Celtics turn tables, pull away in third quarter to beat Bulls

  • Boston Celtics' Kyrie Irving elbows Chicago Bulls' Kris Dunn on the face as he goes tries to get to the basket during the first quarter in Boston on Saturday.

    Boston Celtics' Kyrie Irving elbows Chicago Bulls' Kris Dunn on the face as he goes tries to get to the basket during the first quarter in Boston on Saturday. Associated Press

Updated 12/23/2017 10:42 PM

As the saying goes, turnabout is fair play.

The Bulls surprised the Boston Celtics with a 23-point victory at the United Center on Dec. 11, which was in the third leg of the Bulls' seven-game win streak.


On Saturday in Boston, the Celtics returned the favor. Kyrie Irving, who missed the previous game, scored 25 points as Boston pulled away in the third quarter for a 117-92 victory at TD Garden.

The Bulls (10-22) were halfway to a nice effort in this game. They trailed 60-58 at halftime after leading by as many as 7 points in the second quarter. But the Celtics took control quickly in the third quarter and the Bulls never recovered.

"That first half was a high-level 24 minutes for both teams," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg told reporters after the game. "I thought both teams were playing with great energy, moving the ball, sharing it. You look at our numbers, we had 17 assists and 3 turnovers in the first half."

A Robin Lopez hook shot brought the Bulls within 61-60 early in the third quarter, but Boston answered with a 12-0 run and pulled out to a 24-point advantage before the third quarter ended.

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The Bulls had been on pace at halftime to match their season-high in assists. But the third quarter featured 4 assists and 7 turnovers, while the Bulls hit 6 of 18 shots from the field. This was their worst quarter in a long time, coming on the heels of a seven-game win streak and competitive loss in Cleveland on Thursday.

"What I saw was kind of reverting back to some things we did earlier in the season, which was hanging heads and stop doing the things that got us 58 points against the best defensive team in the league in the first half," Hoiberg said. "We lost our movement, lost out pace. Again, the body language was very poor; something we can certainly learn from."

Bobby Portis was the Bulls' top scorer, collecting 15 of his 17 points in the first half. Lauri Markkanen and Justin Holiday added 12 points each.

Bulls point guard Kris Dunn had a tough night, hitting just 1 of 12 shots from the field with 7 assists. Dunn has been the catalyst of the team's turnaround and hadn't struggled in a few weeks.


"He had a tough night, but he had a really, really good stretch of basketball," Hoiberg said of Dunn. "It's going to happen. We're not going through the season without bumps in the road. We just have to battle back, get Kris' confidence up, which he will.

"Besides the fourth quarter of the Indiana game (on Dec. 6, just before the win streak began) and the second half tonight, we've played pretty darn well. So we can't let this deflate us, we'll come in tomorrow, get a light workout in, take Christmas off, regroup and hopefully go up and play well in Milwaukee (on Tuesday).

Before the game, Hoiberg gave an update on Zach LaVine's recovery. The plan is for LaVine to practice six days in a row beginning Dec. 30. He does well, the two-time slam dunk contest champ could be ready to return to game action shortly after that. LaVine tore the ACL in his left knee last Feb. 3 while playing for Minnesota.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls


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