The Boston Celtics were expected to end their road trip on a high note, even without their star player.
Kyrie Irving wasn’t able to suit up Monday night due to a quad contusion, but the C’s seemingly could afford to be without the point guard thanks to a favorable matchup with the lowly Chicago Bulls. However, Chicago didn’t look like the NBA’s worst team against Boston.
The Bulls, who entered the contest with a league-worst 5-20 record, absolutely torched the Celtics in a 108-85 victory at United Center. The C’s completely lacked rhythm on offense, and their defensive pressure was inadequate, to say the least.
Boston has dealt with injuries throughout the season, but the team’s “next-man-up” mentality has proved effective in times of need. The Celtics’ reserves didn’t rise to the occasion Monday, though, as the green’s reserves combined for only 30 points compared to the Bulls’ 55, led by a 23-point performance from Bobby Portis.
The green’s offensive showing surely would have been different with Irving on the floor, but it’s doubtful he could have compensated for the team’s general lack of effort. Chicago entered the game statistically ranked as the worst defensive team in the league, but Boston still struggled on offense from wire to wire.
The Celtics already have proven this season that they can make do without Irving. The star guard previously missed a game as a result of a facial fracture, but Boston still managed to defeat a tough Toronto Raptors team that is expected to be one of the stronger forces in the Eastern Conference this season.
While there certainly won’t be many smiles on the team’s flight back to Boston, the loss to the Bulls ultimately can be viewed as a blessing in disguise. The C’s hadn’t suffered a blowout defeat yet this season, and Monday night was just about as ugly as it gets. Boston can view the forgettable contest as a wake-up call and a realization that you can’t play to your competition.
In the top-heavy East, it’s important now for the Celtics to take care of business against inferior teams. An early-December loss isn’t catastrophic for the Celtics, but Monday’s matchup with the Bulls simply is one they should have had.
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Bulls:
— Boston only scored 13 points in the second quarter, marking its lowest point total in a quarter this season.
— Jayson Tatum’s four-point night ended the rookie’s streak of double-digit scoring performances at 16 games.
— The Celtics aren’t expected to be without Irving for very long, but it looks like the same can’t be said for Marcus Morris.
— Boston (15) nearly doubled Chicago (8) in the turnover margin.
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