Celtics

Celtics defense crumbles as they're blown out by Bulls, 108-85

celtics_bulls_bobby_portis_121117.jpg

Celtics defense crumbles as they're blown out by Bulls, 108-85

It was a blowout in the Windy City, but not exactly how anyone saw coming. 

A day after exacting revenge against Detroit for what was Boston’s worst loss of the season, the Celtics deliver a stinker of all stinkers in being soundly beaten 108-85 by the Bulls who now "improve" their record to 6-20 with a third straight win.

The Celtics (23-6) were without Irving who suffered a quads injury against the Pistons on Sunday. Boston was also without Marcus Morris (left knee soreness) whose return is to be determined.

But we’ve seen the Celtics in the past play without key players and find a way to not just compete but emerge victorious.

Not on Monday.

It seemed most of the game, the Celtics were a step slow at both ends of the floor resulting in the Bulls getting great looks offensively and making more plays than usual on defense.

While most of the focus without Irving was on Boston’s offense, it was the Celtics’ defense that truly let them down.

At no point did the Celtics apply the kind of defensive pressure you expect to see from the league’s top-ranked defense.

Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic delivered a devastating 1-2 punch for the Bulls with 23 and 24 points, respectively.

And they did so from the perimeter as well as from inside the paint with the Celtics offering little to no resistance or playing with any sense of force needed to win.

After trailing most of the game, the Celtics were down 78-63 going into the fourth quarter in part because of the monster game Portis (19 points on 8-for-11 shooting) was having for the Bulls through the first three quarters of play.

And as the game got more lopsided in the fourth, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens emptied his bench only for the team’s end-of-the-bench reserves literally pick up where the regulars left off in what was the worst loss of the season; coming against the worst team in the NBA nonetheless.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

No extra motivation for Celtics' Monroe in beating his old team

No extra motivation for Celtics' Monroe in beating his old team

MILWAUKEE – Unlike previous stops in his NBA career, Greg Monroe is no longer saddled with the burden of being the face of the franchise or expected to be a central part of the team’s core.

Drafted by the Detroit Pistons with the seventh overall pick in 2010, Monroe has been a solid but far from spectacular pro with career averages of 13.7 points and 8.6 rebounds while shooting 51.5 percent from the field.

Now, with the Celtics, that’s no longer an issue.

With Boston, the 6-foot-11 center is part of the puzzle rather than a cornerstone which works for all involved and has been one of the many factors weighing in Boston’s favor as the Celtics hit the road with a 2-0 lead against Monroe’s old team, the Milwaukee Bucks, in the best-of-seven series.

One of the big knocks on Monroe was how most of the teams he played on failed to get to the playoffs.

An eight-year veteran, this is only the second time Monroe has been to the playoffs.

The first time?

That was last year, with the Bucks, who were bounced in the first round by Toronto.

The irony of Monroe potentially getting to the second round of the playoffs at the expense of the Bucks is not lost on the veteran big man.

Still, he insists there’s no added motivation or incentive for him in this series against his former team.

“Like I said before, that part of my career is over,” Monroe said. “I’m focused on right now and right now we have to win this series.”

Here are five under-the-radar storylines leading into tonight’s pivotal Game 3 in Milwaukee:

MIDDLETON AND FOULS


Khris Middleton will be the first to tell you that he’s not the quickest defender on the floor. And the numbers will back him up on that assertion, especially when it comes to committing fouls. The 6-foot-8 Middleton leads all players in the postseason with a 5.0-fouls-committed-per-game average. While it is higher than his regular-season average, even then he ranked among the most foul-prone players in the NBA. Among those who appeared in at least 60 games last season, Middleton’s 3.3 fouls committed per game was the fourth-highest average.

BENCH PLAY


The Celtics' second unit has been among the NBA’s most productive since the All-Star break and that trend has continued into the playoffs. Boston’s bench has absolutely dominated this series, outscoring the Bucks’ backups, 68-48. Leading Boston’s backup attack has been Marcus Morris, who by himself has scored 39 points in the first two games – just nine less than the entire Milwaukee bench.

BOXING OUT


This series thus far has been more about Boston doing the little things, a lot better than the Bucks. Among the areas Boston has been better at, is boxing out which has been key to Boston’s success on both the offensive and defensive boards. In the first two games, nba.com/stats has the Celtics for 66 box-outs compared to 62 for the Bucks. It may not seem like a lot, but a couple more box-outs on Milwaukee’s part may have been enough for them to be coming into tonight’s game in a 1-1 series tie versus this being a must-win game for them now that they’re trailing, 2-0.

TATUM MORE THAN A SCORER


After having one of the greatest playoff debuts ever by a Celtics rookie, Jayson Tatum’s scoring wasn’t quite up to par with what we’ve seen from him this season or in Game 1 (19 points, 10 rebounds). He had just four points on 2-for-9 shooting in Game 2. Still, he actually did a lot of really good things for Boston to take control of Game 2 and never let it be in question. Tatum grabbed seven rebounds and dished out three assists while tallying a game-high four steals and blocking one shot. His ability to impact games in ways beyond scoring, speaks to his growth as a player and understanding of his role within the framework of this roster.

JABARI PARKER


There’s a different gear the best players have to shift into when the playoffs begin. And Jabari Parker simply hasn’t made that change. Not even close. A 12.6 points per game scorer in the regular season, Parker has scored just two points in the two games in this series. He has to be better tonight if the Bucks are to have any shot at getting back in this series.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

How to watch/stream Milwaukee Bucks vs Boston Celtics, Game 3

How to watch/stream Milwaukee Bucks vs Boston Celtics, Game 3

Tune into NBC Sports Boston to watch Game 3 of the opening round of the NBA playoffs, as the Celtics play the Bucks in Milwaukee. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by Nissan on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game preview: Celtics have chance to put Bucks in deep hole

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

[SHOP: Gear up, Celtics fans!]