5 takeaways as Celtics surrender 19-point lead, get blown out by Bulls

The Celtics came out swinging against the Bulls but were blown out down the stretch.

Celtics Bulls
Chicago Bulls' Nikola Vucevic and Patrick Williams pressure Celtics' Jaylen Brown. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

The Celtics blew a 19-point lead against the Bulls and dropped their first loss of the season 120-102 on Monday, falling in the final contest of their three-game road trip.

Here’s what happened.

The Big Picture

The Celtics looked like an untouchable juggernaut for the first eight minutes of the game, raining 3-pointers on the Bulls and spraying assists all over the floor.

Then the Bulls completely flipped the game around. The Celtics were porous defensively, particularly in the pick-and-roll and at the point of attack, and the Bulls took full advantage — sparking a monstrous 47-11 run that gave them a 16-point lead before a pair of desperation shots by Marcus Smart trimmed it back to 11 before the half.


The comeback (in response to a comeback) was not meant to be. The Celtics started the second half on a 12-2 run, but the Bulls obliterated them the rest of the way. After a contentious stretch in the fourth quarter that saw both Joe Mazzulla and Grant Williams ejected, the Celtics finally emptied their bench with just under six minutes remaining. The Bulls did the same a few minutes later, and the Celtics dropped their first loss of the season.

Star of the Game

Nikola Vucevic — 18 points, 23 rebounds, 10 offensive rebounds

We will get to the massive rebounding disparity in the takeaways, but it was almost entirely because of Vucevic — a notable Celtics killer over the years who created and converted a number of second-chance opportunities.

What It Means

The Celtics weren’t going to win all 82 games. They won’t win as many games as they hope if they don’t clean up a lot of the problems that surfaced on Monday.


1. The Bulls absolutely obliterated the Celtics on the glass — a 64-48 drubbing that exposed the Celtics’ biggest issue in Robert Williams’ absence. Vucevic was a major factor, but Noah Vonleh struggled mightily too with five personal fouls and two turnovers in just 12 minutes. Al Horford finished with just five rebounds.

2. The Celtics’ three-game winning streak to start the season may have masked some major defensive problems. The Bulls seemingly got whatever they wanted out of the pick-and-roll, and the Celtics couldn’t even really guard their yard on the perimeter. That would be an issue even if Robert Williams was available. It was deadly since he wasn’t.


The Celtics’ two signature wins to start the year were the Heat and 76ers. Those two teams are both now 1-3, for what it’s worth.

3. Either the officials lost control of the game in the second half or a frustrated Celtics team lost control of their emotions. Whichever you believe, Jayson Tatum picked up a technical for waving at an official (which is one of the technical-worthy motions established by the league). A few minutes later, Nikola Vucevic made a motion near an official that probably could have earned a technical, and Joe Mazzulla received two whip-quick technicals and was ejected by veteran official Marc Davis, presumably for asking why Tatum got a tech and Vucevic didn’t.

Mazzulla later told reporters he did not receive an explanation for his ejection.

Still: “I have to have better composure under the circumstances,” he added.

Grant Williams, meanwhile, was ejected when he scrambled to his feet quickly after a foul call to protest vociferously and he ran into an official. As he exited the floor, he appeared to yell some things that might draw the attention of the league office. For the Celtics, Monday was … not a banner evening.

4. The Celtics hoisted 48 3-pointers at a 37.5 percent clip, which is acceptable.


However, when you subtract the 8-for-11 performance the Celtics put together from behind the arc in the first quarter, they finished quarters 2-4 just 10-for-37 — just 27.3 percent from the field. That number feels much more representative of the performance we just witnessed.

5. After the first quarter, there really wasn’t a positive takeaway to be found across the board. The Celtics will look to regroup against the Cavaliers, but they have several days to nurse their bruises — they return to the TD Garden floor at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.


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