The Boston Celtics were embarrassed by the Bulls the last time they played in Chicago on Dec. 11, losing by 23 points without star point guard Kyrie Irving.
Without Irving again Monday night at the United Center, the C’s were determined to avenge that early-season loss, and they did. Jaylen Brown scored a game-high 21 points and Jayson Tatum poured in 14 as the Celtics crushed the Bulls 105-89.
Brown got the C’s going early with 14 fourth-quarter points. He shot 9-for-13 from the floor overall and added four rebounds. He also attacked the basket often and scored on eight of his nine shot attempts at the rim.
Irving is the by far the Celtics’ best offensive player, and when he’s out, there needs to be a collective effort offensively to make up for the star point guard’s absence. That’s exactly what unfolded against the Bulls, as five Celtics scored in double figures, led by Brown and Tatum.
Boston’s bench also contributed to the scoring output. The second unit added 44 points and was paced by Terry Rozier’s 13.
Here are some other notes from Celtics-Bulls:
— The Celtics’ win combined with the Detroit Pistons’ loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers drops Boston’s magic number to clinch a playoff spot to two. If the Pistons lose to the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, the C’s would clinch a postseason berth with a victory Thursday against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
— The Celtics won in Chicago for the first time since Nov. 8, 2014.
— The Bulls are a bad basketball team. It’s that simple. They’ve won three of their last 11 games and just 21 the entire campaign. But with a 21-42 record, Chicago still would have only the eighth-best odds of winning the NBA Draft Lottery in May. There are seven teams with a worse record than the Bulls, led by the Memphis Grizzlies at a league-worst 18-44.
Several teams appear to have embraced tanking with lottery reform coming next season.
— Tatum hit two shots from beyond the arc, tying Paul Pierce for the third-most 3-point shots (84) made by a Celtics rookie. The Duke product is 17 3-pointers away from tying J.R. Bremer’s team record set in 2003.
— Shane Larkin started at point guard with Irving out of the lineup due to right knee soreness. Larkin scored nine points with four assists and four rebounds in 16 minutes. He hit all three of his shot attempts.
— Al Horford bounced back well after a lackluster performance against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night. He had 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting to go along with seven rebounds.
Horford also reached a personal scoring milestone.
— Free throws used to be the most glaring weakness in Brown’s game, but not anymore. The second-year forward has made 22 of his last 24 free throws and shot 75 percent from the line in February. He shot in the 50 to 60 percent range over the first three months of the season. Brown’s improved success at the free throw line is encouraging for the C’s because so much of his game is built on using his athleticism and strength to drive to the basket, draw contact and get fouled.
— Veteran center Greg Monroe continues to be a boost off the bench.
— The Celtics had a 78-41 advantage in the third quarter. That 37-point edge was their largest lead at any point in a game this season.
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