Another ugly fourth quarter sinks Bulls in loss to Celtics


Another ugly fourth quarter sinks Bulls in loss to Celtics

BOSTON, MA—Joakim Noah contested a Kelly Olynyk triple that seemed a bit too early on the shot clock but as he slipped to the parquet floor had backup as the Celtics retreated back on defense when the shot went awry.

A couple seconds later he was shaking his head in disgust as Doug McDermott failed to corral what should’ve been an easy rebound and transition opportunity, sending the TD Garden crowd into a comical frenzy.

Even when things should be easy for the Bulls, they insist on doing things the hard way and Wednesday was no exception, as the Boston Celtics used an early fourth-quarter run to distance themselves from the Bulls for an 105-100 win, the Bulls’ third straight defeat.

David Lee’s dunk a couple minutes later put the capper on a 12-2 run after the two teams played to a virtual standstill for 36 minutes, and resulted with the Bulls playing from behind from that point forward.

“I thought our effort was good, most of the night. But they came out and threw the first punch in the fourth quarter,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “That got us on our heels a little bit. Then we got back into it but that was it.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Bulls fans!]

Jimmy Butler, who had a career-high night, tried to help bring the Bulls back with consecutive drives and scores, followed by a fast break layup from Nikola Mirotic to pull the Bulls to within three but the Celtics pulled away.

Mirotic was replaced in the starting lineup by Taj Gibson, who only played 19 minutes but contributed eight points and seven rebounds. Gibson didn’t play in the fourth until late when it was early where a stabilizing force was in desperate need.

“We wanted to stagger them a little bit,” Hoiberg said. “Get Niko coming off the bench, change his rhythm up a little bit. I thought Jo has really developed a nice chemistry with Doug. Get another perimeter guy out there with Jo with Niko. Try and spread it out, get Jo going with his dribble hand-offs and swinging the ball screens, so that was the reason we put [Gibson] in the starting lineup.”

Butler promised he’d be more aggressive, especially late with the game on the line and he delivered for 36 points and seven rebounds, with 17 of his points coming in the fourth quarter but the help wasn’t enough, as the Bulls again struggled scoring.

“At times, we’re really good at our pace,” Hoiberg said. “For the most part it was pretty good tonight. The start of the fourth, we got stagnant and we weren’t moving very well.”

[BULLS ROAD AHEAD: Searching for answers late in games]

The Bulls shot just 43 percent from the field and their cold start to the fourth proved to be their ultimate undoing and now, the Bulls seem to be in some uncharted territory, beyond the struggling with this losing streak.

“This is the first time ever really going through it,” Derrick Rose said. “We’ve been together for a long time and we’re just trying to figure things out.”

Rose finished with 12 points and six assists, shooting 5-for-11. He was more aggressive going to the basket but didn’t get the benefit of the doubt from the officials, taking away a necessary presence on a night when the Bulls needed every little bit of offensive firepower.

The Celtics, while shooting 41 percent, came up with the big plays in spades when it was needed most, almost a rubik’s cube of options.

Isaiah Thomas’ 3-point play with 2:52 left while being fouled by Mirotic put the Celtics up eight and capitalized his 20-point second half after going scoreless in the first.

All five Celtics starters scored in double figures and their balance shifted to the bench as Olynyk, Lee and Evan Turner all repeated the feat.

Their pressure, more so than their scoring, played a part in sending the Bulls into their tailspin.

The turnovers, a Celtics specialty, was a nemesis for the Bulls. The team that forces the most turnovers in the league used it to get themselves going after the Bulls’ defense kept them in check for the first couple minutes.

“We had too many turnovers in the first half,” said Hoiberg of their 11 giveaways.

Once they turned up the pressure, it erased the small advantage the Bulls had and sent the visitors into a borderline panic.

Pau Gasol scored 16 but shot 7-for-17 and turned it over four times. Derrick Rose committed three giveaways and the Bulls’ 18 turnovers turned into 25 points, something Hoiberg warned his team about beforehand.

But no warning could apparently prepare the Bulls for struggling yet again, for which the answers aren’t quite so easy.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Getting to know the Bulls Outsiders team; bold predictions for this season

NBC Sports Chicago

Bulls Talk Podcast: Getting to know the Bulls Outsiders team; bold predictions for this season

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, the Bulls Outsiders team of Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine join Kevin Anderson to talk about the series premier of ‘Bulls Outsiders’ Thursday night. Hear about how the show came together and what they are hoping to bring to the Bulls fanbase this season. They’ll also share their bold predictions for the season including two potential end-of-season award winners from this roster.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

Kris Dunn thinks Zach LaVine could be 'a good defender in this league'

We all know what Zach LaVine is capable of doing on the offensive side of things. But what about his defense?

It's no secret that LaVine has had his fair share of struggles on defense, but Kris Dunn thinks highly of his 23-year-old teammate and what his potential is at the other end.

"On the defensive end I just told him, 'You're as fast as me. You're more athletic than me. There's no way you shouldn't be a good defender in this league. You could be one of those guys who could be dynamic in the passing lanes because you're so athletic and fast.'" Dunn said of LaVine. "And personally, I like to score. If you get in a passing lane, that's a dunk for yourself and because you've got so much bounce that's when you get the crowd on their feet — maybe do a windmill, a 360, something.

"But I think he's been going a good job on the defensive end. It's not going to be easy. We all got to learn and I think we're all trying."

Improving his defense would obviously be a big step forward for LaVine (and the Bulls), and he knows it. 

“I think I had a lot better focus on the defensive end,” LaVine said when assessing his preseason. “I had some mistakes too, but I wanted to go out there and just really hone in on being more focused down there. I felt like I did OK with that. Still some areas I want to get better at, definitely off-the-ball I think I did a lot better than I had before.’’

LaVine and the Bulls travel to Philadelphia to face the 76ers on Thursday night in their season opener. You can watch Bulls Pre- and Postgame Live on NBC Sports Chicago before and after the game for highlights and analysis.