Six Celtics reached double figures in scoring as the team grabbed a 113-101 win over the Bulls on Monday night.
Jayson Tatum led the way with 21 points and 6 rebounds. The Celtics led by 18 points at halftime before the Bulls crawled back and eventually pulled within six, but Boston distanced itself when needed.
Observations from the game:
■ The Bulls seemed to have an opening to attack with the absence of the Celtics’ top interior defender, Daniel Theis, who sat out because of knee tendinitis. But the Celtics were scrappy. On one play midway through the first quarter, Tatum sprinted back on defense to stop a layup with a chase-down block on Tomas Satoransky before Enes Kanter swooped in to reject the follow-up by Zach LaVine.
■ Kanter started in place of Theis. While he is not as defensively versatile and cannot stretch the floor with his shooting, Kanter is a force to deal with inside, and the Bulls learned that the hard way in the first half, as Kanter powered his way to one layup after another. He made 7 of 8 shots and had 15 points and 7 rebounds before the break. In the second half he did not score and had just two rebounds, however.
■ Tatum had a couple ambitious dunk attempts in the first half. He did not convert them, or even draw a foul, but the Celtics like seeing this aggression out of him, anyway. He also had a pair of powerful blocks.
■ After the Celtics burst to a double-digit lead, coach Brad Stevens leaned on a bench-heavy unit for a stretch that continued deep into the second quarter. By the time Brad Wanamaker and Semi Ojeleye checked out, they had played more minutes than Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown.
■ Even when leads are big and the opponent is not a great threat, Marcus Smart does not stop being Marcus Smart. A few minutes after appearing to take a shot to the knee while defending a drive, he was sprawled across the floor, tussling for a loose ball that he came up with, just as he often does.
■ Brown had another quiet offensive first half. He missed his first two shots before getting a pair of easy baseline dunks after Chicago’s defense fell asleep.
■ But Brown’s free-throw shooting has been a huge development for the Celtics. He’s made just 68 percent of his foul shots in his career, but has connected on 26 of 28 over the last six games.
■ Grant Williams hurt his left shoulder while trying to defend Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen on a second-quarter drive. He left the game with about two minutes left but was later cleared to return.
■ After the Celtics’ morning shootaround, a football was brought out and a group of players started running routes and trying to score touchdowns on hardwood. Smart was in the group, and maybe that practice served him well, because when Kanter fired a fast, high pass that looked destined for the backcourt, Smart leapt and corralled it.
■ Williams saw plenty of time as Boston’s backup center with Theis out. He’s sturdy, but he’s also just 6-foot-6. The Bulls really looked to exploit the mismatch in the third quarter, especially when Thaddeus Young bulldozed Williams for consecutive buckets inside. But then Boston sent some help Williams’s way, and he held his ground sufficiently. He also added a big 3-pointer after Chicago had sliced its deficit to 6.
■ Gordon Hayward couldn’t quite get his shot to fall. He missed his first seven attempts and was scoreless until converting a layup with 9:56 left in the fourth quarter. But he found other ways to have an impact. He finished with 8 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds.
■ The Celtics had three turnovers in the first two minutes, 35 seconds of the game, but they cleared that issue up before it became more concerning, committing just two for the rest of the first half.