Celtics

Celtics-Bulls takeaways: Closing games remains huge concern for C's

Celtics

The Boston Celtics couldn't protect a 19-point second-half lead over the Chicago Bulls and lost 128-114 after a lackluster fourth-quarter effort Monday night at TD Garden.

The Bulls outscored the Celtics 39-11 over the final 12 minutes and played with more intensity, focus and commitment at both ends of the floor.

The Celtics have lost three consecutive games and their record now stands at 2-5 (0-3 at home). They begin a three-game road trip Wednesday night versus the Orlando Magic. 

Here are three takeaways from Celtics-Bulls.

1) Closing games remains a huge concern

The Celtics were poised to earn their first signature win against a quality team this season with a 103-89 lead entering the fourth quarter. But the Bulls caught fire and went on a 17-2 run over the first four minutes of the final frame. 

Bulls rookie Aso Dosunmu hit a 3-pointer with 6:54 remaining in regulation that put Chicago up 106-105, capping a 29-9 run.

The Celtics have not closed games well at all this season. The most glaring issues include poor shot selection, turnovers, bad transition defense and getting beat on the defensive glass.

And for some reason, Jaylen Brown is not involved enough in the fourth quarter, even when he's in the midst of his high-scoring games. He attempted just three shots throughout the two overtime periods on Saturday and he had only two attempts in the fourth quarter Monday. The coaches, Brown and the other players have to recognize who has the hot hand and ride that momentum as much as possible in clutch situations.

 
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Any way you break it down, it's just inexcusable to get outscored by 28 points in the fourth quarter on your home court. It's still very early in the season, but these late-game issues must be corrected ASAP to ensure the Celtics don't fall into too large of a hole in the Eastern Conference standings.

2) Jaylen Brown ... still hot

Brown scored a team-high 34 points in Saturday's double-overtime loss to the Wizards, and he carried that momentum into Monday's game.

The 25-year-old guard started slow, hitting just one of his first six shot attempts. He went into overdrive in the second quarter, scoring 13 consecutive points for the Celtics that erased a double-digit Bulls lead.

After struggling from 3-point range versus the Wizards, Brown found his groove again Monday night. He hit five of his eight shots from beyond the arc.

Brown finished with 28 points on 10-for-18 shooting. He has scored 28-plus points in four of his six games played this season. 

3) DeMar DeRozan proving his worth

Entering Monday night, DeRozan had scored 568 points against the Celtics since 2013 -- the second-most by any player over that span behind Bradley Beal's 616. He added plenty more to that total.

The veteran guard poured in 37 points on 15-for-20 shooting, extending his streak of games with 20-plus points to six. Whether it was attacking the basket or pulling up for his midrange jumper, DeRozan had his way with the C's throughout the night.

The Bulls acquired DeRozan from the San Antonio Spurs through a sign-and-trade in the offseason, a deal that included Chicago giving him a three-year, $81.9 million contract. It was a bit of a bold move by the Bulls considering DeRozan's struggles as an outside shooter and lack of career playoff production. 

But he's been worth every penny for the Bulls so far, and his latest performance against the Celtics was yet another example.