There was bad news and good news Thursday night for the Boston Celtics.
The bad news? Someone taught the Chicago Bulls how to shoot, nothing really went right for the Celtics and the C’s lost their first game of the season, 105-99, in Dwyane Wade’s Chicago homecoming, dropping their record to 1-1.
The good news? Despite the game plan failing and nothing going right, Boston had a chance to win with seconds remaining and nearly pulled off an improbable victory on the road.
Here’s a look at how it went down.
YOU GOT SERVED
Remember when NBA people spent the summer talking about how the Bulls can’t play together because Rajon Rondo, Wade and Jimmy Butler all are alpha male-type players and can’t shoot? It seems they were listening and took those comments to heart.
In the first quarter alone, all three drained a 3-pointer, and by halftime, they were a combined 8 of 9 from the field, including 3 of 4 for Wade and 3 of 3 for Butler.
While Rondo faded after that, Wade and Butler served up (get it?) a terrific performance against the Celtics: Butler finished with 24 points (4 of 6 on 3-pointers) and seven rebounds, while Wade added 22 points, also on 4 of 6 shooting beyond the arc, with six rebounds and five assists.
Wade’s final trey came with 26.3 seconds left in the game and put Chicago up by five, a dagger both for the Celtics and that apparent shooting misnomer. It was an especially surprising statline from Wade, who hadn’t made four 3-pointers in a game since 2013 and made only seven total last season.
If the Celtics were a high school team, they probably would have spent Thursday running suicide sprints in practice after blowing a 23-point lead against the lowly Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday and barely surviving in a season-opening win.
They had a game to play instead, but that didn’t stop them from running. Boston outscored Chicago in fast-break points 10-4, and used a few scoring runs to play catch up. In the second quarter, the C’s used a 14-4 run to pull within three points. They later used a 14-3 run in the third quarter to pull within one point. They took their first lead of the night at 69-68 just a few minutes after that on an Isaiah Thomas 3-pointer, but promptly allowed an 11-4 run to Chicago to close the third quarter and trailed 79-73 through 36 minutes.
The Bulls big men gave Boston fits all night, including Taj Gibson, who might as well have been the Taj Mahal given the way Celtics defenders stared at him in awe all evening.
Gibson finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and was part of a contingent that drew 10 fouls on Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller and Al Horford. But Gibson wasn’t the only one. Sharpshooting big man Nikola Mirotic possibly drove to the hoop more Thursday than he did all last season, and bullied Boston’s bigs every time.
And then there was Robin Lopez, cast off from the New York Knicks, who finished with eight points and eight rebounds — six of which were on the offensive glass.
Chicago as a team killed Boston on the boards, outrebounding the C’s 55-36 and outscoring them in second-chance points, 18-5. Gibson, Mirotic and Lopez combined for 41 points and 27 rebounds.
We’d be remiss not to give a bit of credit to Zeller in this space, though, who despite looking overmatched more than a few times on defense hustled his way into more minutes in the wake of Johnson’s early foul trouble. He grabbed one of just three Boston offensive rebounds on the night, was one of just two Celtics with a positive plus-minus rating (Zeller was plus-2; Gerald Green was plus-8) and was constantly in the right place at the right time on offense, as seen on this beautiful play below.
Thomas scored a game-high 25 points, and nearly every time Boston went on a run to get back in the game, he was right in the middle of it. The 5-foot-9 All Star scored eight points in the fourth quarter, including seven straight at one point during an 11-0 Celtics run that brought them to within 95-92.
But Thomas, typically an excellent free throw shooter, went just 10 of 15 at the line, including several misses in the final frame. While his missed free throws alone didn’t make up the difference, it certainly stood out and hurt the Celtics during crunch time.
Avery Bradley also played well, scoring 16 points to go with six rebounds and five assists. Horford chipped in 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the loss, while rookie Jaylen Brown topped 20 minutes for the second night in a row, scoring eight points.
PLAY OF THE GAME
Avert your eyes, Celtics fans. Here’s that Wade dagger at the end of the game, with Bradley in his face.
Boston continues its road trip and meets the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Dennis Wierzbicki/USA TODAY Sports Images