy is worth noting.

10. Ayo Dosunmu entered play averaging 16 points on combined 27-for-30 shooting (10-for-10 from 3-point range) in four career games against the Celtics, and was again efficient Friday. The Bulls’ starting point guard posted 11 points on 5-for-8 shooting and made his only 3, meaning he is now 32-for-38 (84.2 percent) from the floor and 11-for-11 from 3 for his career against Boston.

Next up for the Bulls: At Toronto to face the Raptors on Sunday.

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