The original Boston Massacre led to a revolution. We’ll see what happens with the Bulls after this latest Boston massacre, this one a 100-80 Celtics carnage Sunday over the Bulls on national ABC-TV.
The state of the Bulls is not strong; the question now is how much union they have.
“I don’t think we’re giving up,” said Jimmy Butler, limited to five points on two of 11 shooting. “We’re not playing any type of good basketball right now as a whole. We have to get back to the basics before we can do anything else. Get back in transition, guard the way we are supposed to be, take the right shots. I’m sure we are going to talk about that for a while before getting to Charlotte (Monday). But nah, we’re not giving up. I can tell you that.”
The Bulls set first quarter and first half season team records for futility, trailing by at least 20 points much of the second quarter and then by 29 points in the third quarter. Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg remarked that in missing 16 of their first 17 shots of the game, some of the attempts “missed the basket by six feet. Some unbelievable misses.
“That’s a tough way to get going,” said Hoiberg. “Get back to work and try to play better tomorrow.”
It was 46-26 Boston at half and 76-57 Boston after three. The Celtics regained a 29-point lead four minutes into the fourth quarter.
Robin Lopez and Denzel Valentine led the Bulls with 13 points each. Bobby Portis had 12. Butler and Dwyane Wade were a combined six of 22 shooting for a combined 13 points. Wade was minus-37 on the game plus/minus for time on the court.
The Bulls dropped to 31-35 with their fifth consecutive loss. The Celtics moved to 42-25. The Bulls now are 10th in the East, two games ahead of Charlotte.
And then depression set in?
“Giving them (young players) the opportunity; I’m fine with that,” said Butler, supporting the team. “We’re riding together with who we have no matter what lineup it is. We have to go out there and compete to the best of our ability.”
This one was perhaps an aberration compared to even the last four losses, which came after five wins in six games, including a season highlight win over Golden State. That came a week after the trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to Oklahoma City for Cameron Payne, Joffrey Lauvergne and Anthony Morrow. The Bulls did win three of four after the trade, but it’s been a descent unrivaled in recent years the last week, crushing, mostly uncompetitive losses with Sunday’s the low point while also being on national TV. It seemed like a good idea earlier, and the Bulls were 2-1 over Boston, all three games played down to the end. But while the Celtics are still putting a rush on Cleveland for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference, the Bulls suddenly are in an inexplicable nose dive toward playoff extinction.
There’s been much hand wringing lately about changing rotations and lineups, playing youngsters. Still, the starting core with Butler, Wade and Lopez supported by now Bobby Portis and Jerian Grant, essentially the same group without Gibson that was so competitive for months, is being blasted out of games to start each half.
The Celtics led 10-0 before Hoiberg replaced Portis with Lauvergne and then 15-4 before bringing in Valentine for Wade. The Bulls were three of 22 shooting in the first quarter. They has a league season low 26 first half points and became the only team not to have a point in the paint in a quarter with their play in the first. They were 20 points behind at halftime and then blown out again to start the second half, Boston opening 10-3 to take a 56-29 lead.
Butler and Lopez ran into one another on one possession just as the Bulls fell behind 10-0. Portis opened the game shooting a pair of air balls and then making a turnover. The Bulls had a 24-second violation out of a timeout. Cristiano Felicio had a fast break score and forgot to turn and shoot. Cameron Payne committed a turnover and on the next possession got stripped in the open court. It was primarily Bulls jump shots to start. Boston was not sharp early, but got 22 points from Isaiah Thomas and on one possession in which Thomas had a terrific tip pass, the Celtics seemed to have more passes than the Bulls had all quarter. TV replays highlighted players being beaten back door and on one occasion Jae Crowder connected with Avery Bradley on a 90 foot pass for a score.
It wasn’t until later in the third quarter that a Bulls group with Valentine, Lauvergne, Rajon Rondo, Butler and Lopez showed much life with a 14-5 run and even a Valentine fast break score. The Bulls ended the third quarter on a 19-9 run to get the deficit down to 19. Lopez had 11 points in the third quarter and Valentine 10. They were a combined nine of 10 shooting.
But with Wade, Payne, Lauvergne, Valentine and Felicio starting the fourth quarter, Boston opened with a 14-4 run for a 90-61 lead and then multiple substitutions to just end the game quickly.
There weren’t any more post game verbal fireworks even as Wade keeps getting asked whether he had more to say. Wade’s resisted and now says pretty much after every game he’s not going through another episode like earlier this season when he spoke out and was fined. Though Wade has consistently said it’s his job to help players be better and has been accepting responsibility.
“It’s tough,” said Wade. “Nobody in this locker room wants to lose, nobody wants to miss shots, nobody wants to play bad. Keep pushing. We still have a lot of games left. We know the one thing in this league is things can change in a heartbeat. We won five out of six, now we’ve lost five in a row. That’s the way it is in this league.
“I wish upper management could be answering these questions,” Wade said evenly about the issues raised regularly. “I’m tired of answering the same ones every game. I wish I had the answers, but I don’t. I don’t want to say too much. I just want to get out there and try to play and try to lead, find a way for me and Jimmy to do better to help these guys. Look at film, sit down with coach and see ways to better affect the game. Because right now they are just watching us on these pick and rolls, so we have to figure out a way for us to be better so we can help everybody else be better.
It’s looking that way now, of course, with this stretch. There haven’t been a lot of hopeful signs. The players acquired in trade have been erratic. Nikola Mirotic wasn’t even activated for the game as the team used 13 players, though the fourth quarter was essentially uncompetitive. Grant’s playing time has declined again and Paul Zipser has been limited.
But Butler also is in his poorest period in years, three games of fewer than 10 points in the last 10. He’s averaging 16.1 points in that stretch and shooting 38 percent. Wade is averaging 14.3 points in March on 36.4 percent shooting and sat out two games with a quad injury. The despair has been roster wide. Though this same group for the most part has shown resilience and surprise when challenged.
“It’s tough,” said Wade, “especially when you are playing teams playing for the playoffs. Besides Orlando, teams we’ve lost to in this span, they’ve all been playoff teams. They’re ready; they know what they have to do. We’re still experimenting. So take some lumps. Some of them are going to big lumps, some of them are going to be small lumps; tonight was a big one.
“We played good defense tonight for the most part,” said Wade. “Just didn’t score enough. Got to keep the confidence going. Coach has been doing a good job trying to stay positive. Not the first team to go on a five-game losing streak, and won’t be the last.”