BOSTON – Al Horford has been given a decent amount of credit for helping the Boston Celtics hum along through this early part of the season.
So when the news came down that he was in the NBA’s concussion protocol following a hit to the head earlier this week, not-so-great play offensively seemed a given.
But the Celtics were anything but that in the first half as they pulled ahead by double digits in the second quarter before going into the half with a 55-52 lead.
Horford, signed by Boston in the offseason to the tune of four years and $113 million, will not travel with the team for their Thursday night matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers with his return to the lineup uncertain.
One of the reasons Boston signed Horford in the offseason was to help them get past teams like Chicago and Cleveland.
But against the Bulls, Boston showed off the team’s depth which once again is one of Boston’s biggest strengths.
Boston pushed its lead to as many as 14 points following an Amir Johnson dunk from Marcus Smart who was making his regular season debut on Wednesday.
Leading 43-29, the Bulls responded with an 8-0 run led by Jimmy Butler which included a lay-up that made it a 43-37 game.
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens had seen enough and called a time-out with 5:55 to play in the half.
Boston continued to play with a lead, but the Bulls managed to steadily chip away at it courtesy of repeated defensive breakdowns that allowed Chicago back into the game.
A turn-around jumper by Jerian Grant cut Boston’s lead to 50-49.
After a Celtics turnover, the Bulls had a chance to take their first lead since early in the fourth quarter.
As Butler brought the ball down he was whistled for an offensive foul when he made contact with Isaiah Thomas.
Chicago had its chances to take the lead but couldn’t make the necessary shot or get a much-needed stop to fully swing the game’s momentum and its score, in their favor.
Here’s a look at the Stars, Studs and Duds from tonight’s game.
Boston’s best scorer stepped up his scoring game on a night when the Celtics needed it, tallying 14 points in the first half which included shooting 4-for-6 on 3s.
It was Butler’s scoring in the second quarter that seemed to jumpstart Chicago’s comeback. He led all Chicago players at the half with 12 points and five rebounds.
Boston needed someone to step their game up on the boards and Crowder was indeed that guy. At the half, he had 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting. But just as important, he grabbed five rebounds.
Maybe more than anyone else on the floor, he made the most of every shot attempt he got – from the field at least. At the half, he had nine points which included making both of his free throws.
He didn’t play poorly in the first half, but he didn’t make anywhere close to the impact we’re used to seeing from the former Celtic and four-time All-star. Rondo had four points, five rebounds and three assists at the half.