BOSTON • The Boston Celtics, returning from a five-game Western trip, scored the first 13 points. The Chicago Bulls missed their first 12 shots and the home team cruised to a 100-80 victory that handed the visitors their season-worst fifth straight loss in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
"That's an easy game to kind of make an excuse about and not play the best you can," Celtics coach Brad Stevens said, after his side led by as much as 29 points against a team offering only token resistance. "I thought our guys came out doing the right thing."
Said Isaiah Thomas: "We played hard, we got loose balls, we defended multiple actions."
And they made life very tough for Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler, who came in averaging a combined 42.6 points per game. They shot six of 22 from the floor and totalled just 13 points.
"I'm not saying we are going to defend at that level each and every game but we at least need to get close to it," Thomas said.
"Our defence took care of the offence today and it showed for most of the game."
The Bulls had scored 100 points in each of their last 10 games against the Celtics (42-25) - the longest streak against Boston since the 2002-07 Suns also had 10.
Thomas scored 22 points, Avery Bradley 17 points and grabbed six rebounds. Al Horford posted 12 points, seven rebounds and six assists, Marcus Smart had 12 points, Jaylen Brown 11, Kelly Olynyk 11 points and nine boards and Jae Crowder 10 rebounds in the win.
The Bulls, sellers at the trade deadline, scored 26 points in the first half - the fewest first-half points scored by an NBA team this season - and did not make any noise until late in a 31-point third quarter as they continued their fade in the Eastern Conference play-off hunt.
They finished the game in 10th place with a 31-35 record.
"We're still experimenting," said Wade, who had eight points.
"As I said the other day, we're going to take some lumps. Some of them are going to be big lumps. Some of them going to be small lumps. Tonight was a big one."