The Chicago Bulls had no chance.
Jayson Tatum single-handedly outscored the team 15-14 to start the game as the Celtics easily climbed toward a 19-point advantage. They started the night 7-8 from long range, even knocking down three in a row to suck any and all energy outside the United Center. The game practically felt like a copy-and-paste of Saturday’s all-too-discouraging home opener.
But then the 2nd quarter happened.
I don’t know what Billy Donovan told the Bulls nor whose Secret Stuff the trainers dumped into the Gatorade jugs; all I know is that it worked. The Chicago Bulls went on to play an almost perfect second quarter of basketball. They evaporated their 19-point deficit in less than 8 minutes of action and won the frame 35-15.
It was max-player Zach LaVine paired with the second unit that came in and instantly flipped the switch. The ramped-up defensive intensity finally started to string together stops, allowing the Bulls’ elite transition offense to build the momentum it needed. The rest of the team fed off this surge, and the Bulls went on to outscore the reigning Eastern Conference champions a staggering 70-40 over the 2nd and 3rd quarters. Mix in a couple of Celtic technicals and ejections, and the Bulls found themselves forcing the opposing scrubs on the floor about midway through the 4th.
For a Bulls team that went 1-6 against the Heat and Celtics last season, I’d consider it pretty darn encouraging that they’ve started this season 2-0. This feels especially true when we consider just how well they were able to take advantage of the Celtics’ few shortcomings tonight.
As I wrote in this morning’s bullets, the Bulls had real potential to sway the outcome of this game in the rebounding department. Boston has been forced to play small with Robert Williams stuck on the injury report, and they’ve started the year grabbing the 2nd-fewest rebounds a night. Not only could this present an opportunity for Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond to feast on second-chance points, but it would simply allow them to snatch defensive boards and help get this team up the floor fast. The Bulls ended up winning this category 60-45, with both Vucevic and Drummond grabbing double-digit rebounds.
Anyway, I’ll have plenty of more thoughts on what went right tomorrow. But considering I walked into this game with extremely low expectations, I’m floored with what the Bulls showed us tonight. Keep playing this way, and there is no reason they should struggle against the Pacers and Spurs later this week.
Check out the full box score here.