C’s Suffer First Blowout Loss of Season in Chicago

CHICAGO – The Boston Celtics went their first 28 games of the 2017-18 season without suffering a blowout loss. That streak finally came to an end Monday night, when the shorthanded C’s fell, 108-85, to the Chicago Bulls at United Center.

Playing on the second night of a back-to-back, Boston was without leading scorer Kyrie Irving (quad), and gritty, veteran forward Marcus Morris (knee). The Celtics, however, weren’t ones to make excuses. They gave credit where credit was due, and admitted that they just didn’t bring their A-game to the Windy City.

“Sometimes you get your butts kicked. It’s as simple as that,” said coach Brad Stevens after the game. “Chicago dictated the whole game. They played harder than we did, they played with more presence than we did, they played more competitive than we did, and they played with more authority than we did.”

Boston started off the game with more authority than the Bulls, as it led by as many as seven points during the first quarter. The C’s outscored Chicago 29-28 during the opening frame, but they fell apart in the second when the Bulls outscored them 28-13.

Boston’s 56-42 halftime deficit didn’t seem like it would be too difficult to overcome, based on its strong history of comebacks this season, but Chicago continued its tear in the second half. The Bulls would go up by as many as 30 points, which proved to be too much of a disadvantage for the comeback kids to battle back from.

“We’ve had a chance to win every game except for this one,” said Stevens, whose Celtics had previously not lost a game by more than 10 points. . “This one was obvious. Even when we were making a run in the third, it was still back-and-forth, and they hit every big shot that they needed to stem the tide. When it was an 11-point game, they’d put it back to 14. We just had too many easy errors from our standpoint, and they made plays.”

Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis were at the forefront of many of those plays. They combined to score 47 points for a 6-20 Bulls team that has now won three straight.

Boston, meanwhile, could not find any offensive sparks. The absence of Irving, who took a knee to his left quad Sunday in Detroit, proved to be detrimental to the Celtics’ offense, as they had no individual who was able to muster more than 15 points.

“I think that we need to run our offense with more pace, especially when we don’t have the luxury to have a guy like Kyrie out there,” said Horford, owner of that team-leading 15-point effort. “So this is something that we can learn from.”

Irving’s absence aside, it was an unusually challenging night for the Celtics as a whole. Their top 3-point shooters – Jayson Tatum and Al Horford – combined to shoot 0-for-8 from long range. Their long-armed defense was only able to create two steals. And their typical, all-around energy just wasn’t there.

It could have been because the team was playing its third game in a third different city over a four-day span. Jaylen Brown, however, wasn’t willing to use that as an excuse.

“It felt like an ordinary game,” said Brown, who tallied 13 points and eight rebounds. “We usually find the time to find some energy but tonight we didn’t. It didn’t feel any different. We’re not making any excuses. We’ve just got to come out and play better, and play harder, regardless of the circumstance. And, I think we will. I think this is a learning experience for us, and we’ll figure it out.”

The Celtics are hoping that Irving’s quad will be better by Wednesday when they are scheduled to host a young, talented Denver team in Boston. If he can’t go, they will have to learn from Monday’s mistakes and find a way to bring a greater collective energy on the offensive end.