Bulls flip script vs. Celtics behind a pair of career-highs
Just getting a victory over Boston on the second night of back-to-back games was surprising in itself.
The Bulls pulled off a 126-116 victory over the Celtics on Saturday at the United Center as both Zach LaVine (42 points) and Lauri Markkanen (35) posted career-highs.
There was a stat going around after the game that it was the first time two Bulls scored at least 35 points in the same game since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen did it in 1996.
"That's a great group of guys to be with," LaVine said. "I think you strive for that greatness every time we step in this building. I told (Markkanen) we'll have more of those games."
It would be understandable if the Celtics took the Bulls lightly, considering they won by 56 points at the UC on Dec. 8 and by 29 in Boston on Nov. 14. This result marked a 66-point turnaround from the first time these teams met in Chicago.
The Bulls also pulled this one out without Otto Porter Jr., who didn't score and sat out the second half with an undisclosed lower leg injury.
Most of the Bulls claimed there was very little said about the 56-point loss before this game. Mostly because nothing needed to be said.
"That was so long ago. That was what, early December?" Ryan Arcidiacono said. "So it was a while ago, but anytime you play a team, you think about what happened last time and we owed them from last time, so it was good to get a win."
Arcidiacono helped lead a surprisingly strong push by the Bulls' second unit. The Bulls trailed 33-28 after one quarter, then very unexpectedly took control of the game with a lineup of five reserves. Arcidiacono, Shaq Harrison, Wayne Selden Jr., Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Cristiano Felicio were on the floor for an 18-3 run that turned the game around.
Arcidiacono ended up playing more minutes than Kris Dunn and played most of the fourth quarter. This has been a noticeable trend recently, that Arcidiacono seems to be a better fit with the Bulls starters, especially with Porter out there.
"He's just a tough, competitive kid," Boylen said of his backup point guard. "He had made shots early in the game and I felt like we were going to have to make a big shot. When they make their run and (Kyrie) Irving starts dominating like that, it's hard to turn them off. I thought it was a good sub."
Asked if Dunn will be bothered by the limited minutes (25), Boylen answered confidently.
"Kris is all for the team, man," he said. "Kris gets it. Some nights it will be his night."
The Celtics got as close as 8 early in the fourth quarter, but the Bulls had a response. First, LaVine found Markkanen for a 3-point basket. Then Markkanen added a 3-point play after an offensive rebound by Selden.
"The team is starting to gel. It looks like we're having fun out there," LaVine said. "It's a really good feeling because we're starting to understand each other's games. If I'm hot and he's hot, we both understand that we can still help each other gets shots because there's so much attention on either one of us at that time. We're going to be a good 1-2 punch."
The Bulls (16-44) have won three in a row for the first time this season and improved to 4-2 since the trade with Washington. Some fans might be thinking about lottery chances, but Lavine is planning to keep the surge going.
"We're not somebody that you're just going to come in here and step over," he said. "We might be a rebuilding team or a team that's up and coming, but you're not just going to have an easy win against us. What happened last time was unacceptable."