Shorthanded C’s Edged by Bulls, Win Streak Ends at Six
Being without four of their top six rotation players proved to be too much for the Boston Celtics to overcome Monday night, as they saw their season-long, six-game win streak come to an end at the hands of the Chicago Bulls in a hard-fought, 102-96 loss at TD Garden.
Boston was missing its top two point guards in Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker (both out with illnesses), sixth man Evan Fournier (health and safety protocols), and starting center Rob Williams (left knee soreness), which forced Brad Stevens to get creative with his rotations.
The C’s had several guys step up and excel in larger roles, such as Payton Pritchard, Romeo Langford and Tremont Waters. But Chicago’s combination of depth and size was too large of an obstacle for Boston to tackle in the end.
“I thought their length affected us defensively,” Stevens said of the Bulls. “We didn’t have much of a threat at the rim tonight. I thought we tried to get there, but it was pretty jammed up, and we struggled to finish when we did get there. They deserve a lot of credit, they impacted us on our drives big time.”
With that being said, Stevens was happy with the way his team battled in the face of adversity, considering how incredibly shorthanded they were. They did struggle in the middle of the game, scoring just 18 points apiece in the middle two periods, but they outscored Chicago in both the first and fourth quarters with a pair of 30-point efforts.
“Our guys fought, gave ourselves a chance,” Stevens said. “We got some good performances by guys that haven’t played a lot. Tremont Waters came in and gave us a real lift.”
Waters served as Boston’s primary spark plug down the stretch and his hustle was the main reason why it was able to stay in the game up until the end. After sitting out the first three quarters, the second-year point guard entered the final frame and put up nine points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting effort from the field, while also corralling one rebound, dishing out one assist, and snagging two steals.
Pritchard also saw an increase in minutes, as he was elevated into the starting lineup for the second time this season. He logged 13 points, three assists and two rebounds in 31-plus minutes of action.
Langford got to test out a new role, as well, filling in at point guard behind Pritchard. It’s a position that Stevens believes “may be a part of his future,” as he showed some strong playmaking moments.
And newcomer Jabari Parker had his second straight strong outing, as he provided eight points and a blocked shot, while also throwing down a pair of emphatic dunks.
With so many key players out, more of a burden was placed upon Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and both delivered in certain areas. Brown had a strong scoring night, pouring in a team-high 23 points, while Tatum logged the first triple-double of his career with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists.
But at the end of the day, Tatum believed that he could have done more to get his team the win.
“I just know I got to do a little bit more,” he said. “I know I'm expected to do a little bit of everything on any given night and I think it's just emphasized a little bit more when those guys are out. Everybody has got to step up more, including myself when we're missing Kemba, Smart, (Rob), and Fournier.”
The good news for the Celtics is that they now have two full days off – including a rare opportunity to practice on Wednesday – which should allow them to recuperate before a tough back-to-back against Phoenix and Brooklyn.
“Knock on wood, hopefully we have a few of these guys back,” said Stevens. “That’ll make practice better and hopefully we’ll be a little bit better.”