Celtics use big third quarter to beat Bulls
BOSTON — The schedule has been grinding and there had only been one night off after a back-to-back, but Brad Stevens saw some extra jump in the Boston Celtics on Saturday night.
“It’s funny. We only played 48 hours ago, but I felt way better and so I’m sure that everybody else did and I think that’s just part of this whole (marathon schedule),” the coach said after the Celtics ran away from the Chicago Bulls in the third quarter and cruised to a 117-92 victory that snapped Boston’s two-game losing streak.
“I thought we played pretty well, and even when we were down six (in the first half) we were playing pretty well.”
The Celtics (27-9) hit the Bulls with a 38-18 third quarter and avenged a bad loss in Chicago two weeks earlier, when Boston scored a season-low 85 points.
The Celtics led by a point when Jaylen Brown hit two 3-pointers to start and finish a 12-0 run over 2:49 early in the third quarter, breaking the game open and sending the Bulls (10-22) to their second straight loss after seven wins in a row.
The 38 points was a third-quarter high for the Celtics.
Boston guard Kyrie Irving, who didn’t play in the first meeting, had 25 points and seven assists. Brown, who missed the loss in New York with Achilles soreness, scored 20.
Rookie Daniel Theis had 10 points and a season-high 15 rebounds, rookie Jayson Tatum added 13 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and Al Horford posted 10 points, six assists and four rebounds.
Irving was 9 of 15 from the floor, including 5 of 7 from 3-point range — and he actually snapped a career-best streak of three straight 30-point games. He only had to log 27:49 because of the score.
“Just our pace, staying on the boards, making sure we were communicating what we needed to do to extend the lead as best we could,” Irving said, “ ... That’s the type of basketball we want to play on a consistent basis.”
Stevens, talking about Irving, said, “The one thing that gets lost in all the handles and the YouTube videos is how skilled he is at shooting the ball.”
Theis’ 15 rebounds were the most by a Celtics player off the bench since Jae Crowder had 17 on March 1, 2015.
“We lost to Chicago like a week ago pretty bad, like our worst game of the whole season,” Theis said. “We knew we had to do something, especially for ourselves. Both teams played well, both teams played hard, so we tried to come out of the half in the third quarter playing harder.
“Then at one point I think Chicago gave up because everybody through the bench played hard for us.”
The Celtics were guilty of a season-low six turnovers, a total even more impressive because most of the fourth quarter was garbage time and half the turnovers came in the fourth.
Bobby Portis, who burned the Celtics for 23 points off the bench in Chicago, came off the bench again and led the Bulls with 17 points. Justin Holiday and Lauri Markkanen had 12 apiece, David Nwaba scored 11 and Jerian Grant 10 in the loss.
“That first half was a high-level 24 minutes. Both teams were playing with great energy,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “What I saw was kind of reverting back to some things we did earlier in the season, which was hanging heads and not doing the things that got us 58 points on the best defensive team in the league in that first half.”
Point guard Kris Dunn had seven assists for the Bulls but went just 1 of 12 from the floor, had two points and was a minus-29 in 24:39.
“Those are my shots,” Dunn said. “They’re the shots I work on and those are the shots I hit. I feel like I got plenty of good looks. They didn’t fall today.
“Our offensive game as a team, I feel we got a lot of good looks. We just didn’t hit.”
The Bulls didn’t help their cause by going 17 of 25 from the foul line.
NOTES: Chicago G Jerian Grant ended the third quarter by hitting a scoop shot from his knees after falling in the lane. ... Boston G Shane Larkin (knee), who missed Thursday’s game in New York, was on the bench but didn’t play. ... Boston F Semi Ojeleye was injured in a first-half fall, but coach Brad Stevens didn’t have an update after the game. ... The home team has won the last nine games of this series. ... While the Bulls are off until they visit Milwaukee on Tuesday night, the Celtics play at home on Christmas Day for the first time when the Washington Wizards visit. It will be the first meeting between the bitter rivals since last season’s seven-game playoff series.