Jaylen Brown got things going, and Jayson Tatum tried to finish them off for the shorthanded Celtics in a sloppy game against the Chicago Bulls at TD Garden.
Boston was without Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Evan Fournier and Robert Williams. So the effort understandably wasn’t enough, and the C’s fell 102-96.
It came down to the last possession, but the Celtics ultimately fell just shy of their seventh straight win thanks to some costly turnovers down the stretch.
Tatum recorded the first triple-double of his NBA career with 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Brown had a team-high 23 points with four rebounds, one assist and a steal. Tremont Waters added a real spark in the fourth quarter and finished the game with nine points and a great defensive effort.
Nikola Vucevic dropped a game-high 29 points and nine rebounds. Daniel Theis received a warm welcome back to TD Garden before dropping six points with six rebounds and four assists.
The Celtics fell to 31-26 on the season while the Bulls improved to 24-33.
Here’s how it all went down:
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Semi Ojeleye
C: Tristan Thompson
SG: Jaylen Brown
PG: Payton Pritchard
NO RUST ON JAYLEN
Despite being severely shorthanded, Brown and Tatum led the Celtics’ offense in the opening quarter.
Brown scored 13 points on a perfect 6-for-6 shooting, which helped Boston get out to an early 11-2 run. Tatum, meanwhile, had four first frame assists and four rebounds.
And Luke Kornet did this on his first touch of the game against his former squad:
With contributions like that off the bench, including a 3-pointer from Grant Williams, the Celtics got a solid stretch out of their reserves that carried into the second.
Boston closed out the first quarter up 30-24.
Romeo Langford had a strong showing early, serving as the de facto ballhandler of the game by nature of the Celtics’ injury report.
Jabari Parker followed up a pleasant debut with more great energy, driving hard to the hoop to generate more scoring off the bench.
Parker had six points off the bench in the first half, including this beauty.
Tatum got up to seven rebounds and five assists by the half to go with three points, and Pritchard had nine early points as Boston shot 51.3% from the field in the first half.
Vucevic got going in the second quarter, but the Bulls entered the break down 48-42.
BULLS BUILD LEAD
The Celtics offense frankly became a bit stagnant out of the half, showing off their lack of ballhandling depth.
Vucevic kept doing Vucevic things, too, and the Bulls closed their gap to just one point.
Boston started running the ball through Tatum and Brown again to maintain the lead, but couldn’t keep much separation.
A double-big lineup with Theis at the four ended up hurting the Celtics. Boston went almost three minutes without a point as the quarter came towards close.
A 13-2 run by Chicago helped the Bulls enter the final frame with a 74-66 lead.
TATUM, WATERS TAKEOVER
Tatum hit a big 3 to start the fourth quarter and then assisted Parker on a fun alley-oop that got them going on a little run.
Starting the quarter, Tremont Waters scored on back-to-back possessions for a quick five points and Tristan Thompson made it a five-point game, assisted by Tatum.
Then, the star forward really locked in, recording his first career triple-double. He worked hard for it, too.
Pritchard hit a big shot to bring the Celtics within three points, and Brown woke back up to close that gap with an even bigger triple to tie it at 90-90.
But Chicago stripped Boston on a few possessions down the stretch, and the Bulls managed to pull out the victory.
PLAY OF THE GAME
So nice we’re showing it twice. Hopefully, this is the first of many.
Boston gets a few days off before playing the Phoenix Suns on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET at TD Garden.