Boylen benches starters as Bulls suffer franchise-worst 56-point loss
The Bulls' quality of play left the rails early in the first quarter on Saturday and everyone inside the United Center watched the train tumble down a cliff for the next 48 minutes or so, depending on how long they stayed.
After falling behind 17-0 at the start of the game, the Bulls suffered the most lopsided defeat in franchise history, losing to the Boston Celtics 133-77. It was also the biggest win in the Celtics' storied franchise history and tied the largest margin of victory by a road team in the NBA.
Bulls coach Jim Boylen pulled all five starters five minutes into the game, then did it again less than three minutes into the third quarter. None of the starters returned to the game in the second half. Zach LaVine didn't enjoy watching it either, but at least he didn't have to pay to get in.
"It stinks, sitting there watching the score go up and up," LaVine said. "I know we're competing out there, but it stinks. You know you could help. Sometimes you feel like you didn't do anything wrong. Maybe we got blitzed to come out and obviously he didn't like that. That happens in the NBA sometimes. We responded in the second quarter."
Boylen explained the decision to not send the starters back in during the second half. He figured with the game lost, there would be more benefit gained during practice on Sunday.
"If I play them more, we lose tonight and then we can't practice tomorrow, we double-lose," Boylen said. "And we don't have time to do that. That was the thinking."
This figured to be a challenging night for the Bulls, playing the second leg of a back-to-back after an emotional win over Oklahoma City on Friday. The Celtics (15-10) had won four in a row and hadn't played since Thursday.
"I thought our guys were really locked in," Boston coach Brad Stevens said. "Probably played them on the right night, coming off a long, hard win yesterday where they clearly had to expend a lot of energy. … I think that (margin of victory) is overrated. I'd rather the game just end if it's going to end."
While the Bulls missed their first 11 shots, Boston hit 6 of its first 7. The Bulls seemed lost defensively from the jump ball. They failed to switch on screens, left 3-point shooters wide open and didn't protect the rim, either.
The Bulls (6-21) finally got on the board at the 5:42 mark when Jabari Parker was fouled by Kyrie Irving and made 2 free throws. The score was 13-0 when Boylen made the first five-man substitution.
"Wanted to give the other guys a chance to see if they could right the ship a little bit," Boylen said. "I've been a part of teams that have done that before. If I don't like that combination, try a new combination. Take them all out, let them sit there and think about it. We didn't honor the game very well with our effort and competitiveness."
The Bulls have another game in two days, but sometimes NBA players take offense at tactics like five-man substitutions, thinking they're more suitable for youth games. Boylen didn't back down, though.
"I think your play's embarrassing," Boylen said in his defense. "Me subbing them is saving them maybe. Maybe we saved them. The pro player thing? This is basketball. This is about honoring the game and doing the right things. I worked for Gregg Popovich and he subbed five guys a ton of times. Nobody says a word to him about it."
The Bulls were within 13 points with two minutes left in the second quarter. But Boston finished the first half with an 8-0 run, then tacked on the first 5 points of the third quarter and never let up. Shaq Harrison led the Bulls with a career-high 20 points, while seven Celtics scored in double figures.
The Bulls' worst loss had been by 53 points -- a 127-74 drubbing at Minnesota on Nov. 8, 2001. Tim Floyd was the coach that night, while Fred Hoiberg went scoreless in 17 minutes off the bench.