BOSTON – The Boston Celtics gave their fans an early Christmas present on Saturday – a blowout win.
After a relatively close first half, Boston opened the third quarter with a powerful run which opened the flood gates to a comfortable 117-92 Celtics win.
While players talk all the time about taking it one game at a time and not giving much thought to past performances, there was no way they could have gone into Saturday’s game and not looking to avenge a 23-point loss at Chicago earlier this month which was the worst loss for the Celtics this season.
Mind you, the Celtics didn’t have Kyrie Irving (facial fracture) for that game but still … they shouldn’t have been blown out by 23 points.
Well Irving was back in the lineup for the Celtics on Saturday, and his presence was definitely felt as Boston spent most of the second half in show-no-mercy mode against a Bulls team that has been among the hottest clubs in the league recently.
Boston (27-9) was led by Irving’s 25 points, but he was far from being the lone Celtics player causing all kinds of problems for the Bulls (10-22) who came in having won seven of its previous eight games.
Jaylen Brown, who did not play in Boston’s loss at New York on Thursday due to a sore Achilles injury, returned to the lineup with a strong performance of 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting which included him canning 4-of-6 three-pointers with most being wide open shots.
Boston opened the third quarter with an 8-2 run capped off by an Al Horford lay-up, Jayson Tatum on the assist which gave Boston a 68-60 lead.
The Celtics continued to surge ahead, with their lead peaking at 18 points on a couple different occasions before Boston took a comfortable 98-76 lead into the fourth.
The first quarter was a close, nip-and-tuck affair with neither team showing signs of pulling away and taking control of the game. There were six lead changes and five ties before Marcus Smart closed out the quarter with a 3-point play that gave Boston a 33-31 lead.
Boston’s finish to the first didn’t carry over into the second quarter which was similar to the first with neither team putting together enough plays to have even a semi-comfortable lead although the Bulls spent the bulk of the quarter with a slim lead.
And the reason?
As was the case in Boston’s 108-85 loss at Chicago earlier this month, Portis was a problem that the Celtics never really had a solution to slow down.
Coming off the Chicago bench, Portis had 15 points at the half which included a string of three consecutive possessions in which he scored. But that would be the extent of the damage he caused, scoring just two points in the second half to finish with 17 for the game.