The Bulls perfect start Wednesday hit its first pot hole in a 107-100 loss to the Boston Celtics.
The Bulls and Celtics both are 3-1 and have split their two games.
Though it was nearly another classic for the Bulls. Not so rich on aesthetics this time, but the Bulls fought back from an early fourth quarter 16-point deficit to tie the game late and then lost a chance to take a lead when Nikola Mirotic missed a pair of free throws. Boston then grabbed a crucial offensive rebound on an Isaiah Thomas miss and were able to hang on for the win.
The Bulls were led by Jimmy Butler with 23 points and nine rebounds, Mirotic with 17 points, Dwyane Wade with 15 points and Rajon Rondo 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bulls were hurt down the stretch by failing to grab several defensive rebounds, the last with 34 seconds after an Thomas miss and the Celtics leading by three.
The Bulls were missing Doug McDermott, who wasn’t cleared yet from the league’s concussion regulations, and Michael Carter-Williams with his knee injury that will keep him out a month or more. So Isaiah Canaan and Mirotic was first off the bench with Jerian Grant making his Bulls debut and Denzel Valentine into the game late in the first quarter. Though for Boston Al Horford was out, which seemed like advantage Bulls. It played out to start with the Bulls taking a fast 10-5 lead before Boston blitzed them with a barrage of threes, six in the quarter to take a 36-25 Celtics lead after one quarter. The Bulls were again careless with the ball, though Boston plays an aggressive ball defense. The Bulls then got a nice boost from Jerian Grant in his first game as a Bull. Playing in a group with Mirotic, Butler, Wade and Gibson, the Bulls went on a 20-9 run to get back into the game and trail 55-52 at halftime. Butler had 10 second quarter points while Mirotic was sharp with a pair of threes and strong on the defensive boards along with Gibson.
It mostly seemed after halftime the Bulls didn’t believe Amir Johnson could shoot threes. And, after all, he’d only made 10 all last season. But he made three straight uncontested in the third quarter and added a fourth with a light closeout as the Celtics stunned the Bulls with Johnson’s shooting for an 81-70 lead after three quarters. Johnson had 16 points in the third quarter and the Bulls 18. The Celtics were outshooting the Bulls 13-3 on three pointers through the first three quarters. The Celtics scored five straight to open the fourth quarter and take a 16-point lead, but this Bulls group continued to show resilience as Mirotic started an 11-2 run with a three and Butler scored six straight to bring the Bulls within 93-88 with 6:20 remaining in the game. The Bulls closed with an unusual group that included Canaan, Mirotic and Bobby Portis, and Portis came up with a big offensive rebound and a pair of late baskets to enable the Bulls to get within two with two minutes remaining. The Bulls tied it at 100 on two Mirotic free throws with 1:57 left.