C’s 56-Point Win in Chi-Town was One for the History Books
CHICAGO – The Celtics had never seen a win like it. The Bulls had never seen a loss like it. And only once in the history of the NBA had another road team ever matched it.
Boston’s 133-77 win in Chicago Saturday night made history in a number of ways. It marked the Celtics’ largest margin of victory in team history by five points. It marked the Bulls’ largest margin of defeat in franchise history by three points. And it tied the NBA record for greatest margin of victory by a team on the road, matching Seattle’s 56-point win over the Houston Rockets on Dec. 6, 1986.
In order for so many records to be written in one night, a lot has to go right. In the Celtics’ case, just about everything went their way on both sides of the ball at United Center, making for one of their most consistent all-around efforts of the season.
“I thought our guys were really locked in,” said coach Brad Stevens. “We played really hard all the way through and probably played them on the right night coming off of a long, hard win (against Oklahoma City Friday night), where they clearly had to expend a lot of energy. It was just one of those nights that we needed to come out and play that way. I thought our guys stayed consistent through all 48 (minutes).”
For Stevens, maintaining that consistency was far more important than rewriting the history books. As the coach bluntly stated after the game, the lopsided nature of the game “doesn’t really matter.”
The bigger picture is that the Celtics are beginning to find their way after a rough start to the season on the offensive end.
“The offense has gotten better over the last couple weeks,” said Stevens, whose team owns the best offensive rating in the league over its last seven games, after ranking fourth-to-last through the first 18. “You kind of saw a turning point there when we went to Atlanta (right after Thanksgiving), and I just thought we looked different with our pace, our tempo. Our pace in the half-court, just everything was a little better, and we just have to keep building on it.”
The Celtics proved that they could build on their offense even when missing some of their key players. Both Aron Baynes and Al Horford were sidelined due to injuries Saturday night, Robert Williams was out for personal reasons and Guerschon Yabusele exited the game with a bad ankle sprain.
That left the Celtics’ frontcourt paper-thin, but Daniel Theis stepped up to the challenge in his first start of the season and produced the best game of his career, tallying career-highs in points (22), assists (five) and blocks (4), while also corralling a season-best 10 rebounds.
“One of the things we’ve been good with is when other guys have to step up the last couple of years, they always do,” said Stevens. “Whether it’s Semi (Ojeleye) or (Theis) or anybody else on the bench, they’re ready.”
The Bulls, meanwhile, were not ready to handle Boston’s offensive versatility. The Celtics were able to make their mark all over the court, shooting 51.2 percent outside the arc and 56 percent inside the arc, all while dishing out a season-high 34 assists.
“I would say it almost makes it impossible to guard us because everybody on the court, no matter who it is, can drive, shoot, pass the ball,” said Theis, who also logged the fourth-highest plus/minus rating (plus-50) since the NBA began tracking the stat during the 2000-01 season. “It’s really hard to guard us for 48 minutes if we play that way.”
Playing at that level for a full 48 was a challenge for Boston early in the season, but during the last seven games it has become normalcy. And because of the all-around consistent efforts of late, the Celtics now own the longest winning streak with five straight victories.
“I feel like we’re figuring one another out,” said Terry Rozier, who recorded 15 points, eight rebounds and three steals off the bench. “When we’re out there together, we’re getting everybody’s best shot with guys creating for others and creating for themselves. So, it makes it easier versus in the beginning of the season when we didn’t really understand the guys we were playing with so much and we had to get a feel for it. So, I think we’re back at where we need to be.”
And why not write their names in the history books while they’re at it?