Bulls Insider

10 observations: Shorthanded Celtics defeat Bulls, sweep season series

Even without Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis, Boston wins ninth straight

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The Chicago Bulls fell to the shorthanded Boston Celtics 124-113 on Saturday night at the United Center.

"They're the best team, bro," Coby White said. "They hit a lot of 3s. They're going to make tough shots. That's what they do. They've been doing it all year consistently."

Here are 10 observations:

---The Celtics won their ninth straight, using their eighth different starting lineup. That’s excellence. Against the Bulls, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Luke Kornet, Sam Hauser and Derrick White got the nod.

---That’s because the Celtics finished a back-to-back set of games and played without Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis for various levels of bumps and bruises and maintenance.

---The Celtics swept the three-game season series. This is notable because if the Bulls can even win the play-in tournament, they’d face the NBA-leading Celtics.

---Luke Kornet dominated his matchup with Nikola Vucevic. He finished with eight points and a season-high 13 rebounds to an uncharacteristic mere two rebounds for Vucevic. Kornet’s activity helped the Celtics enjoy a 23-2 advantage in second-chance points. Coach Billy Donovan said it didn't all fall on Vucevic, who has to be up in coverage or rotating sometimes because of Boston's elite 3-point shooting.

An inability to finish possessions and too much fouling has contributed to the Bulls' slide in defense. Last season, they finished top-five in that department. Donovan said the first-shot possession defense often has been solid but rebounding has hurt the Bulls. As for the fouling, multiple young players like Julian Phillips, Dalen Terry and Onuralp Bitim are getting significant opportunity with all the injuries, and they're still learning the league.

---Alex Caruso rolled his left ankle when he got tangled up with Al Horford on a boxout and checked out with 6 minutes, 54 seconds left in the first half. He grimaced as he stayed on the floor and then walked gingerly straight to the locker room. He didn’t return that half but started the second half. Asked whether Horford stepped on his foot or he rolled his ankle, Caruso wisecracked: "Both." He said he got his ankle re-taped and played through some discomfort in the second half but has designs on playing Monday after more treatment.

---Caruso sank at least two 3-pointers for the sixth time in seven games. He has more than doubled his previous career-high of 55 made 3-pointers. With his first steal against Boston, Caruso also surpassed his career-high in the department and needs one to post 100 for the season.

---The Celtics take and make the most 3-pointers in the NBA, averaging 16.6 makes entering Saturday and taking an average of 42.6. Even without three starters and some of their best players, they shot 21-for-48 from beyond the arc. They almost made their season average by halftime, sinking 13-of-27 at the break.

---Al Horford, who played for Billy Donovan at Florida and is in his 17th season, sank five 3-pointers and fell one point short of his season-high with 23 points. Only Sam Hauser made more than Horford; he shot a ridiculous 7-for-8 from beyond the arc as the Celtics finished plus-36 in that category.

---The Bulls assisted on 12 of 13 first-quarter field goals with White posting three. They also had 23 assists on 26 first-half field goals and shot 59 percent in the first half and still trailed because of the Celtics’ 3-point barrage. They finished with a season-high 36 assists and shot 57 percent with only seven turnovers but still lost because of the Celtics' 3-point shooting and second-chance points.

---Dalen Terry scored a season-high 12 points and took a charge as part of his active 19 minutes. He had two dunks in the second half, one on a tip slam and one on which he drew a technical foul for hanging on the rim.

"I think I could've contributed more on the defensive end," Terry said.

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